This hot hatch is the most extreme version of the 208
If you’re in the market for a hot hatch, then the Peugeot 208 GTi deserves a look, as it’s the fastest and most expensive version of the French brand’s cooking 208. It’s got all the signifiers – the loud and rorty 1.6-litre turbocharged four-pot, the lowered suspension and bigger wheels, the performance from 205bhp and some welded-down looks.
You’d buy one of these with performance in mind, and a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds shows there’s ample performance. The engine does display a bit of turbo lag when you put your foot down but, once the turbo has spooled into action, you hurtle forward with a thrust that is as dramatic as the soaring noise of the engine.
This is a motor you will want to cane and it rewards being pushed hard with a splendid amount of go and aggression. At first the steering seems to be equally hard-charging, with very sharp turn-in, making you feel like you’re cornering like a racer.
But actually the steering is a bit too quick off-centre, so you end up trying to be a bit more careful with it, and avoiding overdoing inputs. Add in an unsettled ride and you end up not feeling confident enough to really push the edge of the engine’s undoubted performance envelope unless you’re on very smooth roads – and if you find any do let us know.
That makes the cabin both a noisy and an unsettled place to be when you’re trying to push on. It looks smart enough though, and actually seems quite upmarket, more than you might imagine for a boys’ toys hot hatch. The sports seats look great, even if they lack lumbar support or a decently long squab base, and the seven-inch touchscreen is smart enough even if it does lead to a certain amount of finger prodding to get it to respond in a timely and accurate manner.
Visibility is good out the front and to the sides, but a touch compromised to the rear. Still, you get rear sensors as standard and there’s a rear camera as an option. The boot back there is only average at 285 litres, and the rear seats don’t fold down that flat, so this isn’t exactly an alternative to an estate car. However, there’s good room for the couple in the front, even if those in the rear will find it only average.
But you wouldn’t buy one of these assuming it would be your perfect vehicle for the weekly trip to the tip or as family transport. It’s a fun and frenetic small car that looks good, sounds good and goes, errr, good.
You should get about 50mpg too assuming you’re not being a hooligan, and there’s less CO2 being emitted than by some obvious rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST, or the Renault Clio RS, which in their turn would be cheaper to buy and would suffer from less depreciation than the Peugeot.
So the competition is fierce in this sector and the 208 GTi certainly isn’t a stand-out good bet compared to them. But it’s in the mix. Which version you’d go for depends on your attitude and budget.
There’s a Prestige version with 17-inch alloys, sunroof, leather wheel and heated leather seats and other sporty touches. There’s also the GTi by Peugeot Sport which adds yet more to the mix, but the main addition is a front diff to try to get that power down more cleanly – although it’s still only partially effective. Before buying either version we’d be tempted to have a test drive in some of the very talented rivals.