Peugeot 208 GTi 2012-2014 review

Open gallery

208 GTI will eagerly cock a wheel during hard cornering

New Peugeot comes with 17-inch alloys and plenty of kit as standard

Turbocharged engine delivers 203lb ft of torque but lacks aural character

The Peugeot’s top speed is 143mph

The 208 GTI can dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in 6.8sec

Interior is similar to that of the standard 208

GTI proves fun enough to demonstrate that Peugeot still understands the badge

Instrument cluster can be hidden by the wheel, depending on your seating position

1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine generates 197bhp

Mercifully, the 208 GTI is far better than the 208 suggested it would be

Gearknob is a suitably gratifying chunk of metal

208 GTI is bearable around town and when commuting

The four-pot’s engine has a rather characterless drone

Close by Nic Cackett 28 June 2013 Follow @@autocar Share

How we test cars

The Peugeot 208 GTi is a lower, leaner, gutsier version of the Peugeot 208 supermini – keen to trade on its legendary badge, made famous by the Peugeot 205 GTi, but not particularly beholden to its spirit. 

This is a softer and subtler brand of GTi. Peugeot may roll out the memory of the 205 for these occasions, but away from the advertising campaign it readily admits that this is a much more mature model than its landmark scamp – developed to fit the broader requirements of a likely older audience. Peugeot did try to harness some of the 205’s brilliance in a limited run of the 208 to mark its 30th anniversary.

The Peugeot 208 looks quite pricey next to competition from Ford and RenaultNic CackettRoad tester

Consequently, unlike some demonically tweaked rivals, the Peugeot 208 is only gently differentiated from its lesser siblings. Whether you like it or not will therefore depend on how much you appreciated the template. But for our money the GTi would need a deeper, far costlier graft than just a new grille to make its less-than-pretty nose genuinely appealing. Peugeot has attempted to remedy this by offering a 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, which gets a lower, wider presence than the standard car, plus the benefit of upgraded springs, dampers and wheel alignment, and a Torsten differential as found on the RCZ R.

Nevertheless its tidy profile is picked out well enough by a skinny set of arches, side skirts, and a prominent rear spoiler. Add to that a questionable splatter of chrome-effect body trim and a raft of badges, and the 208 makes it to familiar hot hatch styling territory.

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Beneath it all, swaddled in a rearranged set of ancillaries and close-fitting bodywork is the now customary four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine now running at 205bhp after Peugoet turned up the wick from the original 197bhp the unit used to produce. Around that Peugeot has installed the usual hot hatch accouterments: a reinforced front subframe compliments fatter struts, sports springs, tauter dampers and beefier anti-roll bars, while bigger brakes and revised steering settings help better control the show. 

As well as adding, the GTi benefits from Peugeot’s earlier decision to subtract: the car is 165kg lighter than the lardy 207 GTi at 1160kg. Not featherlight then, but an improvement – especially considering that (again, in keeping with its acknowledged target audience) it’s decently equipped too. Like the Ford Fiesta ST range, there are three trim levels to choose from each offering a smattering more equipment.

The standard GTi comes with 17in alloys, chrome dual exhaust system and rear parking sensors on top of the standard GT-Line-trimmed car, while opting for the GTi Prestige adds sat nav, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof to the package. The Peugeot Sport tweaked GTi gains all the additions highlighted earlier plus 18in alloy wheels, round twin exhaust system and an Alcantara upholstery.

This is a car that is far better than its more humdrum donor model suggested it would be. Recent memory of the standard 208’s tin-box clunkiness is swiftly expunged once settled inside. True, the GTi is afflicted with the same dislocated interior – instrument cluster half-hidden by the steering wheel, an afterthought of an infotainment screen, glossy dashboard facia looking anything but – yet the important things ring true: the gear knob is a fistful of indented metal; its steering wheel is baby-armed in girth but petite in diameter, and the sports seats cosset and cradle superbly.

Pity the soundtrack doesn’t quite fit the same billing. While sharing the engine, the 208 doesn’t get the RCZ’s trick exhaust, meaning there’s not much to embellish the four-pot’s rather characterless drone. Out and about though (inline with the aforementioned game plan) it’s an hospitable unit. The GTi doesn’t suffer from the 208’s driveline klutziness, even if there is some low-down hesitation, and with 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, there’s guts enough on tap.

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