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?
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
Despite the aesthetic enhancements over the standard Peugeot 208, the GTi looks pretty understated, especially when compared to the up-in-your-grille Ford Fiesta ST. In fact, it looks more like a premium supermini than a traditional hot-hatch from a distance, but that changes as you get closer.
Up front, the Peugeot 208 gets a smart looking 3D chequerboard grille, and the lower bumper is finished in red. Chrome wing mirrors, 17-inch ‘diamond Carbon’ alloys and extended sills and wheel arches beef up the profile, while an extended roof spoiler and a double exhaust pipe finish off the rear. Completing the external updates is a red GTi badge near the back window - a nod to the old 205 GTi.
Step inside the Peugeot 208 GTi, and the only colour scheme available is black and red. Peugeot isn't shy in letting you know the 208 you're driving is a GTi, either - the GTi logo is embossed onto the sports seats, on the door sills and at the bottom of the steering wheel.
Peugeot has always been an innovative firm, and this shows in neat touches that are dotted around the cabin of the 208 GTi. Highlights include the illuminated LED strips around the dials and the chunky metal knob for the gearlever. Another innovative feature is the touchscreen, which dominates the centre of the dash. It’s similar to that found in the bigger Peugeot 308.
However, if it's bold styling you're after, then opt for the brash 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition. It's comes with unique alloy wheels, matte black trim and bespoke bucket seats. You also get the option of boy-racer two-tone black/red paint.
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.
In corners, the standard 208 GTi has superb stability and this is down to the stiffer, lower suspension and wider front and rear track that Peugeot fits - there’s so much grip you can simply blast through bends following your chosen line.
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.