★★★★★ | Peugeot 208 GTi Sports Edition
I don’t quite know how to type the opening lyrics for Tight Fits “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” but shhh now please, there is a lion sleeping on my driveway. It’s the Peugeot 208 GTi Sport. If it wasn’t so bullish you could call it a lion cub because of its size. Driving it however releases the animal within.
I’ll stop with the lion references now and I’ll ruin the wait for the star rating at the end because it gets Five from me. Six if I could. It’s not a great car though so don’t be fooled into thinking it is. What you get for a mere £22,595 is an uncompromised hot hatch.
There are no toys in this car. You can’t decide how you want to set the stiffness of the suspension. Peugeot’s sports division have done that for you while also lowering it 10mm over the original GTi and changing the wheel alignments. They have also given you the torsen differential. To you and me that means limited slip. All this makes for a car with go-kart like handling with almost no body roll. The ride is jarringly firm on potted streets. On main roads it’s quite liveable.
On the inside you get the usual aircon, airbags, radio with DAB and cruise control but the satnav is a £450 extra. It is needed. The infotainment system is a tad sparse without it. That said you do get a calculator within it. It’s so random I thought it worthy of a mention. What you do get for your money though are 2 delightful bucket seats that both feel great and do their job. What these do however is turn the rear seat into nothing more than a padded parcel shelf. With the 208 being how it is anyway I doubt you’ll get a queue of friends eager to sit in the back anyway.
Unlike the 207 that this replaced, it feels smaller. It looks smaller. Peugeot have always made the prettiest small cars. While the 207 was a huge mistake with no redeeming features, they have got this one right. Some of the trim and finish is a bit low rent. The paint within the boot shut looks unfinished. At first I thought the parcel shelf cheap by the way it’s been executed but. Simplicity in itself.
I have kidded myself that this and some of the switch gears look very similar to those used on Peugeot cars from over 10 years ago – is because the engineers have been busy spending money on the more fundamentals. I was right.
Sitting behind the small leather bound steering wheel your eyes are directed to the the outside world and just below that the facia panel. For some reason it all sits above the line of the wheel. You then notice that the wheel in your hand is incredibly small. It all works so beautifully. Nice little touches of red stitching throughout and the red lights around the 2 contoured clocks are a really nice touch. You can switch them off if you like but you won’t. It becomes very intimate.
Driving it is the fun part. It is also the reason why you would buy this model. In no way does it feel that “Health and Safety” have been involved with the development. It has a simple key to start the eager 208bhp engine. You don’t even need to press the clutch pedal to start it. Everything you do is by your choice. The 208 makes you accountable for your actions and this is what makes it such a breath of fresh air. You can even do left foot breaking. This is a car for the action man.
It is its eagerness that overwhelms your senses. A 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds is ridiculously rapid. The Torsen diff helping put all that power down without much fuss or wheel spin. Care should be taken when pulling out of a junction either left or right. Its tendency to dart away in your chosen direction is both exhilarating and addictive. Too addictive if I am honest. Those Michelin tyres won’t last long.
To hell with the cost of the tyres though. The go-kart like handling is secure at higher than normal speeds though you will tend to cruise 40mph corners you’ve taken before at 60mph. Only then do you realise the potential that this car has. And that 205 GTi trait of lift-off-oversteer very much remains. Thankfully it is much more secure and manageable. Many 205 owners will tell you about the days they ended up facing the wrong way or worse, in a ditch. If however, at any point, you think your pants are going brown, the 4 disc brake set up with scrub off speed with alarmingly little fuss.
The power pack in the 208 is a superb piece of engine. All the power of 208 horses comes in at 6000rpm while 300Nm of torque are there from only 3000rpm. This is puzzling because it does feel nearer 4000rpm when on the move. Change down a gear and then you find it at 3000rpm. The 6 speed gearbox has ratios that require chopping and changing. The throw of the gear shift is way to long in throw though. I’m sure a short throw shift could reduce the 0-60 time by 1/2 a second. It would also add to the already adrenaline fuelled eagerness.
What was annoying was the boom from the exhaust at low revs and at 3000rpm on the motorway. The 208 suggests a gear on the screen and should you wish to get optimal fuel economy it might make sense. Ignore it, take it up another 500 rpm from the 1900rpm when it suggests and you will enjoy the exhaust note. Or keep it in 5th gear until you really need sixth and the boom vanishes but the fun and snappy throttle responses remains.
I want one. I don’t think I would tire of it with its hard ride either. In this stripped down form it does what a car should do and that is allow YOU to drive it by human thought and not the computer. I almost forgot, it returns pretty good fuel economy too.
No frills just thrills
Some finishing details are poor
Long throw of gear stick
Boom from exhaust at low revs
Car – Peugeot 208 GTi Peugeot Sport edition
Price – £22,595 (as tested)
MPG – 35.3mpg (combined)
Power – 208 bhp 6000 rpm
0-62mph – 6.5 seconds
Top Speed – 143 mph
Co2 – 125 (g/km)
Find out more http://www.peugeot.co.uk/