Peugeot 208 GTi review
The Peugeot 208 GTi is well built, fast and fun, so has Peugeot finally recaptured the spirit of the 205 GTi?
While GTi versions of the 206 and 207 couldn’t live up to the reputation of the classic 205, this latest hot hatch from Peugeot delivers great performance in a surprisingly grown-up package.
It's good to drive and relatively cheap to run, with room for four and all their luggage.
While it certainly honours the hot hatch tagline, the Peugeot 208 GTi always lacked the sharp edge of the Ford Fiesta ST, feeling more comfortable and refined, but less playful as a result. Until the arrival of the GTi by Peugeot Sport edition, that is. With a raft of mechanical upgrades inspired by the GTi 30th Anniversary limited edition, we reckon it’s the car Peugeot should have made from the start.
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 the disappointing dynamic performance of subsequent Peugeot 206 GTi and 207 GTi models, enthusiasm for GTi-badged Peugeots inevitably waned.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Peugeot 208 GTi was introduced, with bold claims that this was the car to recapture the magic of that 80s GTi experience. Powered by a turbocharged 197bhp 1.6-litre engine, the 208 GTi was aimed squarely at the Renault Clio RS and Ford Fiesta ST.
Peugeot then launched the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition in December 2014, adding more power, bigger brakes and lower suspension – and a £3,000 premium. While only 100 models were destined for the UK, the limited edition was so well received that Peugeot 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 30th Anniversary car to the regular GTi package, while the power boost to 205bhp has been applied to all models.
Like the Fiesta, the Peugeot 208 GTi is only available as a three-door model. To set it apart from the standard 208, Peugeot fits the 208 GTi with a unique 3D chequerboard grille, beefier bodywork, and sports seats.
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There are three trim levels, with the entry model badged simply 208 GTi. It’s pretty well equipped, and the specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, cornering-assist fog lights and chrome twin exhaust pipes on the outside, plus a DAB/CD system with seven-inch Touchscreen inside.
The GTi Prestige trim level adds upgrades such as special black alloys, sat-nav and a panoramic roof, and is the luxury flagship model.
The GTi by Peugeot Sport is the most expensive model in the line-up, but instead of luxuries such as sat-nav and a glass roof, the focus is on driving fun. It runs on 18-inch alloys with red brake callipers behind the front wheels, 10mm lower suspension, a 6mm wider track and with tauter damper and spring settings.
Engines, performance and drive
A classic hot hatch should be nimble if nothing else, and with a lower ride height and wider front and rear axles, tuned suspension and running sticky Michelin tyres, the 208 GTi has lots of grip to support quick changes of direction.
A small steering wheel means the GTi’s steering is fast, and the wheel feels reasonably meaty in your hands although its compact size does see you taking an awkward, elbows-in driving position to gain proper control. While it has quick responses, feedback is a little vague.
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Where the Peugeot really stands out is with its stability. Mid-corner bumps are shaken off without fuss, although if you do exceed 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 GTi is rewarding to drive at the limit, it will break away suddenly if you are too enthusiastic with your inputs.
The brakes 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 car 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 Clio Renaultsport Trophy, but more comfortable as well.
The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet of the Peugeot 208 GTi is a feisty unit. The facelifted GTi gets 8bhp more than before, and a welcome 25Nm boost in torque to 300Nm. Now 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 engine loves to rev and it's good fun to hustle along at speed.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Despite churning out almost 200bhp, the Peugeot 208 GTi is pretty wallet-friendly. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, low weight and polished aerodynamics all contribute to 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, and expect to see fuel economy tumble to less than 30mpg. That said, the advertised figures are a worthwhile few mpg better than the Fiesta ST and Clio Renaultsport so you’ll save a little as the miles mount up.
With the same 50-litre fuel tank as the rest of the 208 line-up, the GTi could achieve a range of 550-plus miles on one tank if driven carefully enough – but you’d probably be missing the GTi’s point!
The Peugeot will save you money in road tax without trying though, as its emissions put it into a VED band lower than both the aforementioned rivals. And as all three Peugeot variants share the same engine they also attract the same 20 per cent Benefit in Kind rate for company drivers.
