The Peugeot 208 GTi tends to fly under the radar in the light-hot-hatch segment, overshadowed by the popularity of rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST, Renault Clio RS and Volkswagen Polo GTI.
However, that's not necessarily due to a lack of talent or specification. In fact, the hottest 208 is actually one of the most powerful vehicles in its class.
With an all-new generation of the 208 due in 2019, Peugeot has decided to give one last hurrah to the three-door performance model in the form of the 208 GTi Édition Définitive – or Definitive Edition – which is now on sale from $31,490 before on-road costs or $33,990 drive-away.
For the circa-$4000 extra spend over the standard GTi (now in runout advertised for $29,990 drive-away) you get things like matte-black exterior accents, 18-inch matte-black alloys shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, a Torsen mechanical limited-slip front differential, a 10mm lower ride height, wider tracks (+22mm front, +16mm rear), along with model-specific suspension spring and damper rates.
There are also 323mm brake discs with four-piston front calipers finished in red – which were co-developed with Brembo – 'Peugeot Sport' badging on each C-pillar, and low-speed autonomous emergency braking for the first time on the 208 GTi, operating at speeds up to 30km/h.
Inside, there are special appointments like sports bucket front seats trimmed in Alcantara, red floor mats with 'Peugeot Sport' embroidery, along with red pinstriping on the interior door handles and seatbelts – not bad for $4000 all up.
Carryover specification includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera with parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, front fog lights, LED tail-lights and LED daytime-running lights, along with automatic headlights and wipers.
There are no options available for the Édition Définitive, not even for the exterior paint – your only choice is Pearl White.
We reckon the changes make a big difference to the 208's overall look. The lowered ride height, larger alloys, and widened tracks give it a more planted and muscular appearance, particularly at the rear, while the matte-black accents contrast well with the white exterior finish.
It certainly stands out and looks special, and that continues once you hop in.
The bucket front seats look fantastic and are surprisingly comfortable, while the red floor mats add that little bit of visual pop – though we reckon they'll be a pain to keep clean in the long run.
Plenty of red highlights are scattered throughout the cockpit too, from the contrasting red stitching on the seats, dashboard and door inserts to the aforementioned pinstriping on the door handles and seatbelts. There's also a red 12 o'clock marker on the steering wheel. Very racy indeed.
As for the overall layout, Peugeot's i-Cockpit head-up dashboard design continues to spark debate within the CarAdvice team regarding its practicality. Some find their driving position sees the steering wheel block the view of the raised instrument binnacle, while others (like myself) have no issues at all having the steering wheel positioned a little lower.
It's definitely a little polarising when you first use it, though there's plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and steering wheel (tilt and reach) so that most people can find a comfortable seat position.
Being a three-door, access into the second row of seats isn't as graceful as a hatchback with a second set of openings. The front buckets fold and slide forward easy enough, though once back in place you'll find the little Pug's three-seat rear bench is more of a novelty.
There's limited width in the rear – not surprising for such a small car – and there's also very little knee room for passengers seated behind a taller driver. This six-foot-one-ish reviewer wasn't able to fit comfortably behind his own driving position in terms of knee and leg room, though head room is pretty good.
However, kids should be fine in the rear, and the set of ISOFIX mounts on each outboard rear seat mean two booster seats should comfortably fit.
In terms of safety credentials, the 208 wears a 2012-stamped five-star ANCAP and Euro NCAP safety rating, though this score applies to five-door versions. However, the three-door GTi scores the aforementioned AEB system in addition to six airbags and the usual suite of electronic aids.
Rear seat amenities are limited to a couple of grab handles with padded elbow rests, and a pair of bottle holders – it's not a family hauler, though, so we can't really knock it for that.
Behind the second row of seats is a 311L boot area, which is pretty decent for the light-car segment. Folding the back seats expands that figure to 1152L, though there's a noticeable hump between the luggage floor and the base of the seatback.
There's no spare under the boot floor either, just a tyre repair kit.
Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as the standard 208 GTi, pumping out a healthy 153kW of power (@6000rpm) and 300Nm of torque (@3000rpm).
Unlike an increasing amount of rivals, the Peugeot is only available with a six-speed manual transmission, which sends drive to the front wheels via that mechanical diff.
