The Peugeot 208 GTi: The Prodigal Son returns. Maybe?

Published on February 18th, 2015

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There is a certain fine line that a hot hatch needs to establish – thus finding the sweet spot to muster all the necessary elements that makes an excellent hot hatch is a difficult task. The span of modern day hot hatches seems to cater for a very different, more ‘grown up’ market to the likes that came in the golden years and of course, undoubtedly the ones today are better cars on paper. But… are they as great as their forefathers?

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Instead of creating a new identity for itself today; many modern day hot hatches are built living under the shadow of their greats. Why? There is a simple answer to this – and it’s because manufacturers can’t seem to capture that ‘fine line’ the way their ancestors could.

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It is no different here with the Peugeot 208 GTi. Marketed as the Prodigal Son to the 205 GTi with the trademark that claims – “The GTi is back”; it sits in the hot hatch market like your typical line up of detergents at the grocery store. You’re spoilt for choice because all of them do the same job… but which one do you take home? At sub RM 140k, it’s the cheapest amongst all it’s rivals however; in all it’s glory – can it beat Dynamo?

So what’s the Pug 208 GTi really about? For starters, it is Peugeot’s take on the supermini category that started life from their mundane little 208, and just like the typical hot hatch recipe, they’ve thrown in a more potent powertrain under the hood. In the bay, sits a familiar 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from it’s bigger brother (and also the Mini Cooper S), the RCZ which will propel the GTi badged 208 from 0-100 km/h in under 7 seconds.

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  • 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • 200bhp and 275nm
  • 0-100km/h – sub 7 seconds
  • Top Speed – 230km/h
  • Price – RM 136,115.50

Performance is what you look for in a hot hatch. All the little pocket rockets are churning as near as makes no difference, 200 horsepower thereabout. To stay in the game, this is what is expected out of them. But what set’s it apart?

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On the up scale – the 208 GTi has looks on it’s side. It is one handsome little car. It elevates a lot of attention to urbanites, despite it’s badge and against it’s close rivals, the Pug seems to stand out better with it’s artistic headlights and interesting roofline design that reminisce the Soyuz capsule which works superbly within the urban background. Ever since the introduction of the RCZ, there hasn’t been a bad Pug that rolled out of their production floors and it’s a plus for the manufacturer as it did go through a ghastly phase through the late 90s and early 2000s.

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So – if you’re one of those people who fancy a perky little hatch that looks kinda funky, and do enjoy the occasional adrenaline rush… perhaps the 208 GTi is your choice. But what if you’re the kind of person who wants a daily driver that DRIVES?

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When you slap a GTi badge on a car, you’re going to have to be fairly assured that you’ve built a car that caters for such an enthusiasts. And we all being one of those kind of people, we lust after these things. We’ve got great driving roads after all.

I took it up the usual Ulu Yam route to so called unleash that badge and came to a conclusion that despite it’s eagerness to be a pocket rocket, the Pug GTi doesn’t somehow enjoy such exhilarating driving style. No… Don’t get me wrong. It handles FINE. But FINE is all there is to it.

Thanks to the joy of electric steering, there isn’t much feel on the wheel. I can vouch though that it does have an exemplary amount of sharpness and response to it however. Whilst these system may work beautifully in everyday city driving, the lack of weight sort of spoils the fun.

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Nevertheless – the Pug does have an admirable playfulness to the chassis. The rear does enjoy to wiggle like a happy puppy, and when you have the traction control system off, sometimes a little too much that you have to be on the watch for some lift off oversteer action. Even though there isn’t much adjustability on the edge as the front tends to understeer, the Pug let’s you play in a fairly safe manner.

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And that I reckon… is the elephant in the room. The 208 GTi feels a little too safe to be a fun hot hatch. There is a whiff of seriousness with the way the car drives and handles, and very little humour (except for when the lift off oversteer comes…) which makes it a little too unentertaining. It seems like the blokes at Peugeot played it too safe and accidentally build a car that doesn’t amuse the man at the wheel.

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The only redemption that it has is unlike their rivals at RenaultSport – they’ve kept their heads high and kept the 6 speed stick transmission. Given an auto box or a paddle shift… the 208 GTi would probably not be able to stand as a hot hatch.

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So, to answer the age old question; “Is it a true successor to the original 205 GTi?” – the answer is NO. There is not a single whiff of old skool fun with the 208 GTi and it seems that the prodigal son may have lost it’s way a little on the way back. But… looking into the new age market, where everyone (in general) prefers movies over theatre, the Pug catches the simplicity of a hot hatch and the complexity of a modern day car, all in one package.

It is by far NOT a benchmark in the segment, not because it doesn’t drive; but because it has not managed to capture that ‘fine line’ we speak of. Between fun and everyday driving, the 208 GTi is an underdog, a good looking one at that. It’s a great everyday driver but a little too serious for thrills and excitement.

Words: Qhalis Najmi | Photos: HazNajims/Qhalis Najmi

Comments

  1. Posted by Alan Lai on February 18th, 2015, 14:23

    Oh dear God, mate, please do whatever else you think you’re good at, but don’t write. Because you just can’t. It’s embarrassing.

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