Will Peugeot's 208 GTi Be Worth the Wait?

The French have a very unusual approach to building cars. They do not simply build a car, as much as they engineer and design everything to be different (and better, usually, though this cannot be called a rule). French cars are often criticized, but the people who do simply do not understand where these cars are coming from, what the philosophy behind them is and what kinds of people they are aiming to attract.
Peugeot used to be a fiercely-French carmaker, yet with the creation of PSA and the absorption of Citroen, they have all-but lost their Gallic quirkiness. However, sifting through the blandness churned out by Peugeot in recent years, a far cry from what they used to make ‘back in the day’, crushing the 307, and the 308, and the 407 and the (way too Germanic-looking) 508 and the (Toyota) 107 and the 207 and, well, most of them in my mind- only two cars really stand out in a positive way: the gorgeous RCZ and the upcoming 208 GTi.

The RCZ is already a reality, and with 200 hp, an excellent chassis and great handling, it really is a sign of what is to come at Peugeot – it is also getting a 260+ hp version later in 2013, so that’s quite exciting as well. The other promising offering is the 208 GTi, a car for which I personally, and the rest of the autoevolution crew, have very high hopes for.

But why is it that we are looking forward to driving a car built by a manufacturer which has only one other mildly-exciting car in its range, surrounded by a sea of silver blandness. Well, the 208 GTi will feature the same engine as the RCZ, and while it will reportedly be available in two states of tune, it is the more focused, more hardcore version, the 200 hp variant of the 1.6-liter unit, the one we’re interested in.

Building on our anticipation to drive the car is the fact that the regular Pug 208 is smaller and some 114 kg lighter, on average. This means that straight line performance will be superb, even from the low-displacement motor, as its twin-scroll turbocharger will give it all the boost it will ever need. Also, with the weight loss, the car will be very nimble, and if we are to put our faith in the chassis engineers at Peugeot, which have already expertly tuned the RCZ, then our anticipation is easy to motivate.

Peugeot has such a long line of excellent hot hatches, that it is a mystery why they haven’t made any proper ones in recent years. It couldn’t have cost that much to make something at least decent, yet they brought out cars like the 308 GTi, which weighs around 1,300 kg, some 200 more than the 208 GTi, so performance was leisurely to say the least. We are honestly expecting the 208 GTi to reach 100 km/h in under 6.5 seconds, and these are not excessive expectations, just ones based on the available information.

However, it may not be the stripped out road-racer that some people may think it is, as Peugeot have said that their intention is to make a car which is both usable and very fast, so some of the sharpness of the handling may be sacrificed, in order to boost comfort and fuel efficiency, as well as its usability. For most customers, this is what they are looking for, yet for a very select few, it may not be hardcore enough.

Thankfully, we say the 208 GTi will be a success, in terms of sales, as it will offer a great blend of qualities, so that it gets a cult following, as well as competent aftermarket parts providers. Just look at the 106 GTi or its Citroen cousin – they were small, simple and relatively inexpensive cars which were excellent platforms for modifications, and in France and the UK, thousands were modified and improved, some tastefully, others not.

Peugeot will be bringing the production version of the car to the Paris motor show, where we will get to have a closer look at it. We are curious to see what the crowd’s reaction will be to the car. Will it be generally positive or negative?

If Peugeot builds on their extensive tradition in building excellent fast small hatchbacks, then the 208 GTi will be a success. However, if they make it handle exactly like the DS3 (a good, but not excellent car), a car with which it share a lot of mechanical bits, then it will be a problem for the little Peugeot, as its quirky exterior styling, excellent interior and practicality will not be enough to sell it as a true GTi by Peugeot.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories