This is the new Peugeot 208 GTi, and it follows hot on the heels of our drives of both the Ford Fiesta ST and Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo. Can it be as good as the Fiesta ST or Clio Turbo?
The Peugeot has nearly 20bhp more than the Ford, and as some Renaultsport fans bemoan the Clio’s new dual-clutch transmission, the 208 only comes with a manual gearbox. Could this be the rebirth of the GTi badge?
Peugeot 208 GTi: the spec sheet
Like the Ford Fiesta ST and Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo the 208 GTi has a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. It’s on par for power with the Clio Turbo (197bhp) and comfortably ahead of the little fast Ford (180bhp) and its 203lb ft of torque puts it between the two (214lb ft for the ST, and 177lb ft for the Clio). The 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 6.8 seconds, one-tenth slower than the Clio but one-tenth faster than the Ford. It’s as clean and efficient as the Ford, and thus cleaner and more efficient than the Renault. There’s not much between the trio so far…
But on price the Ford Fiesta ST undercuts the 208 GTi by £1900. And although the Clio Turbo is £100 more than the Peugeot (£18,995 versus £18,895) the Renaultsport has two extra doors and a dual-clutch gearbox, neither of which are available on the GTi – but both of which would usually combined to be a couple of grand if there were optional extras. Is the 208 GTi overpriced?
Peugeot 208 GTi: the styling
You can have your 208 as both a three- or five-door, but GTi is only available as a three-door, which means sleeker styling – and those chromed little side window ‘winglets’ that pay homage to the iconic 205 GTi. GTi-specific tweaks include wheelarch add-ons, new headlights with LED daytime running lights, a new front grille with chrome highlights, chunkier side sills, a dual exhaust, 17in wheels, and a smattering of red details and GTi badges. The 208 GTi looks quite cool, but it may also be too subtle for some.
Inside the GTi shares its higher quality cabin with the new XY, essentially a posh 208 with some extra leather and a few other trinkets. The 208 GTi has more red detailing too: the seats, seatbelts, steering wheel, gearstick, and dashboard are all highlighted. Apart from the red-to-black fade on the door handle and dashboard trim it’s all pretty nice.
Peugeot 208 GTi: the drive
Peugeot’s launch press conference was keen to talk up the 208 GTi’s comfort. Alarms bells? No, as the emphasis is on the GTi working on both good and bad roads (the latter of which we have rather a lot of in the UK) rather than being stiff enough to impress on a smooth race track. The ride height has been lowered by 8mm, there are wider tracks front and rear, GTi-specific spring and damper tuning. And – best of all – no Clio-style switchable settings to muddle over. You can do no more than switch the ESP off.
Up in the Alps near Monaco the roads are rough, but the 208 GTi does a good job of soaking up everything that’s thrown at it, dealing well with crests and compressions and mid-corner bumps. It feels light and agile too (it’s got a 44kg weight advantage over the Clio Turbo) and there’s no hint of torque steer when you’re scooting out of tight corners. The steering is quick too, plus the gearbox is light and slick, and the pedal positioning just about good enough to heel ‘n’ toe each downchange.
But the electric steering is too numb, the (admittedly tight) engine doesn’t sound special and is better suited to delivering mid-range torque than being revved out to the redline, and 208 GTi doesn’t turn into corners quite as tenaciously as the Clio Turbo.
The 208 GTi’s supple chassis should mean it’s a comfortable everyday proposition, and a great car to thrash over tight, twisty and undulating roads, but it seems to lack a little spark, a little sense of fun. It feels more like a GT than a GTi.