Peugeot 208 208 GTI
Handsome 208 looks even sharper with GTi additions
- Sharp looks enhanced over standard car
- Flexible and powerful turbocharged engine
- Impressive ride and handling balance
- Good value for money
- Raised instrument position good in theory, debatable in practice
- Touchscreen not as accurate or intuitive as hoped
- Small steering wheel may not suit all
- Rear visibility slightly compromised by thick rear pillar
In the world of hot hatchbacks Peugeot has long been regarded as one of the best brands to choose from, with iconic cars such as the 205, 106 and 306 GTi still being highly regarded. More recent efforts have fallen a little short of these high standards but the latest 208 GTi aims to put that right.
Peugeot's best-selling cars since the early 1980s have been its superminis, so the 208 was a crucial car for the French manufacturer. The wide engine choice, fine ride and handling mix and improved quality have helped it become an established seller in a short space of time. Although only a very small percentage of range sales, a performance version can boost the reputation of the whole range.
The 208 GTi follows the same basic formula as the 207 GTi in that it is a three-door only machine and is powered by the same four cylinder 1.6-litre turbocharged unit. Things have moved on in the intervening years however and the 208 GTi's output is 200bhp, significantly more than the 207 GTi and as much as cars from the class above only a few years ago.
Peugeot has also addressed one of the problems that beset the previous 207, namely increased weight. Meeting the latest safety regulations and providing a full range of modern electronic features inevitably adds weight, compromising performance and economy. However the 208 in various guises weighs up to 110kg less than the comparable 207 without compromising on safety or luxuries.
The 208 GTi ticks all the necessary boxes on the design front too. A choice of pretty alloy wheels designs, a stylish body kit and a range of bright colours gives it the kerb appeal that is a big part of the hot hatch phenomenon. There are more details on the inside too, with red graphics throughout the cabin, sports seats and smart instruments.
Our verdict on the Peugeot 208 208 GTI
That the starting point for the 208 GTi is a capable and fun to drive supermini is ideal, and the addition of extra power, sharpened handling and jazzed-up looks complete the hot hatch package. It strikes a good balance between fun and everyday usability and will be reasonably inexpensive to run too.
The use of turbocharging to deliver the performance helps to keep fuel consumption and emissions down, at least when driven with restraint. Insurance will be a little higher than the rest of the range but should still be acceptable.
Space and practicality
Peugeot's aim to maximise the cabin space while decreasing the overall dimensions has been remarkably successful; despite being a significant seven centimetres shorter there is increased rear legroom and boot space compared to the outgoing 207. The layout of the cabin is good too, with a very generous glovebox and plenty of other storage areas around the fascia.
Controls and display
The most important element of the 208's layout is the decision to go with a 'head-up display' style layout, with the instruments sitting higher up and viewed over the steering wheel rather than through the wheel on a conventional car. This has been achieved by fitting a much smaller steering wheel too. It takes some getting used to, as the wheel needs to be adjusted to a lower position than might seem natural, and it will be up to the individual to decide if it suits them. Otherwise the controls are well laid-out and easy to understand.
As well as delivering on the driving enjoyment front the 208 GTi manages the important balancing act of offering good ride quality too, soaking up bumps as well as the best in the class.
All 208 models are fitted with remote central locking with deadlocks as standard as well as an approved immobiliser. An alarm is optional on all models for extra protection.
The focus on light weight has not come at the expense of safety with a strong passenger cell. All models are also fitted with ESP as standard, which includes cornering brake control too and all models have six airbags as standard.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine gives strong torque from low revs and the slick gearshift helps to keep the momentum going. The small steering wheel feels good in the hands and makes the car easy to direct, with good communication from the front wheels. The suspension does a good job of keeping the body level and on track while soothing out the worst road imperfections.
Family car appeal
The three-door only GTi could cope with family life the five-door model would make a better fist of it, and would do reasonably well. Bulkier car seats in the rear could leave small children with little legroom or force those in front to shuffle forward, but given the overall dimensions it would stand up to the trials of family life.
First car appeal
The standard 208 is an ideal first car but in GTi form it's a little more expensive although no more challenging to drive.
Quality and image
Peugeot has pushed hard to raise quality levels in recent years and the overall finish of the 208 GTi is testament to that. Although not all the plastics would qualify as soft-touch, the major contact points feel of high quality and the use of chrome-effect and piano black detailing also adds to the cabin ambience. Image-wise Peugeot has generally faired better with its small cars, still owing a lot to the original 205. But the 208 should successfully build on that with its looks and driver appeal.
In three-door models the seat easily tips and slides forward, giving straightforward access to the rear, helped by the relatively high roof. The tailgate is quite wide although the tail lights do reduce the potential width of the aperture a little.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
All 208s from the Active model upwards get a new touchscreen system with a large seven-inch display. The clarity of the display is impressive and it responds well to inputs, and it highlights any selectable options in blue to make it easier to operate, although even then there are occasions when some thought is required to navigate to a particular option. A unique feature to the 208 is on-screen apps offering a variety of extra services including traffic monitoring, travel guides and fuel prices.
Colours and trim
The 208 GTi's bold exterior is relatively colour-sensitive; brighter shades such as white, blue and silver suit it well yet the more unusual choices on the options list are probably a step too far. On the inside the GTi gets its own colour scheme with flashes of red trim over a black cabin with generous helpings of leather, which boosts the quality feel.
With its relatively compact dimensions and small steering wheel the 208 GTi is relatively easy to manoeuvre into small spaces. The thick rear pillar does hamper visibility a little, but rear parking sensors are fitted as standard on the GTi and that largely eliminates the problem.
Full size spare wheel fitted as standard to all models.
Petrol engine options - 1.0-litre (68bhp); 1.2-litre (82bhp); 1.4-litre (95bhp); 1.6-litre (120bhp, 156bhp and 200bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.4-litre (68bhp); 1.6-litre (92bhp and 115bhp). Transmission options - five speed manual on all bar highest output petrol. All diesels have choice of five-speed manual or electronically-controlled gearbox with five or six speeds depending on output, highest output 1.6-litre diesel is six-speed manual only. Trim levels are Access, Access+, Active, Allure, Feline, GTi.
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