Sunday, 25 May 2014

REVIEW - Peugeot 208 GTi

When you think of a ‘hot hatch’ one of the first cars that will spring into your mind is the Peugeot 205 GTi. On the right road few cars could keep up with it. Since that era there has never really been hot hatches in the same sense. Sure there have been ‘lukewarm’ attempts to recreate that magic, but with limited success. Now though, Peugeot feel they may have cracked the formula once more. The 208 is a brilliant car and having tested several variants it has never failed to impress me. So when the prospect of borrowing the 208 GTi arose, I jumped at the chance. I’ve heard people liken it to the aforementioned 205 GTi, so I had to find out for myself…

Looks – 9/10

The 208 it a brilliant looking car, and the GTi is no exception. There is a more distinctive, sporty look which makes it stand out from the regular 208. There’s a twin exhaust, subtle ‘GTi’ badges on the rear quarter panel, bits of chrome and some smart 17-inch alloys. The privacy glass is a nice touch, although I didn’t get the Union Jack on the front bumper. I like the red strip, but surely a French flag would have been more appropriate. Although it was an optional extra (£400) I would definitely have the panoramic roof. IT really adds to the exterior looks. The two-tone alloy wheels were an extra £100, and I don’t really think they were necessary. They are nice, but then again so are the regular ones. I like the daytime running lights at the front, and how the indicator almost wraps around them. It’s all very jazzy indeed.

The interior is very sporty too. There’s lots of red, from the stitching on the seats and the dashboard, to the interior trim, and the top of the steering wheel. The only bit I’m not so sure about is the black-to-red fade trim on the door trim. It’s a bit unnecessary and kind of feels like Peugeot is trying too hard. The formula for a hot hatch is a simple one, so touches like this just aren’t required. I have a slight complaint about the seats, too. They’re nice, with the embossed GTi logo on them, but the seats themselves are no different to the other models. And that’s a shame. I like the small steering wheel and the red lights around the dials. The touch screen media system looks good, and even little touches like the red stripe on the seatbelts go a long way to adding that hot hatch feeling.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

One significant advance in terms of making a hot hatch ‘hot’ comes with engine technology. The 205 GTi was available with a 1.6/1.9-litre engine which produced 105/128PS respectively. The 208GTi also has a 1.6-litre engine, but this one is turbocharged and produces 200PS and 275Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox allowing the GTi to go from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, and on to a top speed of 143mph. That’s definitely hot hatch performance, and the kick in the back this car can give you will haul you down a country road in a way reminiscent of the iconic 205 GTi. There’s power available anywhere in the rev range, but get the turbo spooling and keep the revs above 4,000 and you’ll really start to shift. I think the only downside comes with noise. The RCZ I reviewed last week came with a lovely induction noise, and that would have gone a long way to improve the driving experience here.

It’s key that a hot hatch must handle well. That’s mostly why the 205 GTi was so uncatchable
on the right road. The 208 GTi does well in that department too. Turn-in in sharp, and the grip levels great; it’s easy to hit the apex every time. I was impressed at the speed the GTi car corner at. In dry conditions there’s very little understeer, and you really can attack your favourite roads. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s uncatchable, but it is rather good indeed. To cover the remaining bases- the suspension is comfortable enough on the motorway, yet firm enough to give you confidence in the bends. The brakes have some serious stopping power, and give you more G’s than the acceleration. So all in all the 208 GTi is a great car to drive.

Economy - 10/10

Because it’s only a 1.6-litre, the 208 GTi offers impressive economy figures. On a combined cycle you can expect 47.9mpg thanks to the 6-speed box and cruise control for motorway driving. CO2 emissions of 139g/km put the 208 GTi in VED band E. Road tax will cost you £125 for a year, and will be the same in the first year too. Whilst there may be more efficient cars on the market I think that £125 for a sporty hatchback is rather good value. And the economy figures mean that when you’re not honing around the local country roads, you can at least spend less time at the fuel pumps.

Practicality - 10/10

Now hot hatches are not known for being vastly practical. You see by definition, they must be a 3-door (sorry, Renaultsport Clio 200) and that means clambering in the back will always be a bit of a nuisance. But there is actually enough room in the back for adults once you’ve clambered in. And the front seat passengers get plenty of room. Being a hatchback the boot is rather generous too. The 208 seems a lot larger on the inside than it does on the outside, which means that it’s easy to park as well. With features such as cruise control, Bluetooth, iPod control, satellite navigation (£400) and automatic lights/wipers the 208 really is a great car to live with day to day. It’s as civilised as any other 208 for 90% of the time, but can turn into a hooligan at the stamping of your right foot.

Fun - 10/10

I have a soft spot for cars like this. Little pocket rockets that zip around town ferrying children and shopping around without a problem in the world, and then go berserk once you hit your favourite roads. I was surprised at how much approval the 208 GTi got from other motorists; and in gleaming white who can argue with them for glancing twice. But the bottom line is that Peugeot have recreated the iconic 205 GTi in the most important sense- being able to put a smile on your face. Because no matter what the journey, that’s how I arrived; smiling. The few niggles I’ve mentioned plunge into insignificance when you have a car that makes you feel this way, and I’d happily grab the keys when anybody needed an errand running that week.

Concluding Remarks

So after a week with the Peugeot 208 GTi, I’ve learned that the hot hatch is well and truly back. I must commend Peugeot on their efforts because they’ve got the recipe just right with this one. It’s just a shame they couldn’t keep the price more like the 205 GTi; the 1.9 cost £12,265 when production ceased. Because I feel the 208 GTi is a little pricey. Starting costs are £18,895 but once you’ve added a couple of options you’re looking at £20,095 which is most definitely the wrong side of £20k. That being said, there are few alternatives for this amount of fun at that price. So how can I sum up in a snappy little statement? Easy… The Peugeot 208 GTi- Reminding you why you fell in love with driving.

Total Score - 48/50

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