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  • Fun, neutral handling plus impressive ride quality; strong performance; cabin blends funk, quality and standard equipment; large boot for its size
  • Uninspiring engine note; stability control is never truly off; handling predictable to a fault

8 / 10

Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

Marketing can’t make the legend. That was the implicit acknowledgement in the local presentation for the Peugeot 208 GTi, the small hot hatch launching beneath a big ancestral shadow.

The 205 GTi of the 1980s was a legend because it introduced new levels of steering and handling talent to the small hatch class, and it looked – and still looks – superb. Its 206 and 207 successors, meanwhile, weren’t, which is why the PowerPoint presentation quickly skipped over them and determinedly – and very explicitly – claimed the new 208 GTi is the spiritual successor to the 205.

Ironically, however, it’s that very presentation that is now trying to make a legend out of the Peugeot 208 GTi…

Where the 205 GTi was challenged by few competitors, the new $29,990 Peugeot 208 GTi is rivalled by many – including the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Sport Clio 200, in addition to the current Volkswagen Polo GTI, Skoda Fabia RS, Citroen DS3 and Fiat 500 Abarth.

The 208 GTi also doesn’t look too different to the regular 208 range, at least on first impression.

Look closer and the GTi applique on the rear guard, subtle red lip gloss on the front bar, chequered inserts around the headlights and, inside, red-striped seatbelt and trim stitching does indeed look very cool.

The cabin alone makes the 208 GTi feel $4000 more expensive than the Fiesta ST.

Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review

That’s without mentioning the extra equipment, including standard satellite navigation with seven-inch colour touchscreen, part-leather seats and dual-zone climate control over the Ford (see full equipment here).

With beautifully bolstered seats, a leather-look dashboard, soft red lighting, red/black trim accents, that superb little steering wheel, and even proper side grabs for rear passengers, the Peugeot feels semi-premium.

The low-set wheel irks taller drivers, however, by obscuring the high-set instruments.

There’s decent room for rear riders, three seatbelts across the bench, and an excellent 316-litre boot with a full-size spare wheel underneath.

Peugeot probably doesn’t want us to mention the 207 GTi, which was laggy because it was heavy, hard riding yet sharp only on smooth roads, and poorly packaged. Despite having a driver’s seat and steering wheel each adjustable for height and tilt, it also had a worse driving position than the 205 with its fixed steering wheel.

The 207 GTi is worth mentioning, however, because more than linking itself with the 205, the 208 GTi goes about addressing every single flaw of the 207.

The 208 GTi weighs 1160kg, a full 165kg less than the 207 GTi. Yet it gets much more power from its still-1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review

With 147kW of power at 5500rpm and 275Nm of torque at just 1700rpm, the 208 GTi claims 6.8 seconds from 0-100km/h and 5.9L/100km combined.

Off the line the Peugeot 208 GTi no longer feels laggy, though it doesn’t pull as immediately from 1200rpm as the non-turbo 1.9-litre 205 GT that weight just 945kg; the 208 has a doughy throttle at low revs and the turbo takes a moment to spool up.

It is more than competitive in performance terms with the competition, and the six-speed manual transmission – the only one available, proving there’s still French resistance to automatics – has a long throw, but feels well oiled and slick between gears.

Although keen and flexible, the engine note isn’t very sporty but instead boomy and loud as it encroaches 6800rpm, and the slight exhaust bark is drowned out with the windows up.

We tested the 208 GTi first on a racetrack, and then on the open road. This is a supremely stable and neutrally balanced chassis. On the track, it resists understeer very well up to a point.

Equally, however, it takes aggressive steering movements and a sharply lifted throttle to provoke the sort of challenging lift-off oversteer for which the 205 GTi was renowned.

Even then, even with stability control turned completely off, there is some interference by the electronics to shut down the out-of-shape fun.

Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review

There’s a hint in the press release about why this is so. Compared with regular 208 models, the GTi gets tracks widened by 10mm front, 20mm rear. The 205 handled the way it did because it had front wheels that stuck out of the guards like rabbits ears, and that gripped for dear life, but a narrow rear track that swung drivers around like a pendulum.

The widening of the tracks in the Peugeot 208 GTi perhaps should have been the other way around.

Peugeot claims that in this day and age of safety equipment and OH&S regulations it would be “impossible” to recreate the 205 GTi’s handling, which was extremely faithful if driven sensibly – and capable of keeping up with any modern hot hatch on the right road – but which if provoked will be a challenging snap-oversteerer. That’s a questionable claim, however, since today’s Honda CR-Z, for example, is able to produce big-angle lift-off oversteer.

At this point it’s best to ignore the ‘spiritual’ marketing connection with the 205 GTi and enjoy the 208 GTi for what it really is – a sweet little hatchback.

The steering is light and precise – perhaps not as incisive as the best in the business that belongs to the Ford Fiesta – but still pretty damn good. And while the handling isn’t as crisp as, say, the Renault Sport Clio RS200 driven in France a few months earlier, the ride quality is marginally more impressive.

Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review
Peugeot 208 GTi Review

The Peugeot 208 GTi has a delicate ability to nail a tight inside line then remain glued at both ends on corner exit. The suspension is firm and beautifully controlled – only slightly busy on poor surfaces but well judged for a hot hatch.

The Peugeot 208 GTi is benign and predictable, yet also plenty fast enough and fun. Arguably, ‘spiritually’, the French engineers should have been more daring; they should have made the latest GTi something that stands out from the crowd and is focused and challenging.

Instead, the 208 GTi settles on finely balancing cabin comfort and sporty design, ride comfort and dynamics, and performance and economy. It is, then, an excellent all-rounder that will drive its rivals hard.

It’s no 205 legend, but there’s no shame when the 208 GTi is the greatest Peugeot in years and a properly good hot hatch.

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Peugeot 208 GTi Review
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  • F1orce

    Why don’t these reviews actually review the 0-100km/h time instead of just telling us what the manufacturers claims are?

    • Car2013

      Just of interest, in May AutoExpress UK did the following tests,
      0 to 60mph (96 km/hr), braking from 70mph to 0mph, & lap time;
      Peugeot 208 GTi; 7.2 sec/ 47 m/ 69.0 sec,
      Ford Fiesta ST; 7.5 sec/ 52 m/ 68.7 sec,
      Renault Clio RS; 6.7sec/ 45m/ 69.7 sec.
      Claimed acceleration from 0 to 62mph (100km/hr);
      GTi 6.8 sec, ST 6.9 sec, RS 6.7 sec.
      In this test, the GTi & ST did not come close to claimed times.

      • idontekno

        with a manual transmission it’s always going to be different times depending on driver, the Clio has an automatic transmission. Mind you the cars were also driven by diffrent drivers and not the same on all the cars. That was a good test for a simple comparison, but shouldnt have been taken seriously. According to them the Peugeot provided the best compromise and its poise made it a better everyday and long distance drives.

  • bob

    Haven’t driven yet, but am really keen to. There is something about this little hatch that gets me. I think it looks fantastic (all a matter of personal preference), goes well on paper, and provides a good mix of comfort and performance. Odd to find they still haven’t fitted keyless entry into this, as it’s standard on many other cars in this segment, but not a deal breaker really. I don’t mind an old fashion key. We’re get too lazy!

    I guess the Australian version doesn’t have the option of the glass roof?

    • bob

      So I took this boy for a spin this morning. Nice little ride, Handles great. Peppy engine. I wouldn’t say crazy, push you into your seat fast, but had some go.

      My main issue? The gearbox. Clunky. Long throw. Hard to pop into third at times. Huge gear ratios. It was actually very sloppy if you ask me.

      Stack this gearbox to what will be in the Fiesta ST (which I’m assuming will be similar to what is in the Focus ST) and it doesn’t even compare. What is in the Focus ST is the best gearbox I’ve used apart from going into a 370z/BMW.

      It is a shame for me. I couldn’t live with a hot little hatch that doesn’t offer me pleasure in switching gears cleanly, and quickly. This doesn’t.

      My two cents only!

      • dom

        Good comments. Car Point also review this with similar negatives posted towards its steering and gearbox. Seems Peugeot still have not ironed out box issues from 2 decades ago…amazing.

    • Babyface Phil

      Agreed on the looks, that cheeky little smile on the front is just so chuffed its a decent hot hatch again! That alone makes me want to take it for a spin.

  • Igomi Watabi

    I love this car. Love it.

  • Zaccy16

    It is a pretty little car the more i like at it the 208 gti, its nice but i would by a fiesta st i think

  • Rourkus

    Having learnt to ‘drive’ a billy cart as a kid, my dad’s 205GTi was probably the closest car to learn in before I later bought 306 and 206GTis. Man, was I lucky to enjoy each of these cars! Each of these evolved from the 205 and some of its magical character was lost, but they were still great cars to drive in their own way. The 306 with its passive rear wheel steering was magic on an open winding road, while the 206 was magic in traffic while being less tiring than the 205.

    While the 208 may not have the torque steer feedback of the 205, only the original 205GTi fitted without power steering had complete connection with the road – like a billy cart, or a well tuned pair of skis turning hard and fast on fresh groomed snow. Here’s to hoping the new 208 still has enough steering feel, agile handling and comfortable ride to know its a Peugeot when you drive it.

Peugeot 208 Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$9,240 - $10,500
Dealer Retail
$11,010 - $13,090
Dealer Trade
$7,400 - $8,400
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
118Nm @  2750rpm
Max. Power
60kW @  5750rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
4.7L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:820  Unbrake:580
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
185/65 R15
Rear Tyres
185/65 R15
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Control & Handling
Traction Control System
Trip Computer
Tinted Windows
Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  20,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Eng Scuttle
Country of Origin