Peugeot 208 GTi review
The Peugeot 208 GTi follows in the footsteps of the iconic 205 GTi and gets a 197bhp 1.6-litre engine
The Peugeot 208 GTi has a lot to live up to. The 205 GTi is still remembered as one of the best-ever hot hatchbacks and Peugeot has never really recaptured the magic - until now. Designed as a rival for the Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo and Ford Fiesta ST, it's smaller and 165kg lighter than the 207 GTi it replaces, plus it mixes lively, agile handling with a strong 197bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. Wider front and rear tracks, lower and stiffer suspension and weightier steering all help to make the GTi a riot to drive. But when you want to take things a little slower, the 208 GTi is also comfortable enough to play the family runabout. Only available as a three-door, the GTi get a unique three-dimensional chequerboard grille, pumped up bodywork and sports seats as standard.
Our choice: 208 GTi
Compared to the lairy Ford Fiesta ST, the 208 GTi is a lesson in understatement. From a distance it looks more like a premium supermini than a traditional hot-hatch, though when you get up close you notice the sporty intent. The front end features a unique grille with a three-dimension chequerboard pattern, plus a lower lip 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 over the normal Peugeot 208 is a red GTi badge near the back window, just like the 205 GTi had. On the inside, the only colour scheme available is black and red, and you’ll find the GTi logo embossed onto the sports seats, on the door sills and at the bottom of the steering wheel. Neat touches include the illuminated LED strips around the dials and the chunky metal knob for the gearlever.
The 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo fitted to the 208 GTI is a gutsy performer, pulling hard from low down in the rev range. It's happy to be worked hard, too, and it’s good fun extracting the engine's full performance potential. It’s just a shame it doesn’t make as good a noise as the MINI Cooper S with which it shares its engine. Stiffer, lower suspension and a wider track front and rear give the 208 GTi superb stability in corners, while there’s so much grip you can simply blast through bends following your chosen line. The brakes are strong and the six-speed manual gearshift is slick, but the steering, despite being heavier than the standard car, could do with more hefty weighting and greater feedback. Still, it’s accurate and quick to respond, plus in combination with the light clutch it makes the car easy to drive in town. So does the suspension, because the 208 GTi deals with bumps much better than most of its hot hatch rivals. Overall the car is tons of fun on the right roads, but docile enough to be driven every day.
Traditionally, Peugeots have never been a match for German cars like the VW Polo in terms of reliability and build quality, but things have improved significantly in recent years. Firstly, the interior has made a big leap forward in terms of finish, so you can expect it to stand up to the rough and tumble of family life, or whatever the owner throws at it. In fact, the mix of upmarket materials and solid construction makes the interior of rivals such as the Renaultsport Clio feel a low rent. Peugeot claims it has made its testing process more rigorous, which should help avoid any mechanical niggles within the first few years of buying the car. 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.
The 208 GTi maintains all the practicality of the standard 208 hatch – although it is only available in a less practical, but sportier-looking, three-door layout. Despite slightly smaller external dimensions than the Renault Clio, the 208 is almost exactly the same size inside as Renault Clio, 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. Peugeot has made the steering wheel in the 208 small so that the instrument cluster is clearly visible over the top of the rim. Yet like the standard car, the the top of the wheel 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. And like many French cars, the fusebox is mounted in the glovebox, meaning there's precious little space for anything else.
If running costs are top of your list of priorities, you don’t buy the high-performance model in any range. But with the 208 GTi, the financial hit isn’t as bad as you might think. Thanks to the small-capacity 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, low kerbweight and slippery aerodynamics, the claimed combined fuel consumption is 47.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are just 139g/km, which is the same as the less powerful Ford fiesta ST. Drive the 208 GTi hard or mainly around town, though, and can expect to see fuel economy tumble to less than 30mpg. And unlke the Citroen DS3, MINI and VW Polo, there isn't a fixed price servicing package for the 208 GTi, meaning maintenance will cost you more. It's not all bad news, however, because our experts predict that the 208 GTi will hold onto nearly 50 percent of its new value after three years motoring.