Peugeot 208 GTi clocks up the smiles

The Peugeot GTi has regained its verve, harking back to the days of its iconic'208 original
The Peugeot GTi has regained its verve, harking back to the days of its iconic'208 original
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I SUSPECT winning the lottery would do it. An original joke should bring it on. Maybe just a kind word from a good friend is all it would take. For some people it would require a visit to the dentist and then they might have to wait a few weeks before it appeared.

I’m talking about that best of all 
facial expressions, which is characterised by an upturning of the corners of the mouth and illustrates amusement or friendliness, best known by all of us as a smile. It’s the outward expression of inner happiness and the world might be a better place if we all did it a bit more often, although the recipients of the smile would probably wonder what we’d been up to.

I was in North Wales the other week and had a broad smile on my face for a lot of the time. So what was I up to as I travelled through the raw landscape of Snowdonia? The weather was truly awful, with driving rain and gale force winds, but that didn’t matter because in my hands was the latest creation to bear the iconic name Peugeot GTi.

The very name stirs the emotions of every petrolhead who will look wistfully into the distance as they recall the original of the breed, the 205 GTi, which took the hot-hatch market by storm in 1984. For the following 11 years, helped by some superb rallying displays, it was the ultimate aspirational machine for the younger driver and a nice bit of fun for the more mature motorist who could afford the £6,295 price tag and big insurance premiums.

For its time it was a fast car, with a top speed of 123 mph, reaching 60 mph in under eight seconds. It was stylish too, with classic red highlights, individual white or charcoal paintjobs and discreet but distinctive GTi badging. In the early 2000s, Peugeot brought the GTi label back and stuck it onto the revised 206 and then the 207, and while both had reasonable performance, the sparkle had gone and the derivative was quietly dropped.

But now, five years on, I’m delighted to say the GTi is back with a modern interpretation of some of the elements which made its predecessor such a success. “Motion and Emotion” is the tag line which will go with a big advertising and viral campaign to back up the new 208 GTi, along with some appearances at significant motor sport events such as the Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado at the end of June.

It’s aimed to put a smile on the faces of its target customers – men in their late 30s and early 40s who at the moment have the choice of VW’s Polo GTi, the Renault Clio RS or the latest Fiesta ST from Ford. What the Peugeot offers is a competitive price tag under £19,000 in a car which is crammed with equipment as standard that would be costly options in the other models.

It’s smaller and lighter than previous versions but bigger inside, with firmer suspension and a wider track. Under the bonnet is a lively 1.6-litre high pressure turbo petrol engine churning out 200bhp. Coupled with a close-ratio six-speed gearbox, it returns all you could want from a sports hatchback which can still be used as an everyday car.

It looks great, with some nice touches reminiscent of the original. On the outside, red highlights surround the GTi logo on the rear quarter panel, around the 3D chequered-flag-effect grille and on the brake callipers snuggled in behind the dramatic 17-inch wheels. The lighting incorporates rectangular LEDs for indicators and daytime running lights.

Inside, there are lively red touches around the supportive seats including red stitching, and, on the stumpy gearknob, dash and grab handles, the colour graduates from black to red. The dials on the instrument binnacle are backlit by red LEDs behind a small steering wheel with a flattened bottom edge, which may not be universally popular but I felt returned good feedback from the road. This is a car that enjoys being driven energetically. I’m sure I detected a grin in that chequered grille .


CAR Peugeot 208 GTi

PRICE £18,895

PERFORMANCE Max speed 143 mph. 0-62 mph 6.8 secs

MPG (combined) 48mpg