7

10

Model

GTI

Price

$29,990

The Numbers

1598cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, FWD, 147kW, 275Nm, 5.9L/100km, 139g/km CO2, 6.8s 0-100km/h, 230km/h, 1160kg

The Topgear Verdict

Fun without sacrificing day-to-day liveability, but pricier than the opposition, it’s a hot hatch for DINKs.

2013 Peugeot 208 GTi

There’s a rare type of amnesia called lacunar amnesia, which just affects the memory of a specific event or even a specific person – it’s possible to wake up one morning and remember everything in your life except your wife.

The reason we mention it is that Peugeot is perhaps suffering some form of lacunar amnesia regarding their GTis. With the new 208 GTi, they can’t stop talking about the 205 GTi, which was released 30 years ago, and of course was and remains an object of fan boy lust; but is the 208 GTi actually the successor to it? Wouldn’t the 206 GTi logically be that successor? And wouldn’t the 208 be the successor to the 207 GTi? It is, of course, but since most people’s memory of the 207 GTi is of a soggy ride and a loose, imprecise gearbox that waggled about like a fat man trying to find the last piece of greasy chicken at the bottom of a bucket – well, Peugeot has decided to go allMementoand simply forget those cars ever existed.

Which in some ways is a shame, because comparisons with the 206 and 207 would more usefully highlight how good the new 208 GTi is. Whereas comparisons with the now ancient 205 GTi are about as useful as comparisons with the 208 T16 that Sébastian Loeb used in June to eviscerate the Pikes Peak record – the lunatic fast T16 being about as closely related to the garden-variety 208 as Queen Latifah is to Queen Elizabeth.

Unlike that “waggling an umbrella in a gumboot” transmission of the 207, the 208 GTi has a neat close-ratio gearbox that’s a joy to snick through. In a move that will boost its cred in the eyes of hardcore hatch heads, it’s only available as a manual – a sure-fire way to limit your sales in Australia, where people love their autos. But then, Peugeot aren’t expecting the GTi to flood the market – which is why they’re comfortable pricing the car above the competition. At $29,990, the 208 GTi is four grand dearer than the Fiesta ST will be, and two grand more than a Polo GTI. But it also has a more luxe interior – leather all over the place, very swish bolstered seats, a seven-inch touchscreen, a sweet sound system, and satnav as standard, which sets it apart from most of the micro hot hatch class.

Or, instead of comparing the 208 to the 207, maybe we should compare it to the sporty versions of the Mini; not just because they’re the premium end of the hot hatch market in their own way (the Peugeot amongst the micro hatches, the Mini S amongst the full-size cultivars), but because they share an engine. The 1.6 THP engine doing the pushing in the 208 GTi was developed jointly between PSA Peugeot Citroën and BMW. And it’s a tidy little powerplant – in fact, it took out line honours at the 2013 International Engine Of The Year Awards, which is a rip-roaring drunken shindig if you ever get sent an invite to one by accident. By the numbers: 147kW (that’s more power than the Fiesta ST) and 275 torques, good for 6.8 seconds from red lights to 100, and still only chewing through 5.9L/100km (so says Mr Peugeot, though it drank more juice than that when we punted it through some wiggly stuff in the Gold Coast hinterland.) The GTi pulls briskly even from low revs – the torque peaks from just 1700rpm, so there’s not much turbo lag to worry about here – and sounds amusing enough, though not as rorty as the same mill sounds in the more tightly focussed Mini performance variants.

The Peugeot soaks up the crackly Queensland roads without sacrificing support through corners, and the pint-size kart-like steering wheel is a fun touch, though it blocks the instrument cluster a little since it’s too small to look through – I had to crane my neck to see over the top of it.

What Peugeot should do is forget about the 205 GTi – a scorching but difficult beast that didn’t have power steering or air con but did have a burning desire to torque-steer the unwary into a tree – and remember the 208 GTi for what it is: a fun, lively, liveable hot hatch, liveable in the every day sense. If you’re a track day regular or a midnight street racer or a ram raider, then you might want an ultra-focussed hot hatch like a Mini JCW or a Renault Megane 265 Trophy. But those cars are punishing rides for day-to-day living. The 208 GTi isn’t – it’s roomy and comfy and well-appointed. Trying to apply those adjectives to a 205 GTi? Forget about it.

Reviewed by: Tim Keen

Driven: September 12, 2013