While there's no change to the motor's outputs, Peugeot claims the limited-edition model can dash from 0–100km/h 0.3 seconds quicker than the regular GTi (6.5 seconds), thanks to a bespoke exhaust and throttle calibration that improves responsiveness and drivability across the rev range.
It certainly feels very punchy, though there's a bit of low-down turbo lag, especially when taking off from a standstill. Once you pass the 2000rpm mark, though, the little Pug shoves you in the back and you'll quickly pack on speed.
We noticed, however, that between 4000rpm and the 6000rpm redline the 208 can feel like it runs out of puff a little. While the free-revving nature of the 1.6-litre engine makes it a lot of fun, that kind of driving isn't necessarily practical for day-to-day use.
By comparison, the Polo GTI's larger 2.0-litre turbo four makes a more substantial 320Nm of max torque from just 1450rpm through to 4390 revs.
We did appreciate the Pug's more theatrical engine note, though. The engine is vocal without sounding thrashy, and you can hear a nice pop on upshifts under hard acceleration.
Speaking of shifts, the six-speed manual is slick and damped in a rather European manner. While the longish throw and high clutch take-up point aren't preferable for a performance car, there's nothing quite like shifting gears yourself with a stick and three pedals.
Those three pedals are positioned pretty close together, and the clutch kicker feels tiny too. Drivers with larger feet may find it a little uncomfortable, and you may find yourself occasionally knocking the brake.
As for the steering and handling, the tiny steering wheel and darty dynamics make the 208 GTi a hoot to drive on just about any road. There's good feedback through the tiller without being too heavy, and body control is composed through the bends.
We noticed the Peugeot tends to understeer when pushed, though, despite the grippier tyres and limited-slip diff. The ride, meanwhile, is quite firm without being underdamped. For those after an all-rounder, the Pug probably won't be for you.
Particularly around town, the 208 picks up most imperfections, though rarely crashes over bumps. We'd argue the lowered ride height and larger wheels make it more noticeable in the Édition Définitive compared to the standard GTi.
Refinement, though, is pretty good. The low-profile tyres can generate a bit of noise over coarser roads without being deafening, while wind noise is well suppressed in the cabin.
Engine noise, as already mentioned, isn't an attack on the ears, though the high-speed drone may be a turn-off for some.
In terms of fuel consumption, the hot hatch returned an indicated 8.0L/100km over 460km of mixed driving, though skewed more towards urban and high-traffic commutes.
That's quite a bit higher than Peugeot's 5.4L/100km combined claim, but the countless stints in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Melbourne's infamous Punt Road lead us to believe our indicated readout is better compared to the 6.9L/100km claimed urban figure.
It's worth noting that like the standard 208 GTi, the Édition Définitive is fitted with idle stop/start technology to conserve fuel when at a standstill.
As for ownership, Peugeot offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty bolstered with five years of roadside assistance. Until the new-gen Ford Fiesta ST arrives next year, the Peugeot offers the best warranty cover in the light-hot-hatch segment – both the Renault and Volkswagen offer three-year programs.
Scheduled maintenance, meanwhile, is required every 12 months or 20,000km (whichever comes first). For the first five visits (60 months/100,000km), the French hot hatch will set you back $524, $685, $524, $690 and $529 – making for a total cost of $2952 for that period.
Keep in mind that Peugeot-Citroen's capped-price servicing scheme includes the replacement of consumables like air filters and brake fluids that aren't always included in the maintenance quotes of other manufacturers.
All told, the 208 GTi Édition Définitive is a great little hot hatch that drives as good as it looks, and stands out from the sea of Polos, Clios and Fiestas that tend to be the weapons of choice in the segment.
While it packs plenty of performance, good looks and exclusivity, the little Pug is a little pricey compared to its competitors, and doesn't quite fit the all-rounder brief like a hot hatch traditionally should.
The ride will be too firm for many, and the tight rear seat takes away from the surprisingly practical boot. However, the three-door body makes it somewhat of a unicorn in today's market, and the fact that you'll be one of just 20 owners in the country means you'll be part of a club more exclusive than many high-end supercars.
What it lacks in all-round ability, the final-edition 208 GTi makes up for in muscle, character, and flair – and purists don't forget, it's one of the few options in this segment with a manual transmission.
If you're in the market for a light hot hatch that's a little different, you definitely should give this one a look.