Peugeot’s most famous moniker is back for 2013 and the latest GTi, the 208 GTi, comes with all 200bhp-guns-blazing to a UK hot hatch market that’s already pretty steamy, thanks to the new 180bhp back-lane-blaster from Ford; the Fiesta ST. The 208 GTi brings a high level of equipment with its 200bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, priced from £18,895. Motor-Vision’s just back from the twisting and challenging mountain roads of north Wales, with a big GTi grin.
Remember the old Peugeot 205 GTi? Widely agreed to be the benchmark hot hatch from the halcyon days of original hot hatchery. Well, forget about it, because if you drive the new 208 GTi hoping to relive your rose-tinted, red-lined days behind the wheel of your old 205, you will be disappointed. The two Peugeot GTi models are poles apart, and that’s intentional.
Peugeot are already into a plan to move their cars – and brand perception – upmarket, so you can forget about stripped out, featherweight Peugeot hot hatches with minimal equipment and maximum madness. The market for these kinds of cars has changed and so has the much anticipated new GTi.
The base price for the 208 GTi is £18,895 – our test car came with options of metallic Bianca white paint (£495), a large Cielo panoramic glass roof (non-retractable; £400), Park Assist and Cornering Assist fog lights (£280), a multifunction colour touch screen navigation upgrade (£400) and Onyx black painted alloy wheels (£100 for the paint) – and if you want full leather in there it’s £750 on top.
Standard kit outside includes 17-inch “Carbone” alloys, electric and heated folding door mirrors, lots of ‘GTi’ touches and badges, rear spoiler, LED running lights and front indicators, double chrome exhaust tip and wider wheel arch extensions. Inside you’ll get a nifty little leather steering wheel, metal and leather gearknob, handsome half-leather sports seats, LED lighting, a large colour touchscreen, DAB radio and air-con. It’s dearer than the Ford Fiesta ST, but Peugeot think that the standard kit levels with their GTi justify the price.
The 208 model was an all-new car last year and has sold very well for Peugeot so far. A combination of modern, neatly proportioned and intricate design outside, and a well-finished up-to-date inner space, are probably the main reasons for the strong sales – and the more expensive GTi simply glosses up these points of pleasure even further. And for a very tall chap, I’d rate my driver’s seating position at 85 per cent with good comfort from the sport seats, but just a touch more reach from the steering wheel needed to get me perfect.
While the GTi is lower, firmer and more tightly-suspension-controlled than any other 208 model – and gets quickness-tuned steering via that nippy little steering wheel – it’s actually a cinch to tootle around town in.
The power-assisted steering is light and easy at low speeds; weighting up nicely at higher speeds, and while you notice the firm suspension and low profile Michelin tyres over bumps and potholes, the set up doesn’t crash about or make a fuss. In fact, the only time the suspension got a little confused was over some all but destroyed road surfacing.
With 275Nm of torque ready to rock from just 1750rpm, you’ve got plenty of get up and go to easily pull the GTi’s low 1160kg kerb weight, which again makes this car a smooth performer at town speeds. Peugeot want this car to deal with all of motoring life – and not just back lane thrashes – and indeed it’s quiet and calm in the traffic, and entirely user-friendly.
Take to the hills
But, this is a GTi and we want some fun. 200bhp is a big chunk of potential grin – we’ve seen this 1.6 THP 200 turbocharged petrol motor before, and it’s won international awards – and in the light and nimble-feeling GTi there’s more than enough wallop to get the palms moist and the neck hairs prickling.
GTi’s top speed is a very naughty 143mph and she’ll crack 62mph in 6.8 seconds; all to a suitably gruff engine soundtrack. The 6-speed manual gearbox hit its ratios every time but didn’t feel as solid and certain as I’d like, while the brakes were indeed strong, progressive and solidly reassuring. The suspension came into its own on these stunning north Wales twistys, with a fast and precise front end turn in and good grip levels, and flat cornering.
Easy, safe and surefooted to drive fast then and with a full range of safety equipment, so I think Peugeot got what they wanted with a car that anyone could enjoy every day, without fear of been bitten on the bum.
However, some of us like to live in a little fear when we go for max attack in our new hot hatch, and if you like, you can switch the stability and traction system completely off to exploit any cheeky sideways nature that the 208 GTi may harbour. I didn’t try this on public roads, as even with all the safety electronics engaged, I got plenty of speed and excitement out of the potent little Pug.
CO2 of 139g/km and a quoted combined economy figure of 47.9mpg are as good as you’re going to get for a 200bhp, 143mph hot hatch.
Ten second sum up
Peugeot wanted a chic and stylish new GTi that could cover all the everyday needs of a small family. It’s a piece of cake around town, but still burbles with readiness at the merest whiff of throttle, and can turn in some exciting laps of your favourite back lanes. It’s not quite as pulse pulsating as I would have liked, but that’s only by a couple of per cent – it’s a rapid Peugeot GTi alright, its refined nature just takes some of the edge off is all.
By Dan Anslow
Pics from Peugeot