Peugeot 208 GTi review
The Peugeot 208 GTi is well built, good to drive and fast. Has Peugeot finally managed to recapture the spirit of the 205 GTi?
Back in the 1980s, the Peugeot 205 GTi took the hot hatch market by storm. It was fast, fun and cheap to buy, while offering all the practicality of the standard car. However, following a disappointing Peugeot 206 GTi and 207 GTi, is the 208 GTi the car to recapture the magic of the 80s?
The 208 GTi marks something of a new era for Peugeot. While GTi versions of the 206 and 207 couldn’t live up to the reputation of the classic 205, this latest hot hatch delivers great performance in a surprisingly grown-up package.
Powered by a turbocharged 197bhp 1.6-litre engine, the Peugeot 208 GTi arrived in 2013, aimed squarely at the Renault Clio RS and Ford Fiesta ST. It's good to drive and relatively cheap to run, with room for four and all their luggage.
While it certainly lives up to its hot hatch tagline, the Peugeot 208 GTi has always lacked the sharp edge of Ford's ST, feeling more comfortable and refined, but less playful as a result. In December 2014, Peugeot launched the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition, adding more power, bigger brakes and lower suspension. We reckon it's the car Peugeot should've made from the start. Despite it's £3,000 premium, it's the pick of the GTi range but only 100 models are destined to the UK. Yet, because it has been so well received, Peugeot has introduced a new GTi by Peugeot Sport trim level, which adds all of the mechanical magic of the GTi 30th.
Like the Fiesta, the Peugeot 208 GTi is only available as a three-door. To set it apart from the standard 208, Peugeot fits the 208 with a unique 3D chequerboard grille, beefier bodywork, and sports seats.
Our choice: 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition
The standard 208 is a familiar shape in the supermini class, but the GTi version has been given enough of a makeover to stand out. GTi badges are added to the chrome trim on the C-pillars in a nod to the oval badges seen on the original 205 GTi.
Elsewhere, you get a chequered pattern for the grille, plus a racy red strip on the lip spoiler, chrome wing mirror caps, a sporty bodykit and 17-inch alloys with red brake calipers. The Prestige model in our pictures adds black paint to the wheels, panoramic glass and cornering lights. Overall, the 208 GTi is neatly proportioned, while the styling tweaks mean it has a more distinctive look than lower-spec models.
Inside, build quality isn’t quite as good as rivals, but there are some sporty upgrades to be found. The part-leather sports seats feature a single red pinstripe, but the 208’s awkward driving position remains. Some of our testers needed to move the small steering wheel down to their lap to be able to see the dials, which feels a little unnatural.
At least the dashboard looks attractive, particularly the glowing red LED surrounds for the speedo and rev counter. The 208’s touchscreen multimedia system is fiddly to use on the move, although the steering wheel-mounted audio controls do help that.
The 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet of the Peugeot 208 GTi is a feisty unit. Churning out 197bhp, it pulls hard from low down in the rev range and in general, feels happy to be worked hard - extracting its full potential is good fun. If that's not enough, you can go for the more powerful 30th Anniversary model, with 8bhp more and a welcome 25Nm boost in torque.
Peugeot has increased the front and rear track of the GTi over the standard car, and there’s plenty of grip
in corners as a result. The steering feels meaty in your hands, although the small wheel does see you taking an awkward, elbows-in driving position to gain proper control. While it has quick responses, feedback is a little vague.
Where the Peugeot really stands out is with its stability. Mid-corner bumps are shaken off without fuss, although if you do breach the limits of grip, the stability control cuts in quite abruptly. Switch off the electronic safety net, and you’ll need quick responses, because while the 208 is rewarding to drive at the limit, it will break away suddenly if you are over enthusiastic with your inputs.
The brakes on the 208 GTi are good and the six-speed manual gearshift is slick, but the steering, despite tweaks from Peugeot making it heavier than in the standard 208, could do with heftier weighting and greater feedback. Still, it’s accurate and quick to respond, plus in combination with the light clutch it makes the 208 GTi easy to drive in town. Opt for the 30th Anniversary model and you'll benefit from a set of brilliant Brembo brakes and a trick Torsen differential.
The suspension on the standard GTi makes it an easy hot hatch to live with, because the 208 deals with bumps much better than most of its hot hatch rivals. The 30th is firmer, but shouldn't pose too many problems if you want to use it every day. Overall both cars are tons of fun on the right roads, but docile enough to be driven every day.
In the past, Peugeot had a reputation for being flaky both in terms of reliability and build. To suggest they'd be able to match the German manufacturers for both would get you laughed at.
There have been electrical niggles in the past with the 208, although with production running for over two years, you would expect these gremlins to be ironed out over time. The 208 did well to finish 49th in our 2014 Driver Power survey, although it only had an average score for reliability.
The GTi should be no different, you can expect it to stand up to the rough and tumble of family life, or whatever else you might fancy throwing at it. In fact, the mix of upmarket materials and solid construction found in the 208 GTi makes the interior of rivals such as the Renaultsport Clio feel low rent.
Despite being a performance model, there’s no reason why the 208 GTi should be any more prone to problems than the rest of the 208 range.
As it's only available as a three-door, the Peugeot 208 GTi is a little less practical than the standard car, which can be chosen as a five-door. It does, though, look very good as the three-door body gives it a sporty profile.
Despite having slightly smaller external dimensions than the Clio, the 208 is almost exactly the same size inside as the Renault, with just enough room for four adults.
The boot is 285 litres - roughly the same as the Ford Fiesta - and folding the split/fold rear seat increases the amount of room to 1,076-litres.
One criticism is that Peugeot has made the steering wheel in the 208 small so the instrument cluster is clearly visible over the top of the rim. However, like the standard car, the top of the chunky wheel in the Peugeot 208 GTi obscures the speedometer and rev counter, which quickly becomes frustrating.
Some people may also find the bolsters on the base of the sports seats a little bit uncomfortable, which is a shame because otherwise they are very comfy to sit in. What's more, like many French cars, the fusebox is mounted in the glovebox, meaning there's precious little space for anything else.
Despite churning out almost 200bhp, the Peugeot 208 GTi is pretty wallet-friendly. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, low kerb weight and polished aerodynamics all contribute to a combined cycle fuel economy of 47.9mpg, with 139g/km of CO2 emissions. From 2015, tweaks to the engine will boost economy to 52.3mpg, while emissions will drop to 125g/km.
Like any quick car, though, drive the 208 GTi hard or mainly around town, though, and expect to see fuel economy tumble to less than 30mpg.
Peugeot doesn't offer a fixed price servicing package for the 208 GTi, so maintenance won't be cheap. However, it's not all bad news because our experts predict that the 208 GTi will hold onto nearly 50 percent of its new value after three years motoring.