Peugeot 208 GTI - French Fancy
Peugeot 208 GTI - French Fancy
February 3, 2014
Aesthetic taste is a funny thing as any designer will tell you. Essentially you can’t please all of the people all of the time. In this case the usual roles were reversed. Mrs Drive Write - whose word is law - insists that Peugeot have got the 208 GTI trim spot-on, right down to the now obligatory red brake callipers on the up-rated discs. She especially liked the ‘chequered flag’ grill but I wasn’t so sure. The sporting red detail low in the grill looks to me like a cheeky kid sticking its tongue out. Mrs D says I’m wrong. Maybe this petrolhead business is rubbing off at long last. Overall, we agreed that the 208 GTI is an understated, good looking car.
Particularly eye catching and visible both day and night, the unusual new halogen headlamps, equipped with the latest generation light guide. The carefully designed lamps have a rectangular internal structure and use LED technology for the indicators and daytime lighting.
We both also agreed that Peugeot have got it just right inside with just the right amount of red embellishments in the all-black interior. We particularly approved of the flowing two-tone door handles. The seats are very comfortable and super-grippy, but a tad narrow. A more portly person might find themselves overflowing onto the side bolsters. In the first look review a few days ago (here
) the interior impressed. The minimalist instrument pinnacle is nicely placed although if you like the steering wheel to sit fairly high it could partly obscure the dials. I didn’t have a problem though. Space in the back is predictably tight for larger folk but the boot is a decent size, comparable with the Fiesta.
In fact, the whole dashboard is neatly and efficiently laid out. I wasn’t too sure about the touch screen position but it’s grown on me. Functions are straightforward. The three-quarter length skylight impressed. In our gloomy climate it helped to lift the interior. The sliding panel is manual but, when open, the edges of the runners emit a strip of blue mood lighting. Pointless, but nice.
But this is a GTI and the crucial thing is - does it live up to the title? Thankfully, the answer is yes. Like all similar cars these days it’s more sophisticated than in days of yore when the there was a certain element of hooliganism attached to GTI badges. Having driven the rival offering, the Renaultsport Clio, I have to say I found the Peugeot to be the more comfortable ride. Peugeot seem to have pulled off that balance of handling and ride comfort with aplomb. The 208 GTI will potter about with the best of them.
Power comes from a 200bhp 1.6L Turbo High Pressure petrol engine which will whisk the car to the magic number in 6.8 seconds. There’s no paddle option; just a regular six-speed close-ratio gearbox with a chunky manual shift. Nothing wrong with that. There’s a bit of lag before a big boost of torque comes in at around 1700rpm. It’s effortlessly fast although I preferred to change gear early rather than rag it out to the red line which didn’t seem to offer any further thrills.
The performance of both French cars - and the cheaper but no less good Fiesta ST - were about on a par. There’s really nothing in it but I’d say that head to head the Peugeot would triumph over the Clio on an across country challenge. Springs, calibration of the shock absorbers, anti-roll bar, enhanced front subframe and rear crossmember rigidity, as well as the suspension and wheels, are all specific to this 208 and it shows. Grip is abundant and, thanks to being some 165kg lighter than it’s predecessor, the 208 GTI is an agile and responsive drive. Those who like a bit of aural majesty will be disappointed. The engine note is purposeful but subdued.
Peugeot make the point that this is a hot hatch for the real world. To ensure comfort in everyday use they say that this car was developed on the road and they have not tried to engineer in any track-day influences. That’s fair enough; in reality how often do we get the chance to visit the ragged edge and, indeed, how often do we want to?
Priced at just shy of £19k, the 208 GTI is a drivers car that is safer, faster and more refined than its forerunners, yet easy to live with day-to-day. A pleasant surprise that quite tickled my French fancy.