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Peugeot 208 GTi

Click to view picture galleryIts fair to say that Peugeots 208
  GTi was one of the most keenly
  anticipated new cars of 2013.
  So, n
ow its here, is it hot enough
  to wear the hot hatch crown?

RED AND CHROME welcome to the 'new black' of the GTi world, à la Peugeot. Red-and-silver bits are seemingly everywhere: the gear lever, the strip under the front grille, the dashboard with its gradated red-to-black colouring… and there's more red stitching in the cabin than a whole Man Utd team kit. Even the seatbelts have red stripes on them...

And then of course there's that badge — the red-and-shiny GTi one. This is what that chromatic clarion call is all about. Ever since the sublimely brilliant 205 GTi left production in 1994, Peugeot has been struggling to rediscover its hot hatch mojo. So far, it hasn't had a terribly convincing time of it: the less said about lacklustre efforts like the 206 and 207 GTi, the better.

So, can the 208 return the hot hatch crown to Peugeot? The raw ingredients look good. The 208 GTi's engine is basically the same 1.6-litre turbocharged unit that it supplies to BMW for the MINI Cooper S, but under the 208's bonnet it gets even more power — no less than 197bhp.

“Slicing through the
six-speed manual ’box,
you hit 62mph in 6.8
seconds — better than
most compact GTis —
and max out at
Peugeot's newest GTi is quick, no question about it. Slicing through the six-speed manual 'box, you hit 62mph in 6.8 seconds — better than most compact GTis — and it will run on to a top speed of 143mph.

Unlike some hot hatches which you really need to rev hard, the 208 GTi has heaps of mid-range torque so you can usefully overtake without changing down gears, and likewise maintain a good pace on the motorway in sixth.

The GTi gets specially lowered suspension, which translates to pleasingly controlled body roll. There's plenty of grip on offer, too, although none of the clever traction control technology you get in a Fiesta ST.

It is indeed possible to get the 208 out of shape in corners, something that's virtually impossible in the Ford — which is either a good or bad thing, depending on your viewpoint. Personally, I like the sense that you can feel the edge in handling terms, which is a plus for the Peugeot.

However, it's not all rosy in the red-tinged GTi. Yes, the small, flat-bottomed steering wheel feels great in your hands but the feel of the steering itself doesn't have the sharpness that the best can boast. Neither will the 208 feel raw enough for many drivers.

The engine note doesn't have the special sound that Ford has engineered into its Fiesta ST, yet the 208 GTi remains quite noisy at motorway speeds. And while ride comfort is actually much better than many other hot hatches, you get the feeling that most enthusiasts would be prepared to sacrifice a bit of that comfort for some good old-fashioned sharpness.

The relatively subtle styling treatment for the GTi doesn't scream 'hot hatch' but the 17-inch alloy wheels and twin exhaust pipes are unmistakable. Inside, half-leather sports seats are standard, plus dual-zone climate control, a DAB radio and an excellent touchscreen media system. The cabin materials are clearly of very high quality, too — much of it wouldn't look out of place in an Audi.

“The relatively subtle
styling treatment for the
GTi doesn
t scream
‘hot hatch
but the
17-inch alloy wheels and
twin exhaust pipes are
The Peugeot's main problem is that two highly-talented hot hatch superminis have hit the market at precisely the same time as the 208 GTi: the Ford Fiesta ST and the Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo.

The Ford, in particular, looks a thorn in the 208's side because it's incredibly good to drive and costs £1,905 less (the 208 GTi is offered in three-door form only for £18,900).

The hot Pug's 47.9mpg fuel economy is decent enough, although if you're on the motorway that easily drops to the low 30s. CO2 emissions of 139g/km put it in Band E for road tax.

In conclusion, the 208 GTi is no 205 GTi, but we always knew it was never going to be that; cars have come a long way since then. That noted, the new 208 GTi feels great to sit inside and is pretty good fun to drive; and yet it's also practical — the sort of car you could live with on a daily basis. And that's certainly not something you can say of every hot hatch. — Chris Rees

Peugeot 208 GTi | £18,900
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds | Average MPG: 47.9mpg
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 203lb ft | CO2 139g/km