Red Hot Rod: The Peugeot 208 GTI
The Peugeot 208 GTI, at first glance, smacks of sporty, GTI appeal with its rugged 17-inch alloy wheels and red-and-chrome trimmings. For the most part, it looks similar enough to the regular 208, with just enough extras to set it apart as the sportier sibling.
The 208 design, in general, is very modern. The curved lines running along the door panels and roof complement the 208’s slick, round body shape. The car’s edgy, slim front grill features chequered chrome rectangles and respects the modern styling of the rest of the car. It has beautifully styled front and rear headlights – with a thin strip of LEDs on the front headlights that gives it that contemporary edge.
Once you are inside the 208 GTI, there is absolutely no doubting that you’re in a GTI. The designers of the car really took the time and effort to make this car look and feel like a sports car on the inside.
There’s no shortage of red trimmings on the dashboard, seats and steering wheel. The small leather steering wheel even features the chrome GTI badge. Naturally, the part-leather seats are bucket seats, which tend to hold you in place when cornering at high speeds, something you’ll be indulging in often. The rev counter and speedometer dials also add aesthetic value to the car, for they are beautifully designed – personally, I quite prefer a classic manual dial to a flashier digital one. However, for the flashier-inclined, there is a small display screen between the two dials that can be set to display the driver’s choice of information, including the current speed.
The 208 is a three-door hatchback – but don’t let that fool you, as there is plenty of space on the inside and five people could comfortably fit in. The one point I need to make, considering that this is a modern car with all the technology a modern car should have, is that technology is there to simplify people’s lives. In a car, it’s meant to free up the additional tasks the driver undertakes, apart from driving the car, such as setting the air-conditioning temperature, using the windscreen wipers or changing the radio station. The 208 has all this technology – automatic air conditioning, automatic windscreen wipers, and automatic lights. Moreover, it’s wonderful to see these in action. However, the touch-screen radio manages to do the opposite of simplify things for the driver. It has a slow, annoying operating system and requires you to scroll through two or three different menus before you can select your favourite radio station, which dangerously draws your attention away from operating the car, even when using the scrolling button on the steering wheel. That said, the Bluetooth function worked beautifully and I could play the music on my smartphone at the touch of a button.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s discuss the performance.
For someone like me who prefers speed and performance over comforts, this car was an absolute pleasure to drive. It’s fast, very fast! The acceleration alone will give you quite an adrenaline rush. The 208 has a turbo-charged 1.6-litre, 147KW engine. Peugeot claims it can accelerate from zero to 100kph in under seven seconds. But, I’m certain it can do it in fewer than six and continue to accelerate at a frightening pace through all six gears. The gears are very slick and easily slip from one to the other – plus the clutch is no more than a simple foot motion.
Thankfully, the ABS brakes are up to the same standard and react at the slightest touch; braking hard will bring the car to a halt without any slipping or sliding as the traction control kicks in and keeps the car stable.
The handling of this car is what truly impressed me: it stays glued to the road even when you are cornering at high speed – almost comfortably so. I didn’t get any understeer or oversteer while cornering, even with the accelerator pushed all the way to the floor. The small, adjustable steering wheel is positioned quite low. I had it set just above my knees, freeing up my view of the dashboard. This seemed strange at first, but I quickly got used to it and it felt natural on this car, and not unlike a large, powerful go-kart.
The car itself weighs just over one ton, which, along with its powerful engine, short body and electronic assist, makes it incredibly nippy.
Once you start hitting higher speeds, you can really feel the electronic assist working to keep the steering wheel stiff and straight. In a car that wrestles the driver for control when you floor it, it’s comforting to feel the electronics working to keep control in the driver’s hands.
The fuel consumption of this car is not great, but, to be fair, you don’t buy a GTI because it’s light on petrol. If you drove it around like a family sedan, you would probably get good consumption out of it – but I doubt anyone would drive it like that.
OUT OF OFFICE | Peugeot
by Reinhard Greyling
* Prices as at date of publishing