What's the used Peugeot 208 GTi hatchback like?
Small hot hatches from Peugeot used to achieve iconic status – think 205 GTi and the 106 and 306 GTi – but the 208 never quite caught the public's imagination in the same way, and the sporting version of it took a little while to worm its way into people's long-term affections.
However, under its diminutive exterior beats a heart of gold. It was on sale from 2013 until the newer, second-generation car replaced it in 2019. The standard 208 GTi produced 197bhp. Complete with a six-speed manual gearbox, this package allows the Peugeot to sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, while it won't stop accelerating until it hits 142mph. The later GTi version from 2014 onwards was known as the GTi by Peugeot Sport and was powered by a raucous turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that produced 205bhp. That makes it good for a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec and a 143mph top speed.
A large part of the thrill of driving a hot hatch is its performance and the 208 GTi certainly isn’t lacking in that department. It puts out slightly more power than both a Ford Fiesta ST or Renault Clio RS and feels extremely potent higher up its rev range. True, there’s a little more turbo lag (the time between pressing the accelerator and the turbocharger kicking in) than those rivals, but keep the 208 GTi on song and it’s a seriously quick small car.
To go with that, the 208 GTi also handles keenly – perhaps too keenly at times. You see, its steering is extremely quick off-centre, meaning you don’t need to turn the wheel very much to achieve quite a dramatic turn in. This takes a little while to get used to, but it helps the 208 GTi feel very nimble at its front end on the right road.
The trouble is, its ride quality isn’t particularly settled, especially at low speeds in town but also at higher speeds across country roads – exactly the sort of place you’ll be thrashing this car. It means the 208 GTi can become too easily unsettled through bends; this in turn alters its quick steering and doesn’t inspire much confidence. On our botched, often-soaking-wet back roads, too often you feel like you’re holding back.
The more expensive GTi by Peugeot Sport model comes with a standard front differential that aims to put the car’s power down more effectively out of bends, but it isn’t enough to ease the problem in anything but bone-dry conditions.
The 208 GTi’s interior isn’t a particularly relaxing place in which to spend time in terms of wind and road noise, although the same can be said of most of its rivals.
Considering Peugeot’s decision to fit a smaller-than-usual steering wheel, tall drivers will find that it obscures most of the dials no matter how it’s positioned. At least most of the dash-mounted climate controls are within easy reach and are clearly labelled.
The 208 GTi’s standard sports seats offer support, but no model gets lumbar adjustment and the seat base isn’t particularly long, so the long-legged will find there isn’t much support beneath the thighs. The range of seat and wheel adjustment is good, though, and the pedals line up quite nicely with the driver’s seat.
A deep, wide front screen and thin pillars give good forward visibility. It’s the same story when going through roundabouts or exiting angled junctions, because there’s little to obscure the view. Over the shoulder, though, the view for the driver is slightly worse, with the car’s thicker rear pillars and relatively small rear screen making things more of a challenge. Rear parking sensors are standard, though, while a rear camera can be added as an option.
Peugeot includes a 7.0in touchscreen as standard. It’s reasonably bright and crisp, with modern on-screen graphics, but it isn’t responsive enough. You often find yourself double-clicking buttons in frustration, only to click something else by accident. There are also quite a few click and drag motions required that’s fiddly on the move.
However, interior quality is one of the 208 GTi’s strongest aspects. While none of the chrome accents dotted about the wheel and dash is actual chrome, they are at least convincing, while the leather sports steering wheel also feels of good quality. The GTi touches of piano-black plastic and contrast stitching are also welcome additions.
Up front, leg room and head room are good, while the interior is wide enough to ensure plenty of shoulder room. Just in front of the gearlever lies a generously proportioned cubbyhole that’s big enough to take a wallet, set of keys and a mobile phone.
Rear-seat occupants will find the 208 GTi is merely average for space. Adults will find their knees rubbing the backs of the front seats and their head brushing the roof, but two adults will at least have decent shoulder room. Three would be a squeeze, though. The middle passenger also has quite a pronounced tunnel to straddle.
The rear seats have a standard 60/40 split-folding arrangement, and once down the step up between the boot floor and folded backrest is eliminated by a fabric flap. However, the backrests themselves lie at quite a steep angle, making it difficult to push long, heavy items across.
At 285 litres, the 208 GTi’s boot is about average for the class, but at least it’s a nice square shape and has a decently wide opening. Unfortunately, there’s quite a pronounced lip to lift heavy bags over and Peugeot doesn’t include an adjustable floor or make it possible to add one as an option.
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