Here we go again: Peugeot 208 GTi unleashed

Poor Peugeot. Only D:Ream can really understand what Peugeot goes through every time it releases a new hot hatch. See, Peugeot has this one monster hit in its back catalogue called the 205 GTi, throwing a boxy shadow from a halcyon past over whatever hot hatch the company subsequently does.

Sadly for Peugeot, things have far from only got better since the 205. But this latest go, the 208 GTi Concept, obviously aims to change that, finally throwing the 205 GTi monkey off Peugeot's back. So, will it be a case of U R the best thing, or will Peugeot remain unforgiven for releasing another sub-par 205 successor?
Peugeot doesn't help itself though, really, because it's already harping on about the 205. The press release accompanying these pictures refers to the 208 GTi as "the re-generation of a legendary icon."

Just a concept at the moment, and due to be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the car you see here is nonetheless very close to the production model. Nothing of the bodywork in the pictures suggests something that's light years away.

The headlamps and indicators both use LED technology, with the latter especially interesting because they arc around the main beam bulb (see below), while the back's most entertaining detail is the red finish for the inner tailpipes (further below). That's proper detailing, there.

Less clever, but no less effective, are the wheel arches, which are flared by way of having additional paneling stuck to them.

The interior is lovely, featuring a stitched suede dashboard, a neat touch screen infotainment panel and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with a complex, racy aesthetic.

Under the bonnet is the THP 200 1.6-litre turbo diesel...only joking...petrol engine found in the RCZ coupé. The 197bhp unit drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, and although Peugeot hasn't said how quick the GTi is yet, we'd expect it to cover ground significantly more rapidly than the THP 200 RCZ, which takes a lukewarm 7.6 seconds to hit 62mph.

But it's not pace that will define the 208 GTi, especially compared to the You-Know-What. Nope, the way it dances will the make or break it.

Here's what Peugeot has to say about the handling: "The GTi Concept benefits from the improvements that characterise the 208, taking full advantage of its compactness and lightness, delivering road-holding that is both excellent and precise. To enhance the dynamic experience, it has a 36mm wider track, at the front and at the rear, and a rear roof spoiler to generate down force at speed."

So there you go. And let's not forget, it's not just its forefathers that the 208 GTi will come against when it hits the shops at the end of the year, but the full gamut of today's fairly spectacular hot supermini set.

They include the epic Clio Renaultsport, the MINI Cooper S, and - the one to watch - the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST.

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