- Max Speed
What am I looking at?
You're looking at a really rather good car. Built to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the launch of the storied 205 GTI, this Peugeot 208 GTI has been tweaked and fettled by the chaps over at Peugeot Sport - the team responsible for the RCZ R.
The result? A car that is, in nearly every single measurable way, better than the 208 GTI on which it is based.
With one proviso: we only drove the GTI 30th on a circuit slick with very rainy French rain. Weather experts might have called it ‘wet'. Moderate expectations accordingly.
So what've they done to it?
Far from being a hastily cobbled together commemorative edition, the 208 GTI 30th has benefited from a significant haul of mechanical upgrades. Biggest and best is the Torsen differential between the front wheels, which Peugeot Sport plucks directly from the RCZ R.
Besides the diff, there's a mite more power (up 9bhp to 206bhp) and torque (up to 222lb ft from 203lb ft) from the 1.6-litre turbo four. There are new brakes, too - 323mm discs with Brembo four-piston calipers. The ride-height is down 10mm, and the track wider by 22mm up front, and 16mm out back.
Elsewhere, there are new damper settings and spring rates, a special exhaust (which still sounds distinctly un-special, in truth) and wider, stickier rubber. A good shopping list.
And it's not just the oily side of things that's had an overhaul. There's a pair of new bucket seats inside, and black trim pieces aplenty everywhere else. It looks good. Purposeful. But sit properly, and your view of the dials is still obscured by the chubby little steering wheel. Sorry officer, I couldn't see the speedo, etc...
How does it drive?
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In a straight line at least, the 30th doesn't feel obviously quicker than a standard GTI. The sprint to 62mph is a fraction quicker at 6.5 seconds, but the 143mph top speed remains the same. The engine still isn't the most inspiring turbo four, but it's decently rapid and feels plenty happy delivering said rapidity.
But it's in corners that the 30th really feels upgraded. The traction control has been dialed back to really let that diff work its magic, but it's when it's completely deactivated that you really appreciate the mechanical goodness whirring away beneath you. Add in those bigger tyres and revised damping, and the result is a sizable improvement in mechanical traction. Plant the accelerator out of a tight corner, and the 30th just goes. No drama, just plenty of uninterrupted, uncompromised acceleration.
The brakes are pleasingly effective, with good, firm pedal feel - a vast improvement over the standard car's only-adequate stoppers. The revised steering, meanwhile, is light (though a little heavier than a normal GTI's) and pointy, but feelsome enough to give you a decent idea of how the front wheels are coping.
All told, the 30th feels taughter, tighter and grippier than the standard car. It's lots of little things done well, which, if you add them up, make a car that isn't just a little better than the car on which it's based, but - dynamically speaking - a great improvement. Colour us impressed, Frenchists.
Should I buy one?
The question might better be ‘Can I buy one?'. Of the 800 examples Peugeot will build, just 100 are coming to the UK. And all 30 cars that'll be decked-out in the two-tone part-matte, part-metallic Coupe Franche paint scheme (an £800 option, might we add...) are already spoken for. So if you want one, best act quickly.
But at £21,995, it's not cheap. A Fiesta ST starts at four grand less. Just saying...