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 as part of the car's recent facelift, 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. The car was recently facelifted, too, so it's even fresher than a lot of the hot hatch competition out there.
The new car gets the same basic styling updates as the recently revised standard 208, but with a focus on even sharper design for this GTi model, so there are new headlights with revised LED running lamps, a wider grille and a deeper, more aggressive front bumper.
The same side scallop detail gives the Peugeot an interesting look in profile, catching the light in conjunction with that paintwork, while at the back, the LED tail-lamps now have a 3D claw effect that ties in with the Peugeot lion.
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. If you opt for the top-spec GTi by Peugeot Sport model, you can spec things like 'textured paint'. The matt grey finish costs £150 on this model, but you can also pay £645 on the rest of the range. It gives the paintwork a rough feel like sandpaper. It's an interesting deail that's bound to split opinion but with black 18-inch alloys and its squat body, the hot 208 looks focused and compact.
The 208 GTi appears pared back. However, inside it has a high-quality feel, with Alcantara seats coming as standard and more tactile materials covering the majority of the cabin. The Peugeot’s interior design is crisp, with stylish but clear dials and a good centrally mounted touchscreen multimedia system that works with the interesting dashboard contours.
But even though the seats are supportive and comfortable, Peugeot’s peculiar i-Cockpit interior design means ergonomics still aren’t the best. Equipment is generous, with cruise and climate control, metallic paint, DAB, Bluetooth and parking sensors on the list. However, you’ll have to pay £400 extra for sat-nav.
The 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet of the Peugeot 208 GTi is a feisty unit. Churning out 205bhp, 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. The facelifted GTi gets 8bhp more than before and a welcome 25Nm boost in torque. The engine loves to rev and it's good fun to hustle along at speed.
A small steering wheel means the GTi’s steering is fast, and with a lower ride height and wider front and rear axles, tuned suspension and the sticky Michelin tyres, there’s lots of grip to support the quick changes of direction.
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.
On the road, the combination of willing engine, sweet manual gearbox, precise steering and a firm but nicely damped ride means the Peugeot is not only more fun to drive than the Trophy, but more comfortable as well.
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 a while now, you would expect these gremlins to be ironed out over time.
Peugeot’s improvement in our Driver Power survey hasn’t been quite as strong as arch-rival Renault’s, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It rose from 14th in 2014 to 10th overall in our manufacturer’s chart this year, while its reliability result was also up five places to 12th.
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 52.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are 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. Our experts estimate it will retain 41.9 per cent of its value after three years, meaning over three years it’ll depreciate by a fairly steep £12,770.
The Peugeot 208 GTi sits in insurance group 33. It translates into annual premiums for our sample driver of £387 for a year.