Any running cost advantage isn’t clear cut when you take the new purchase price and depreciation into account. Against the £19,124 to £21,995 Peugeot, the Ford Fiesta ST looks a positive bargain at £17,545 to £19,545. The Clio Renaultsport range is almost identically matched to the Peugeot on price, but the Mini Cooper S costs a tempting £18,840, while the ebullient Corsa VXR comes in at £18,375 – all could be food for thought if driving excitement is your prime motivation.
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Peugeot doesn't offer a fixed price servicing package for the 208 GTi, so maintenance won't be cheap.
The Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport sits in insurance group 33, but the others are group 33. Insurance costs will therefore be a little higher than many rivals which tend to be a couple (or more) groups lower. The Mini Cooper S is group 28, the Clio RS group 29 and the Fiesta ST is group 30.
Our experts estimate the Peugeot 208 GTi will keep 41.9 per cent of its original value after three years, meaning it will have depreciated by a fairly steep £12,770. The cheapest Fiesta ST is predicted to lose less than £7,500 over the same period, and the Clio Renaultsport a little under £10k.
Interior, design and technology
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 at the back of the car 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 208 GTi 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.
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The same side 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 alloy wheels with red brake callipers.
If you choose the top-spec GTi by Peugeot Sport model, you can opt for things such as '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 detail that's bound to split opinion but with black 18-inch alloys and its squat body, the hot 208 looks focused and compact.
Inside the car 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. However equipment is generous, with cruise and climate control, metallic paint and parking sensors on the standard kit list.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Although all 208 GTis feature the same seven-inch touchscreen infotainment centre, you’ll have to pay £400 extra for sat-nav unless you specify the Prestige trim level.
Bluetooth connectivity, and DAB radio are standard too, and the touchscreen system also offers Mirror Screen that works with various HTC and Samsung smartphones. Peugeot Connect apps are also available that offer live traffic, parking and point of interest info.
The GTis also get the best 208-series audio output with a set-up that includes two front and two rear speakers plus a pair of tweeters.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
As it's only available with three doors, the Peugeot 208 GTi is a little less practical than the standard car, which can also be chosen as a five door. It does, though, look very good as the three-door body gives it a sporty profile – hot hatch buyers are likely to consider this a worthwhile trade-off.
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.
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Some 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.
At 3,962mm end-to-end the 208 GTi is a barely noticeable 7mm shorter than the three-door Fiesta ST, but a whole 10cms shorter than the Clio Renaultsport – which also comes with five doors.
At 2,004mm the Peugeot is wider than both rivals though. The Fiesta is 1,722mm and the Renault is 1,732mm. The Renault is the lowest of the trio with a 1,448mm roofline, although there's very little in it.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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 rear seat does come with a centre seatbelt, but it’s only useful if you’ve three waif-like passengers. ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard, but again the lack of rear doors makes access difficult.
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. It’s a lot better than the boot in the Mini Cooper S and the tailgate is wide, although there is a high lip to negotiate. The seats don’t quite fold flat, but for its class the 208’s boot is reasonably sized and a practical shape.
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Reliability and Safety
In the past, Peugeot had a reputation for being flaky both in terms of reliability and build. Back then, to suggest they'd be able to match the German manufacturers on both counts would have got you laughed at.
But while Peugeot’s improvement in our Driver Power survey hasn’t been quite as strong as arch-rival Renault’s, 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.
That said, the 208 range as a whole hasn’t performed exceptionally. It came 73rd overall out of around 200 cars, but reliability was one of the areas in which its scores were higher.
There have been electrical niggles in the past with the 208, although with production running for a while now, we would expect these gremlins to have been largely ironed out. And 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 – if you drive it with care. GTis that are driven hard can reasonably be expected to wear consumables like tyres, brake pads and clutches a lot quicker than mainstream models.
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There’s no question mark over the 208 GTi’s safety. It scored a full five stars in the EuroNCAP crash tests with a strong 88% per cent rating for adult occupant safety. You get a full complement of airbags, tyre pressure monitors and a speed limiter, but while Active City Braking is a £250 option on the GTi and GTi by Peugeot Sport, you can’t have it on the more luxurious GTi Prestige model.
The 208 GTi has a fairly run-of-the-mill three-year/60,000-mile warranty which doesn’t compare well with either the unlimited mileage three-year cover that the Mini Cooper S offers, or the four-year cover provided with the Clio Renaultsport.
Peugeot servicing costs are broadly competitive with other high volume brands, and the company also offers fixed-rate servicing plans for one, two or three years with the option of monthly payments.