The Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition marks three decades since the launch of the original Peugeot 205 GTi. Fittingly, it brings back the playful character of the original in its driving manners, but at $35,990 plus on-road costs the question is this: is it worth $5000 more than the regular Pegueot 208 GTi?
To clarify, our test car included the optional $4000 two-tone red and black paint scheme, but of the 26 initially coming to Australia you may still be able to get one with the standard single-colour Alpine White or Le Mans Red metallic finishes. Our car is number 169 of 500, with the build number plate positioned near the lighting controls on the head-lining.
For the extra spend over the standard 208 GTi, the 30th Anniversary Edition sees the addition of significantly better Peugeot Sport bucket seats, while further exterior differentiation comes from 30th Anniversary badging on the C-pillar and wheels. Performance-wise there’s an uprated 1.6-litre turbocharged engine with 153kW of power and 300Nm of torque – up 6kW and 25Nm – directed at the front wheels, resulting in a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds (down from 6.8sec).
The biggest change in terms of its driving characteristics is the addition of a Torsen limited-slip differential and gearbox from the RCZ R (which has to deal with far more power to the front wheels), uprated brake package (323 mm in diameter and 28 mm thick), wider front and rear tracks (22mm and 16mm broader, respectively), retuned suspension with a 10mm-lower ride height and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
When you put it that way, the extra $5K seems like a good deal, considering it takes what is already a relatively unique hot hatch and makes it that little bit more special. It’s worth pointing out that in the UK, the difference in price between the regular 208 GTi and the 30th Anniversary Edition is 3000 pounds ($6000), so we’re not being ripped off.
With its two-tone paint job, which at first looks like an elaborate wrap, the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition turns plenty of heads but it’s when you flatten the accelerator that the little four-cylinder comes to life with a harsh growl of French (and German) flair to really grab attention.
The engine is the same as the one found in the updated RCZ, a Euro 6 compliant version of the BMW-PSA designed engine shared with the Mini Cooper.
Behind the wheel the special edition model is best described as frantic. It will burn the front tyres easily from take off and after a hard shift into second. Power delivery is linear, presenting just the right amount to keep you on edge without being over the top.
When pushed, there’s limited torque steer (thanks to the new differential) and the front wheels provide more competent steering and drive (at the same time) than the regular version.
Hard and fast corners are met with plenty of predictable lift-off oversteer and once you get over the initial shock of how much more playful the new version is, you get to really enjoy it.
For me the regular 208 GTi is too conservative and regardless of whether it’s the new differential or wider track that changes the character of the special edition by such a noticeable margin, it becomes a bit addictive to get the tail to snap out on you around a bend while you dance with the front wheels.
It’s what a proper French hot hatch is meant to do, it’s what the 205 GTi of old did as its trademarked party trick and the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition seems to nail that brief rather well.
Compared to its most direct rival, the Renault Clio RS - a car which this tester doesn't praise as highly as some other members of the CarAdvice team - the Peugeot is less purposeful in its cornering grip but far more fun.
The steering itself is super direct and provides tons of feedback. It feels a little heavier than before and though it doesn’t kick in response to a sudden road change, it’s pretty close to it.
The manual gearbox remains smooth and effortless in its shifts. The three pedal setup positioning can take some getting used to but once you’re comfortable a heel-toe into a fast corner becomes second nature. Our only gripe is the really high uptake point of the clutch, which is a tad peculiar.
As with the regular GTi, the special edition comes with a tiny but excellent steering wheel that unfortunately can block the speedometer if adjusted to the tastes of some drivers.
Of course, the French - being French - argue that the steering wheel needs to be lower as to not block the driver’s vision of the information cluster, but then we get in to a debate that always ends up with lots of cheese and whine.
For the most part the GTi seems to try and always go much faster than it’s allowed to on public roads. A quick prod of the right pedal and the little Frenchy is growling down suburban streets with enormous presence.
It’s almost the perfect car for a mountain run and with the new differential in place, Peugeot engineers have freed up the electronic nanny controls so they seldom interfere mid corner (if you know what you’re doing).
You don’t need to turn the ESP or traction control off (not that you ever should on a public road) as the GTi is now far more playful in its normal settings.
As a daily, the very unique 208 rides quite hard around town, but that’s to be expected with a competent hot hatch. And there are some additional basic features we would like to see, such as a reverse-view camera (though it does have sensors).
The interior sees a range of changes including red pinstriped seatbelts, red stitching and new trim, shiny black plastics with red highlights and red carpet mats - all of which make it feel more special than the standard car.
Overall, the 2015 Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition is what the original GTi should’ve been. Thankfully then, there’s now an option to get a proper manual French hot hatch with all the traditional flair of the 205 GTi it celebrates.
For us, the extra $5000 gets you more than just the mechanical upgrades, it buys something that will appeal to Peugeot enthusiasts for a long time to come, which means the resale price (if you could ever get yourself to sell it) should be equally reflected.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Glen Sullivan.