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Driven: Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport
Clunky title, yes, but pay attention: this Peugeot 208 GTi is a stunning hot hatch.

 



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Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: pretty much everything - Peugeot Sport influence turns standard GTi into this sublime creation.

Not so good: it's expensive compared to the Ford Fiesta ST.

Key Facts

Model tested: Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport
Price: 208 GTi from 19,145; 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport from 21,995; 22,640 as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 125g/km (Band D, 0 VED first 12 months, 110 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 52.3mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 208hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 3,000rpm

Our view:

Last year, we drove the regular Peugeot 208 GTi and loved it; gave it four-and-a-half stars, you know. And we stand by that. This wasn't just grabbing at straws and blustering that Peugeot - which had turned out performance hatchbacks that were clunker after clunker throughout the 2000s - had finally turned a dynamic corner, when in fact the car itself was mediocre. We genuinely believed it was among the front-runners in the B-segment hot hatch class. What held it back was its near-20,000 basic price and inert steering.

So the prospect of a more focused model, equipped with the same limited-slip differential you'd find on Peugeot's hardcore RCZ R, had us salivating. And you'll need a lot of saliva in your mouth to say the repetitious and cumbersome full name of this newcomer, which is the Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. So we'll from now on refer to this as the 208 GTi PS, if you don't mind.

If you've been following Peugeot's product releases carefully, you'll probably know that the 208 GTi PS is simply the 30th Anniversary Limited Edition GTi, but without the silly two-tone grey-and-red bisected colour scheme. However, this car features the 645 textured Ice Silver paint option - a new top coat that features silica particles and polyamide 'micro-balloons' to end up with an almost rough, granular surface that's unlike any other matte paint; this is the showroom evolution of the 'shark skin' finish seen on the Peugeot Exalt concept car of the 2014 Beijing Show. Peugeot says it's easier to care for than other matte finishes and it certainly garners the 208 GTi PS a lot of interest on the street. With subtle PS-specific badging (look on the C-pillars for one discreet logo), plus complementing matt black door mirrors, wheel arch extensions and 18-inch 'Lithium' alloy wheels, the Peugeot looks mean, purposeful and fantastic; even the pinched front grille, our least favourite aesthetic feature last time out, doesn't look as bad. The final signifiers are red PS-branded front brake callipers and grey items at the rear.

A pair of Alcantara sports seats inside with contrast red stitching and a smattering of Peugeot Sport badges here and there lift things, although the cabin of the 208 has always been excellent - the tiny steering wheel and i-Cockpit instrument cluster, for instance, make more sense in a performance model like this than in one of the more humdrum variants. On a more pragmatic theme, the Peugeot can carry four and it still has a useable boot, although the GTi PS gets a tyre inflation kit in lieu of a proper spare wheel.

As ever on these hotter models, it's what you can't see that makes the biggest difference. Compared to the standard GTi, the front and rear track widths of the PS are both up by 6mm, while the suspension is dropped by 10mm. Further, Peugeot Sport sets up the dampers, springs and wheel alignment to its own preferences, while that Torsen LSD is added to the front axle.

Power and torque see modest increases of 8hp and 25Nm respectively, leaving us with a conveniently neat maximum output of 208hp, along with 300Nm; peak power is delivered 200rpm higher than on the regular 208 GTi, while the full torque doesn't hit until 3,000rpm. The top speed of the PS is the same 143mph as the GTi, but the 0-62mph time has been trimmed 0.3 seconds to a 6.5-second sprint. Curiously, Peugeot quotes much better eco-stats for all GTis, PS included, than the 2014MY car, with 125g/km CO2 emissions and 52.3mpg (139g/km and 47.9mpg previously).

What's most incredible is that, with quite a few full-bore strops included in our 613 miles at a 43mph average, the PS returned 44.7mpg. And the 208 GTi PS is actually good on the motorway, possessing a veneer of civility that allows it to cover long distances in reasonable comfort.

However, you don't care about that, do you? No, of course not. Within minutes of slotting yourself behind that Lion-branded button masquerading as a steering wheel, you can tell the PS means business - the damping is unyielding and the steering is rapier-quick. Indeed, the extra feel in the rack addresses one of our issues with the normal GTi. The PS geometry helps things but so does the diff, which gives the front end real bite.

And if you can trust yourself to lean on the massive grip the Peugeot possesses, then that diff will haul you out of almost any situation. The traction the 208 has is remarkable for a front-driver, allowing the car to fire out of corners in the dry at ridiculous speeds. It makes the GTi PS bonkers quick on a twisting road, but it's also, crucially, superb fun into the bargain - a Peugeot hot hatch that makes you grin from ear to ear. How refreshing a phrase is that to hear?

The real brilliance of the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport is that the upgrades add to the whole package, without detracting from anything the Pug already did well. So the engine is muscular and sounds brilliant, the gearchange is slick, the brakes are strong and the car has top-drawer body control. All too often the harder version of a performance car becomes too extreme for regular road use, but the PS gets the excitement-to-usability balance spot on.

For that reason, it's one of the best B-segment hot hatches going... but as ever, it boils down to that bloody Fiesta ST; with a Mountune kit and in higher spec, it remains cheaper than the Peugeot. Make no mistake, though; at long last the Ford has a rival that can match it for dynamic engagement. And for that reason alone, the 208 GTi PS is a massive success.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta ST: the car that has ruined the road testers' game. For absolutely anything below 25,000, the retort is always: "Yeah, but a Fiesta ST starts at 17,395 and it's brilliant." And it is - especially with the 599 Mountune kit for 212hp. Dynamically neck-and-neck with the 208 GTi by PS, but the Ford is cheaper...

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack: don't let anti-Vauxhall badge snobs put you off - this is a superb hot hatch, especially as the 20,395 PP model, which comes with a Drexler diff. Watch the high CO2 and economy numbers, though, which are the Corsa's real weak spots compared to rivals.

Volkswagen Polo GTI: while the Peugeot, Ford and Vauxhall are edgy, in-your-face motors, the Volkswagen goes the opposite direction and offers refined pace in a classy package - a bit like the Golf GTI does in the class above. And while C-segment hatches might be able to get away with being slightly dull, the excitement offered by its rivals means we can't wholeheartedly recommend the Polo.


Matt Robinson - 26 Sep 2015









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2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.

2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.2015 Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Matt Robinson.








 

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