The new 208 GTi will restore Peugeot to the hot hatch podium, says an expectant source brimming with enthusiasm for the project. More power, less weight and an overhauled chassis aim to banish the memory of the underwhelming 207 GTi.
What do we know about the new Peugeot 208 GTi?
More details of the car's specification emerged on the regular 208's launch this week. The new-generation GTi will run the RCZ's 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo, coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox. Peak power climbs around 25hp compared with the 207 GTi, but more significant is the crash diet undertaken by the 208. The new model is on average 110kg lighter, and if this trend carries over to the GTi, its enhanced power-to-weight ratio should mean 0-62mph acceleration in around 6.5sec, much improved on the 207 GTI's 7.1sec benchmark.
Despite showing a concept car at last week's 2012 Geneva show (the model in our pictures, right), Peugeot boss Vincent Rambaud was curiously non-committal on the 208 launch about the GTi's production intent. But one source told us: 'It's not just a concept: we will put it into production for sure. We are working hard on this car.'
Just how much of a hot hatch will the new Peugeot 208 GTi be?
The cooking 208 has a refreshingly French chassis set-up, with the pseudo-MacPherson strut front, rear beam and anti-roll bars tuned to allow noticeable roll. The result is ride comfort far superior to the German hegemony, of draconian body control and crashy 'sporty' ride, although the 208 still generates decent grip and holds its line well.
'The GTi will be more sporty and less comfortable than the normal 208, but we will preserve the notion of comfort,' said our source. 'On the test track we are achieving a good compromise.' There are extensive revisions up front, with the engine mounts stiffened to boost front end precision and stability. The GTi also gets a revised front subframe and a wider track to cope with the increased power, bespoke damping and other measures to increase stiffness. The wheels measure 18-inches in diameter.
There's no limited slip differential, with electronics used instead to manage power delivery and traction at each front wheel. The uprated brake discs - 302mm front and 249mm rear - are shared with the 155bhp 1.6-litre 208.
One controversial aspect could be the steering. Peugeot has mounted the instrument binnacle higher on the dash, which demands a compromise from the classic road tester position of low seat/high steering wheel position, else the tacho and speedo are partly obscured. Another potential drawback is that the 208's fuel-saving, electric power assisted steering can be glutinous just off-centre, reluctant to self-centre and lacking in feedback and linearity. 'The GTI gets a specific steering map,' our source countered.
Expect Peugeot to unleash the 208 GTi in 2013, with a likely list price around £18,000.