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Peugeot 208 GTi stays true to 205 legacy

Nostalgic: Peugeot 208 GTi harks back to 80s 205 GTi.

Peugeot says its latest 208 GTi baby hot hatch evolves the breed

23 Apr 2013

PEUGEOT believes it has nailed the balance of the old 205 GTi’s hot-hatch appeal with the 208 GTi’s modern-day levels of safety, practicality, economy and comfort.

Developed over a two-and-a-half-year period from September 2010, the team was keen to advance the GTi’s driveability and safety, further dialling out the snap oversteer that defined the 1980s-era 205 GTi.

The French car-maker’s compact sports hatch has also bucked the five-door, automatic-only trend started with Volkswagen’s five-door Polo GTI three years ago, and set to be mirrored in Renault’s upcoming Clio Renault Sport 200.

Instead, the 208 will stick with a three-door layout and offer a six-speed manual transmission.

Compared with the preceding 207 GTi, the newcomer due in August is up to 100kg lighter at 1160kg.

Its 147kW 1.6-litre turbo four-pot is also significantly more powerful than before and yet more environmentally friendly – averaging 5.9 litres per 100 kilometre and 139 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

The benchmark vehicles included the Clio RS, Mini Cooper, Polo GTI, and Ford Fiesta.

Speaking via an interpreter at the GTi’s launch in Nice last week, 208 product communication manager, Caroline Damey, is confident buyers will prove that Peugeot made the right decision about its reborn pocket rocket.

“We wanted ‘sporty chic’ – dynamic style in the design of the car, with attention to detail, and refinement.

“The market no longer accepts ‘oversteering’ cars. That is why we’ve made it perfectly neutral and balanced, with a big increase in safety.” Asked if the lack of an automatic transmission flew in the face of Peugeot’s stated intention to increase its global product appeal, Ms Damey said no self-shifting gearboxes were compatible with the 208’s platform.

“Given that the main market for the GTi is Europe, the percentage of buyers who want an automatic transmission is minimal,” she said.

“There isn’t a suitable automatic gearbox suitable that fits the ‘Number 1’ (Peugeot 208) platform.” Peugeot built 66 208 GTi prototypes before full production started this month.

Most testing took place in France, though extreme weather durability exercises were carried out in Spain and Sweden.

The famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany was also utilised for top-speed data.

While the 208 uses the same BMW-developed 1.6-litre engine used in the bigger RCZ coupe, there are modifications to the twin-scroll turbocharger, exhaust and cooling systems for its GTi application.

Each of the six-speed gearbox’s ratios are also shorter to help with accelerator response and feel.

Some 200kg separates the base 975kg 208 1.2 VTi Active and the 1160kg GTi due to a beefed-up chassis (including a stiffer front subframe and new front suspension cradle), increased body bracing, larger springs, thicker anti-roll bars, specific dampers, and the weight of all the extra luxury equipment.

Overall, weight distribution is 730kg at the front and 430kg at the rear, giving a 63:37 spread.

Other changes include re-tuned electric power steering, an exhaust system with less soundproofing to enhance engine noise, and different front seats that provide a lower hip point to give the driver a sportier feeling.

Peugeot said cost controls meant the 208 GTi missed out on performance upgrades available to rival hot hatches, such as more power or a limited-slip differential.

Peugeot said there was a degree of compliance and comfort in the GTi’s suspension and damper set-up, turning around a reputation for hard-riding set-ups.

“The lightness advances of the 208 gave us refreshed impetus for the GTi,” Ms Damey said.

“It represented a change of mindset. We didn’t want to go back to the old (207 GTi) which was hard and very firm.

“We wanted an agile car that was fun to drive, but with a balance and comfort so that it could be used every day.

“That is the legacy of the 205.”

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