I drove the Peugeot RCZ R last year, and it’s fair to say I was rather impressed with it. I know what Peugeot Sport are capable of, given that our rally car is built to 106 Cup spec. But there hadn’t been much coming out to the mainstream products until that point. Well, there is now. Joining the RCZ R is the 308 GTi and the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. I grabbed the latter (don’t worry, the former will be here in April) and hit the road with high expectations of an exceptional hot hatch…
Looks – 10/10
When I reviewed the standard 208 GTi I scored it a 9/10 for looks. I didn’t think the seats were sporty enough and the exterior didn’t have that special something to it. The GTi by Peugeot Sport absolutely does. I will at this point mention the textured, matte-look paint. This will undoubtedly split opinion, but I am definitely in the ‘love’ camp. Finished in Ice Grey, my test car looked evil. This car means business, and with the contrast satin black wheels, skirts and mirrors it shows that from the off. At the front I liked the subtle red accent to the grille. The red flashes on the wheels and Peugeot Sport logo on the rear quarter panels set this apart from any other GTi, and the twin exhaust pipes at the back are larger. As well as having LED daytime running lights at the front, this car also has ‘claw’ rear lights which provide a unique signature.
Inside I love the Peugeot even more. The red floor mats are a brilliant nod back to the 106 Rallye, which had a full red carpet. And the red doesn’t stop with the floor mats either. The seatbelts have a red line down the middle of them. There is red stitching throughout the cabin. The steering wheel ‘straight ahead’ marker is, you guessed it, red. And one of my favourite touches was the red lighting around the dials. I say ‘one of’ because the best feature in the cabin comes in the form of two huge, body-hugging front seats. Brandishing the Peugeot Sport logo, they are bold, macho and above all else, inviting. The whole car feels more pumped up than the standard 208 GTi, and that was exactly what it needed.
Handling/Performance – 10/10
The guys over at Peugeot Sport have also pumped up the performance. The 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol engine offers 208PS and 300Nm of torque. Sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, this car is properly quick. 0-62mph is dealt with in a swift 6.5 seconds. The top speed is 143mph. And it actually feels faster than it is. You see the GTi PS has a limited-slip differential. And that drastically reduces the amount of wheel spin. As a result you are not scrubbing away power, and a stab of your right foot translates quickly into a forward surge. When you start the car there is a lovely rumble from the exhaust, and when you give it the beans this turns into a bark. The audible highlight is the noise it makes when you lift off after hard acceleration. Whilst it is hard to describe, I can tell you it is addictive.
That limited-slip differential transforms the handling too. Ordinarily a front wheel drive car will understeer when cornering too quickly. This can be referred to as ‘pushing on’, when the car continues straight despite the lock applied to the wheels. With the differential the car actually pulls tighter to the apex. Push really hard and the front will actually out-grip the rear, such that you get oversteer instead of understeer. It’s fantastic fun, and means you can really attack the twisty roads. The suspension is 10mm lower than the standard car and suitably stiff, and the steering is responsive, resulting in a car that is not only capable but inspires confidence in the driver too. The PS model gets 4-pot front brakes, and stamping on the middle pedal results in the removal of your face.
Economy – 10/10
I realise that at this point I’m making the 208 GTI sound like a bit of an animal. To a certain extent, it is. But there is a more civilised side to it as well, and once you stop driving like Ken Block you will find that the 1.6-litre engine is rather clean. It has start stop technology, which cuts CO2 emissions to 125g/km. That’s VED band D, with annual road tax being free in the first year, and £110 thereafter. Fuel consumption of 52.3mpg on a combined cycle is pretty impressive too, although you would be sacrificing some fun to get near this figure.
Practicality – 9/10
Okay, so the 208 GTi is a 3-door car. That naturally brings some practicality issues, but there are no unexpected surprises. Once clambered in the back two adults can be seated in relative comfort; although they will struggle to see past those huge front seats. The boot has plenty of room for the weekly shop. If you are considering a hot hatch then clearly 3-doors is plenty, and you will enjoy life with the 208. The problem I have is that I live with the Fiesta ST-3. I enjoy heated seats, keyless entry, a start button and satellite navigation. None of this is standard on the GTi PS, and only the satellite navigation is available as an option (£450). You still start this car with a key, and that just spoils it somehow. It should have a button not dissimilar to a nuclear launch pad. It does however come with a touch-screen multimedia system, dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter and rear parking aid as standard.
Fun – 10/10
If there’s one thing a hot hatch simply has to be; it’s fun. And the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport is probably one of the most fun cars I have ever driven. It reminds me of our rally car, but in a (slightly) more civilised way. It is styled aggressively, and performs that way too. From behind the wheel you will find yourself taking the scenic route quite often. You’ll turn down the radio, wind the window down a little and just listen to that exhaust note. You will deliberately find tight roundabouts and effortlessly throw the 208 around them, and through all of this you will be smiling. And that is the raison d’être of the hot hatch. That, and embarrassing some bigger, more expensive cars around a country lane.
Total Score – 49/50