The iconic 205 GTi and the Peugeot 208 GTi
The iconic 205 GTi and the Peugeot 208 GTi

Caroline drives the 2013 Peugeot 208 GTi.

In 2012, Peugeot launched a new generation of the popular 208 supermini. It was chic, agile and backed up by a range of on-point petrol and diesel engines. It was a teaser for something even more exciting to come. Peugeot has a long history in making awesome hot hatchbacks. Remember the 205 GTi? This icon of the 1980s put Peugeot on the map as the maker of exciting compact performance cars.

Fast forward to 2013, and it’s the return of Peugeot performance in the shape of the new 208 GTi. Under the bonnet, a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine puts out 200 hp through the front wheels. Flared wheel arches and an aggressive body kit make the 208’s presence known. While inside racy red trim puts you in the driver’s seat.

What’s so hot about the Peugeot 208 GTi?

Peugeot’s compact hot hatchback challenger takes on the much lauded Ford Fiesta ST, SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Volkswagen Polo GTI and Opel Corsa OPC. These cars are an entry into high end performance engineering yet you will get some change of €30,000. Engineers put their heart and soul into creating these fun little hot hatchbacks that add glory to the brand while keeping thousands of fans around the world entertained for another generation.

So I was very excited to be handed the keys of the rip roaring 208 GTi by Peugeot Ireland. The 208 GTi has dream car written all over it. The already sculpted and athletic body of the 208 has been enhanced in GTi spec by extended sills and wheel arches, chrome door mirrors, dramatic 17” inch alloys with red brake calipers, roof spoiler, double exhaust, and the famous GTi badging. It sits lower than a standard 208 and has a wider track front and rear that’s going to make it super hot on the road and through bends. The GTi gets a unique chequered flag effect grille and lower grille finisher in red.

The interior of the 208 GTi
The interior of the 208 GTi

Inside the 208 GTi!

When you slip into the 208 GTi you are greeted by a red and black theme with special touches like footwell lighting, aluminium pedals and door sills, and sporty looking instrument dials surrounded by red LEDs. Sports seats hold and cosset you for those days when you drive your 208 GTi with more enthusiasm. It’s cosy and sporty in equal measure. A lovely place to discover this car’s skill and ability on Irish roads.

The Peugeot 208 GTi is sold in sporty three door only. It’s spacious enough up front but naturally more awkward to access the rear space as a result. Three door cars are rapidly going out of fashion but we can make an excuse for the 208 GTi. You get a decent boot for a small hatchback of 285 litres. A full size spare wheel is also included.

When you turn the key in the ignition, Peugeot’s wonderful 1.6-litre engine bursts into life with a welcome bass rumble. This engine is a joy to behold. It revs beautifully. Power delivery is urgent. But fuel consumption is decent enough and it’s easy to drive and manage in any situation. There’s speed, lots of it and it’s fun to exploit. We also loved this engine when we drive it in the Peugeot 308 GTi. That’s the larger, more powerful big brother to the 208 GTi. What a family.

Driving the Peugeot 208 GTi – any good?

The new 208 GTi is more rigid and sporty than the standard 208 supermini. Suspension and wheels are specific to this latest Peugeot GTi, with modifications to springs, calibration of the shock absorbers, anti-roll bar, enhanced front subframe and rear crossmember rigidity. Agile and reactive, the 208 GTi balances from one turn to the next with complete precision. Controlled by the steering, the settings of which have been revised to increase firmness, the front suspension returns the information perfectly and responsively. The rear suspension is also well tuned for safe and involved driving. The 1.6-litre THP 200bhp petrol engine expresses itself through a reworked exhaust system.

The 208 GTi will sprint to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds. With 275 Nm of torque at your disposal, it pulls hard through the gears, accompanied by a fruity grunt from the exhaust. We do wish it was a bit noisier. It lacks a little bit of rawness, a point where rival Ford Fiesta ST excels I suppose. Still it’s fun extracting the power from the engine through the slick shifting, manual gearbox. The handling is precise and controlled with loads of front end grip. We might add that Peugeot’s innovative small steering wheel (as part of the i Cockpit) feels great in your hands. You put your foot down and it goes in a straight line – no torque steer.

Peugeot 208 GTi is a fun little hot hatchback
Peugeot 208 GTi is a fun little hot hatchback

Did you like it?

We liked the 208 GTi also because it’s comfortable to drive daily across a variety of Irish roads. Despite the sporty modifications there’s no lurching over bumps in the road. It’s very well-behaved. Another thing to like? The 208 GTi follows the trend for more efficient hot hatches with an official economy value of just under 50mpg. But remember, a heavy right foot will seriously diminish fuel economy!

At just over €28,000, the 208 GTi is a little bit of an indulgence. You do get lots of kit including a 7″ touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, dual zone air conditioning, cruise control and speed limiter, fog lamps, rear privacy glass, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, auto lights/wipers, remote central locking and LED daytime running lights.

The 208 GTi is utterly transformed from the 208 hatchback it’s based on. It’s a blast with the extra grip, a stiffer body, while still being a car you can live with quite easily from day to day. You’ll never get tired of the strong torque from low revs. I just wish it were noisier! This car has a great image and pedigree going back to the days of the 205 GTi, and with sporty exterior updates, it has real kerb appeal too. Lots to like here.

Read what an owner has to say about the new Peugeot 208 GTi.

Model tested: Peugeot 208 GTi
Price: €28,175
Engine: 1.6 litre, turbocharged four cylinder petrol
Power: 200bhp
0-100km/h: 6.8 seconds
Economy: 47.9mpg (5.9l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Tax band: B2 (€280 per year)

Caroline Kidd