I wish to start this month with a brief mention of the Peugeot RCZ. It is unquestionably good looking. But in this world looks are only half the story, and I wanted to see how it drove. Opting for the 1.6-litre THP 200 petrol- it would be rude not to- I was impressed with the driving experience. It’s by no means perfect; the driving position was never quite right, and the interior features old Peugeot gear. And there’s the price too, because at £28,580 my test car was a bit steep. What would I recommend? Save up the extra pennies and buy yourself the RCZ R. Keep an eye out for that gracing these pages in the future…
And now on to some rivalry. Serious stuff as well; these are two hot hatches that you could really have to think about before making a choice. I’ll start with the Frenchie; the Peugeot 208 GTi. It has a 1.6-litre turbocharged THP 200 engine (the same as in the aforementioned RCZ) which develops 200PS and 275Nm of torque. 0-62mph is dealt with in a brisk 6.8 seconds and the top speed is 143mph. Keep in the higher revs and you really feel the acceleration hitting you hard in the back, although pickup is still good on the torque lower down the rev range.
Exterior styling is nice; I like the two-tone alloys and panoramic roof (both at extra cost) and the daytime running lights add a sense of aggression at the front. On the inside there’s lots of red and black. There’s some sort of ‘fade’ effect though which I wasn’t a huge fan of, nor did I think the seats were anything special. They’re nice- don’t get me wrong- but are the same as other models and don’t make the GTi stand out. The small steering wheel helps you chuck the 208 about, and it handles well, although some noise wouldn’t have gone amiss; the 208 is a bit quiet.
Economy is good too, with a combined 47.9mpg and 139g/km CO2. Road tax is £125 which is great for a hot hatch. The 208 GTi retails at £18,895 but my test car was a bit pricey at £20,095.
Now for its main rival, the Ford Fiesta ST. I was truly excited to drive this car, as I have heard nothing but great things about it. The recipe is generally the same; 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. 182PS and 290Nm. 0-62 in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 139mph… no difference there then. Nor is there with the economy; combined economy is identical at 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km put the ST in the same band at £125 a year.
However, take a step back and you’ll notice the properly aggressive front end, and the £250 style pack- comprising of privacy glass, grey alloys, red brake calipers and illuminated scuff plates- is well worth the money. Open the door and you’re greeted by some proper, bucketed Recaro’s. There’s a push button start, and Ford’s simply superb ‘symposer’ system which feeds engine noise into the cabin; giving the Fiesta the soundtrack any hot hatch should have.
It handles much better than the 208GTi; I am simply astounded by the speeds it can corner at. You would think it had a limited-slip diff. The suspension is noticeably firm but the Recaro’s compensate for a comfortable drive. And the best bit? This ST2 retails at £17,995 which makes it better value too. The 208GTi is a fantastic car. But the Fiesta ST? Well that’s just perfection. Expect one to be taking a permanent place on my driveway in the near future… and that’s a compliment of the highest order.