The 208 hatchback is a handsome car in its own right, and the GTI version looks even better. The curvy lives and bold detailing are accentuated by the GTI’s chunkier bumpers, while hot hatch fans will love the 17-inch alloys, red brake calipers and chrome twin exhausts that complete the sporty makeover.
The sporty theme continues inside the GTI, with stitched leather finishes for the dashboard and door trims, heavily bolstered part-leather sports seats and LED surrounds around the instruments. One or two interior panels don’t have the lustre of those directly in your eyeline, but the overall feeling you get is one of class. The ergonomics, on the other hand, are a nightmare. The dials are viewed over the steering wheel rather than through it, and this means shorter drivers will struggle to see them without setting the wheel uncomfortably low. The touch-screen infotainment system is also very unintuitive.
A good hot hatch should have space for four adults and a useable boot, and the 208 GTI just about delivers. There’s decent head and legroom in the back, even if the three-door-only bodystyle means that getting into the rear seats involves some dexterity. The boot is a reasonable size at 285 litres, which is about average for the class.
Ride and handling
The 208 GTI handles sharply, with strong grip, solid body control and responsive, meaty-feeling steering. You don’t get much feedback through the wheel, but this car still feels like a proper hot hatch. As enjoyable as the 208 is, though, it doesn’t change direction with quite the same flair and delicacy as a Ford Fiesta ST. The ride is a little on the firm side, too, but it’s nothing that your average hot hatch fan won’t be able to live with.
The GTI’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine develops 197bhp, which is enough to propel you from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. You’ll need plenty of revs to extract maximum acceleration, because the engine is actually quite flat at the bottom of the rev range. For many, though, thrashing the GTI will be half the fun.
The 208 GTI is more expensive to buy than rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and the Renaultsport Clio, and its residual values won’t be much better. Claimed fuel economy is identical to the Fiesta’s at 47.9mpg, and better than the Renault’s. Insurance costs, which will be make-or-break for the young drivers that hot hatches attract, are very similar between the three cars.
It’s too early to say how reliable the 208 GTI will be, but the solid assembly and proven engine bodes well for buyers. Peugeot’s reputation for reliability isn’t exactly glittering, but the brand has earned mid-table respectability in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings.
The regular 208 hatchback achieved the full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, and you can expect just as strong a performance from the GTI. What’s more, the stability control system and high-performance brakes should help you avoid testing the vehicle’s crash structure. The car also comes with Peugeot’s SOS system, which automatically sends the emergency services to the car’s exact location if an airbag goes off.
The 208 GTI comes with plenty of kit as standard, including dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB input and part-leather upholstery. The touch-screen system is also designed to incorporate sat-nav, and adding it is a very affordable option.
The 208 GTI is certainly worthy of the badge – it’s Peugeot’s best GTI in some years. It looks good, it goes like stink and it’s great fun. However, you’ll have even more fun in a Ford Fiesta ST, which costs you significantly less to buy. That’s where our money would go.