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The Peugeot 208 GTi is set to arrive in Australia in August, giving enthusiasts another choice in the strongly contested light hot-hatch segment. It will go up against the most popular car in the class, the Volkswagen Polo GTI, as well as the Opel Corsa OPC and, from later this year, the Ford Fiesta ST and next year fellow French rival, the Renault Clio RS.

The lead up to the release of Peugeot’s 208 GTi has been long and the French company has (once again) made numerous references to the 205 GTi, claiming the fourth-generation hot-hatch will reinvent the original’s personality and character.

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Peugeot Automobiles Australia director and general manager Bill Gillespie claims the 208 GTi absorbs the spirit of the original 205 GTi and is likely to appeal to Peugeot traditionalists but also attract new buyers to the brand.

“The 205 GTi built the Peugeot hot-hatch reputation and the 208 GTi is a modern take on that hot-hatch theme,” Gillespie said.

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The arrival of the 208 GTi in August will see two sports cars in the company’s local line-up (teamed up with the soon to be updated Peugeot RCZ), which can only improve the brand’s standing in Australia.

The Peugeot 208 GTi is powered by the well-known 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has seen extensive use in other Peugeots as well as Citroens, Minis and BMWs.

In the 208 GTi, the 1.6-litre produces 147kW of power and 275Nm of torque coupled to a six-speed manual transmission (there is no automatic option). This moves the 1160kg weight of the three-door hatch from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.8 seconds.

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Flat out it can cover one kilometre in 27 seconds while in-gear acceleration is relatively lively thanks to the readily available torque, with 80-120km/h achieved in less than seven seconds (fifth gear).

Compared with the standard 208 three-door, the GTi variant gets wider tracks (up 10mm at the front, 20mm at the rear). It stands out with differentiated wheel arches, a new grille and halogen headlights, which Peugeot says combine with LED daytime running lamps to give the GTi the look of an ‘iris’.

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When admired from the rear, there’s a new gloss black skirt that further highlights the unique double tailpipe exhaust. Some similarities to the 205 GTi are also present, such as the chrome trim strip that decorates the window lower edge

The GTi logo is also proudly presented in red, a colour also used on the brake callipers  There are plenty of other highlights that differentiate the GTi from regular models, but all in all, the changes are subtle.

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The interior is as you’d expect of a GTi, sporty and bold. The front seats are wrapped in full grain Club Nappa leather and the Caro Weave cloth, which is further emphasised with a red accent. The dashboard is similar to the regular 208 but now has red stitching between its surface panels. Aluminium pedals and a  footrest are also present. The small black full grain leather steering wheel is not all that different to the regular model in terms of shape and size, but like most things inside, there are red highlights and GTi badging. The seven-inch touchscreen of the regular cars is also present in the GTi, unchanged.

Though still some time away from launch, Peugeot Australia has seen positive early indications of the car’s appeal.

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“We have had unprecedented levels of interest for the 208 GTi and dealers are already holding substantial levels of forward orders. Our first month’s allocation has already been sold,” Gillespie said.

It would seem that Peugeot is confident that its 2013 allocation of 300 GTis will be easily taken up, prompting the company to ask for more next year.

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“We’ve already been speaking with Automobiles Peugeot about securing additional production in 2014 of 208 GTi given the strong interest in this halo car.”

CarAdvice is in Nice, France, driving the all-new Peugeot 208 GTi. Check back soon for a comprehensive review.




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