Peugeot has a rich heritage in producing iconic rally cars and hot hatches, they are probably most recognised for their iconic 205 GTi. In the glory days of Group B rallying the 205 T16 was a force to be reckoned with. On the road real driving enthusiasts could experience the 205 GTi in two forms, the 1.6-litre and 1.9-litre model. Both were renowned for their rewarding drive, providing a real connection between driver and car. I’ve previously owned a few GTi’s over the years, a 1.9-litre road going car and three 1.6-litre race GTi’s that I used to compete in rallycross, a mix between racing and rallying. All of them were a thrill to drive and have a unique driving experience that no modern car quite truly provides.
Now Peugeot has launched its latest GTi creation, the 208 GTi, which promises to bear a closer resemblance to the original than its predecessor, the 207 GTi. The 208 GTi is easily distinguished from its regular 208 siblings through its sporty appearance. This is aided by 17” alloy wheels, wheel arch extensions, side sills and a chrome exhaust tailpipe. It also has a GTi specific front grille, complete with a chequered flag design and chrome surround. It sits lower on sports-tuned suspension too and hidden behind the racy alloys are hefty red brake calipers. The interior has been treated to some performance touches also, with a pair of figure-hugging sports seats up front along with a chrome gear knob and aluminium pedals. Taking centre stage on the dash is Peugeot’s colour touchscreen infotainment system that controls the multimedia and Bluetooth connectivity. It has a clear layout that’s intuitive to use, taking just seconds to pair your mobile phone on the first occasion.
The 208 GTi is powered by a 1.6-litre THP turbo charged petrol engine, it’s a proficient unit producing a hefty 200hp and 275Nm of torque. This engine allows the car to accelerate to 100km/h from a standstill in 6.8 seconds. The GTi’s power is transferred to its front wheels through a six speed manual transmission. It’s engaging to use and offers a precise gear change. At low speeds the engine is surprisingly quiet but comes alive under hard acceleration.
We took the 208 GTi for a few laps around Mondello Park’s National circuit to put its handling abilities to the test. There’s no denying this GTi can move at a swift pace, it stops impressively well too, aided no doubt by the immense front brake callipers. It does however somewhat struggle for grip under acceleration out of corners and would benefit from the fitment of a limited slip differential. That said, for the vast majority of road users driving the GTi on the public roads this won’t be a concern. It’s a lot more grown up then its precursor and therefore more refined, some drivers may prefer a more raw experience, but this 208 is easier to live with on a daily basis. We’ve yet to test arguably its two closest rivals, the Renaultsport Clio and Ford Fiesta ST, both of which we will be driving in the coming weeks, so it’s unfair to compare the GTi to these at this stage. We will summarise the three of them together after test driving all three.
The Peugeot 208 GTi has grown up considerably from its 205 GTi roots, it still has some quirks to put a smile on your face whilst driving, combined with the modern safety and infotainment technologies that modern motoring demands.
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