PEUGEOT 208 GTi: return of the pocket rocket

POSSIBLY picked a bad couple of days to go to north Wales to sample the delights of the latest Peugeot 208 GTi.

For so long the bastion of the speeding motorist hating constabulary, it was also, for our brief stay, home to rather a lot of senior police officers in what was Speed Awareness Week. So, you might agree, not a good time to go hooning around the neighbourhood in the latest incarnation of what was one of the very first and very best hot hatches.

So we didn’t. We simply enjoyed the ride – a ride that hinted at the promise of a full on hot hatch experience when the situation arises.

The new car is smaller than Peugeot’s last B sector GTI but bigger on the inside. It’s something like 165kgs lighter and when the figures show you’re getting 200bhp from a 1.6 litre engine you know it’s going to perform.

The original was dubbed the pocket rocket and for very good reason – it was bloody quick by the standards of the day, it was small and compact and had another great trait – affordability.

The newcomer is true to its roots – it’s fast, it’s nimble and above all it’s easy to drive.

Cosmetic changes make it stand out from other 208s, none more so than the prominent and proud GTi badge on the C pillar which harks back to that memorable original car of 1984 vintage, as well as the 3D chequered motif in the gloss black grille. The stylish front end has the Peugeot name badge discretely tucked away in the gap between the bonnet edge and the chrome edged grille.

Of course it’s not all just about outright speed and grip these days  and it’s reassuring to note that this latest car has some pretty healthy eco credentials as well. It’s CO2 figure is 139g/km and it’s capable of a shade under 48mpg. Compare that with the 28.1 of the original 205GTi if you will.

This is unashamedly a blokey car – 70 per cent of buyers are male, with just under half (45 per cent) in the 35-45 year old bracket.

The 208 itself is a pretty good base on which to develop a sports hatchback and they’ve put particular emphasis on the steering response, the chassis dynamics and rigidity of the suspension.

Impressive in gear acceleration means if you don’t want to you don’t have to change gear too often.

Braking comes from ventilated discs all round and does the job adequately when you ask it to.

The overall quality of the interior is very good indeed, and the location of the two main dials above the top line of the steering wheel is a boon to ease of visibility. They really stand out in the dark with their red backlighting, and the GTi comes with a pair of highly comfortable and very supportive sports seats. No danger of sliding around behind the wheel IF you get a chance to exploit its zippiness and handling to the full. Up front, legroom is good even for taller than normal drivers, though that obviously restricts rear seat usage to Yoda and Orville, or anyone with very thin legs.

Centrally located in the dash is a seven inch colour touch screen to access radio, Bluetooth or music files.

Unusually for a car these days, it comes with a full sized spare wheel, so much more reassuring than a tiny pump that is less than useless if the tyre in question is badly damaged.

Peugeot expect to sell 10,000 GTis in Europe this year, with the UK accounting for 20 per cent of that figure.

AT A GLANCE: Peugeot 208 GTi; £18,895; 1598cc, 200bhp, 275Nm; top speed 143mph, 0-60mph 6.7secs; fuel (50 litre tank) – urban 34.4, extra urban 60.1, combined 47.9; co2 139g/km; dimensions – 3962/1829/1460 (l/w/h).

© 22/04/2013

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