Thirty years after the debut of its iconic original 205GTi the idea of a sporting family car has been turned into a subtle slingshot that blends performance with panache.
This latest version to join the 208 series uses a 200bhp version of its 1,598cc, four-cylinder Turbo High Pressure petrol engine mated to a purposeful close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox with high performance steering, brakes, sports suspension and sitting on a wider track with fatter bespoke wheels and tyres.
Careful design and engineering at all stages of development has created a car which is lighter, more economical, environmentally cleaner and out performs its previous and not so popular 207GTi stablemate.
Distinguished from the rest of the 208 family by a new nose and headlights, there is a rear spoiler as well as “soap-dish” side embellishment behind the side window. Inside the three-door body there are unique black and red leather/ fabric and detail stitched seats, flat bottomed small steering wheel, white on black instruments with red borders and aluminium pedals.
There is a central 7-inch touch screen set high on the fascia and operating audio, navigation, car and phone functions and it comes with automatic emergency assistance alert.
Sophisticated braking and traction control systems are standard, as is dual zone air conditioning, and you can even add parking assist from the options. There is just one bodystyle and it’s priced from £18,895.
Peugeot Director of Marketing, Morgan Lecoupeur, said it had worked very hard on the design of the 208GTi. “The design exudes quality because we want to move this car up market above where we were with the 207GTi.”
“In the UK we talk about a car having a personality and character and the new 208GTi is a good example of that because it combines a modern driving experience with the heritage we have in the class.”
He added, “We have been steadily changing the perception of the brand with cars like the RCZ Coupe and our strategy is continuing with the 208GTi hatchback, it’s a very important model for us and for the UK market.”
He said it was anticipated they will sell about 2,500 units of the 208GTi models a year in the UK and that accounts for a quarter of production from the French factory.
It was the Peugeot 205GTi launched in 1984 with a 1.6 litre engine which began the transformation of the French company from frumpy to fun, and the small sporting hatch in the line up evolved through the 206GTi and 207GTi in following decades.
Over 30 years tastes have changed and the new 208GTi appeals to a more grown-up generation of hot-hatch lovers who want all the dynamic qualities, along with some desirable creature comforts.
The new Peugeot 208 GTi is a brilliant balance between raw power and refinement.
The leather seats, leather padded fascia and bright highlights with a multitude of sweeping curves around the cabin are pleasing on the eyes and effectively divide the display into essential and desirable functions and features.
The driver and front passenger have deeply sculptured supporting seats with a lot of adjustment room, but the seat belt mountings are fixed, and those behind have modest legroom once they squeeze behind the tilted seat.
Visibility is good to front and sides, more limited over the shoulder and when reversing but the wipers are big. We struggled to find our way around the multi-mode information system with its enormous range of menus but its display was pin sharp.
On the road the powertrain delivered tremendous acceleration and speed which could be safely handled thanks to the nicely balanced steering and very powerful brakes underfoot.
We averaged about 37mpg on test, some way off the stated combined figure possibly due to the fat it does not have a stop/ start economy system. Considering the amount of gear changing and traffic encountered we were pleasantly surprised nevertheless and in most situations would expect a driver to regularly see 40mpg.
There is a constant road noise from the big wheels and tyres and a background rumble from the engine which rises into a pleasant roar under acceleration. Wind noise and other mechanical noises were low.
We did a decent amount of driving over some demanding roads in North Wales, over the Denbigh Moors and through Snowdonia and even after three hours behind the wheel we were still relaxed and fresh, so easily and well had the Peugeot 208 GTi coped with the conditions.
This is a performance hot hatch you could live with day in, day out and enjoy at weekends as well. It has knock-out performance in a velvet glove.
MILESTONES: Peugeot 208 GTi 3-Door. Price: £18,895. Engine/transmission: 1, 598cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol, 200bhp at 5,800rpm and 275Nm (202lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speeed manual, front wheel drive. Performance: 143mph, 0-62mph 6.8 seconds, 47.9mpg Combined Cycle (37mpg on test), CO2 emissions 139gkm, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax: 19%. Insurance group: 30E. Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles. For: Performance, ride & handling, equipment. Against: Rear visibility, rear seat access, complicated info system and road noise. By Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency