£20,215 - £23,555 Price range
Nearly every hot hatch Peugeot has released in the last 20 years has caused road testers to ask the same question: does it live up to the legendary 205 GTi? Unfortunately, the answer has nearly always been a resounding ‘no’.
Testers are asking the same question of the new 208. In fact, finding a review that doesn’t mention its 30-year old great-granddad within the first paragraph is nigh-on impossible.
Something Peugeot is clearly aware of because its launched a special edition 208 GTi 30th, which pays homage to the original 205 GTi. The car comes with a striking red/black paint job, but Peugeot has also upgraded the car’s engine, brakes, gearbox, steering and suspension.
Which ever 208 GTI you choose it offers sharp handling and minimal body lean so you can attack corners with complete confidence. Even the standard model has 197hp, which is enough to get the car from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of more than double the speed limit.
Speed is only half the story with a hot hatchback like the 208 GTi almost as important is the practicality the car offers. Based on a standard three-door 208, the GTi has a decent-sized boot and plenty of room for a family of four – not something most sports cars could claim.
All GTi models come with a decent amount of kit including body kit and 17-inch alloy wheels, along with sparkling LED daytime running lights. Inside, there’s a DAB radio dual-zone climate control, plus automatic headlights and wipers. Sports seats keep you in place in fast corners and there’s GTi-specific red lighting for the dial surrounds.
The 208 GTi has several features that lift the cabin above the standard car’s. A strictly red and black colour scheme, with red flashes on the door pulls, air vent surrounds, seat stitching, and on the side of the gear knob. We’d loved to have seen some red carpets like in the original 205 GTi though…
Inside, you’ll never forget you’re in a GTi – there are badges all over the place. There’s even a rally-inspired red strip on the top of the steering wheel so that it’s easy to see when you’re pointing straight ahead.
That steering wheel though, is the main point of contention with the GTi’s cabin. As in the regular 208, the wheel is unusually small, and deliberately set low so that the dials sit above the rim. Some testers think it’s great but some drivers have found they are positioned in a way which means that the top of the wheel obscures the dials completely. It’s something to consider if you’re in the market for one, because it’s very much a “love it or loathe it” feature.
No changes have been made on the inside to mark out the 30th anniversary model from the rest of the range.
One point that all of the testers can agree on is 208’s sporty yet wonderfully compliant ride. On a twisty, bumpy road, where rivals like the Fiesta ST can feel just too firm to push on, the Peugeot feels under greater control more of the time.
Some testers argue that there is perhaps a little too much grip, and that as a result it doesn’t feel quite as adjustable and “playful” as it could be. The steering isn’t perfect either; the feel is described by one tester as a bit “wooden” and “lacking in detail”.
Nevertheless, the 208 is a very talented car in the right hands, and on a twisty road is more than capable of surprising much more potent machinery. Exactly how a hot hatch should be, then.
The 30th anniversary comes with a limited-slip differential, stickier tyres and stiffer suspension that help it corner quicker than the run-of-the-mill GTi.
Drive down a bumpy road and you’ll soon discover the 30th’s added body control has come at the expense of ride comfort, however, and its also a shame to find the steering feels as lifeless as the standard car’s.
The GTi is powered by a 197hp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine co-developed with BMW. The same unit can be found in the old Mini Cooper S and the Peugeot RCZ. However, due to packaging constraints of such a small car, a different exhaust design to the RCZ is used.
This leads many testers to conclude that it lacks the character of its coupe brother, sounding a little flat as you wind it up to the red line. One tester also notes the presence of turbo lag, which detracts from the appeal of a car which is meant to have a telepathic-feeling response to all of its controls.
Performance is still strong though. It’ll cover the 0-62mph sprint in 6.8 seconds, and won’t run out of puff until 143mph. It’ll even return a claimed 47.9mpg according to Peugeot, assuming you can drive it like a Saint.
The 205hp 30th anniversary special edition gets to 62mph 0.3 of a second quicker than the standard car – making it faster than the Renault Clio 200 Turbo and the standard Ford Fiesta ST.
One of the biggest problems for the Peugeot comes is the Ford Fiesta ST. Not only does it cost about £1,400 less, but, in Mountune guise, you can boost its power to a warranty-backed 212hp – and it’ll still cost a few hundred pounds less than the Peugeot.
Purchase price aside, general running costs are quite decent though. It only emits 139g/km of carbon dioxide, which means road tax doesn’t sting too much, and generally Peugeots are quite cheap to service. The GTi has stronger residual values than the standard cars in the range.
There is a very tough crowd that the Peugeot must beat to reach the top of its class. The general consensus is that it’s a better buy than the Renault Clio 200, but still can’t quite match the superb Fiesta ST.
However, some would argue that the slightly softer 208 GTi is more usable on British roads than the Ford, so there isn’t much in it. As an everyday prospect, the Peugeot is more refined, too.
So, to answer our first question, the good news is that most critics admit that although the 208 GTi doesn’t quite recapture the magic of the 205, it is by far the best hot hatch that Peugeot has produced in recent memory.