Has Peugeot finally created a worthy successor to its illustrious 205 GTi? AOL Cars headed to the twisting roads of north Wales to find out.
What is it?
You've got to feel for Peugeot. For two decades they've been criticised by us journos for not producing a worthy replacement for the iconic 205 GTi. And iconic is the right word – the Pug GTi will go down in history as not only one of the finest cars of its type, but also of its generation. The 206 GTi looked rather tasty but failed to deliver in the driving department, while the 207 GTi was both wrong to look at and to get behind the wheel of. So you can imagine our nervousness to agree with the marketing hype of the new hot 208. Is 'the GTi back'? In short? Yes.
>What's under the bonnet?
Good question. It's an engine anyone interested in cheap-to-run hot hatches will be familiar with. It's the 1.6-litre turbocharged unit developed by Peugeot Citroen that has been used in a plethora of French-made machines, not forgetting the Mini Cooper S. Peugeot uses a 200bhp setup in the GTi – just like the Citroen DS3 Racing – which means it'll hit 60mph in 6.7 seconds – 0.4 seconds quicker than the 207 GTi and 1.1 seconds faster than the original 205 GTi. Top whack is 143mph, CO2 emissions are a respectable 139g/km and combined MPG is 47.9 (on our fast Welsh test route, we averaged a very commendable 39mpg).
Unlike the vast majority of its rivals – in particular the Renaultsport Clio 200 and the Ford Fiesta ST – there's only one model to choose. Peugeot has decided not to create various models with different levels of specification, so there's just one well kitted-out version. List price is a competitive £18,895 and for that you'll be getting a choice of five colours – our favourites are Shark Grey and Rioja Red – 17-inch alloys; rear spoiler; double chrome exhaust pipes; chrome door mirrors; body-coloured wheel-arch extensions; multifunction touchscreen; DAB radio; Bluetooth; rear parking sensors; unique LED indicators; leather steering wheel; half-leather sports seats; lots of red trim inside and dual-zone air conditioning. Oh and the scratchy plastics on show in cooking 208s are covered in attractive leather with red stitching. It's more than enough, but if you want more spec you'll have to pay for it. Our test car retailed at £20,890.
Well, as you'll be more than aware of, the B-segment hot hatch war has really begun. We've recently driven the new Ford Fiesta ST and the Renaultsport Clio 200, but don't forget some of the cars which have been around for a while. There's that other GTI, the Polo, Citroen's DS3 Racing, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Skoda Fabia vRS, Seat Ibiza Curpa, Mini Cooper S... the list is seemingly endless. If you're in the market to buy a pocket rocket, we would suggest you spend your time trying all of them as they all have their positive and negative points.
Is it any good?
We arrived at the launch with our cynical heads on. Could Peugeot really have built a car that successfully takes the character of the old 205 GTi and wrapped it up in a modern day package? Well, once #ProjectPeugeot is complete we'll be in a better position to answer that, but for now we are impressed. The car not only looks the part but it also drives very well. The GTi bares no comparison to cooking versions of the 208 (like our long-termer) with a punchy 1.6 under the bonnet, taught chassis and a steering system that has a tremendous amount of feel through it. The GTi uses a widened track over the standard 208 and you can sense it as you thread it between white lines on the Tarmac. On our Welsh test route we had immense fun throwing the GTi into corners, feeling it slide and then grip. It dances around bends just like a hot hatch should.
The AOL Cars verdict
We're very pleased to say Peugeot has finally pulled it off – this is a worthy successor to the 205 GTi. It would seem it has taken Peugeot over 20 years to finally stick its GTi badge on a car that deserves to wear it, and for those old 205 GTi owners who want a modern day replacement, they could do a lot worse than spend their cash at a Peugeot dealer. We'll be very interested to pitch the car against its chief rivals but for now we're happy to say that while the Fiesta ST may win the handling race, the 208 GTi succeeds in that tricky balance between fun and useability. The 208 GTi really is a car you can hoon around in and then pop to Waitrose and do the weekly shop. Welcome back, Peugeot.
Model: Peugeot 208 GTi
Price: £20,890 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol
Power: 200bhp, 275Nm
Max speed: 143mph
Read about our project to restore a classic Peugeot 205 GTi HERE