The jovial puppy
I am writing to you today from the comfort of a sea-side villa where the beach is within spitting distance and a particularly jovial dog has been avoiding capture by its owner for the best part of ten minutes. Why did I come here? Among other things, to get my head around Peugeot’s new 208 GTi.
For the last few months, my garage has housed a whole flurry of hot hatchbacks; in all sizes and from all corners of the world. This is a good thing. Efficiency and economy are current trends with car makers and buyers so I think it’s brilliant that the hot hatch segments have adapted quickly; and adapted well.
Every new pocket rocket which has the satin sheet pulled off it at a motor show can brag with a smaller engine but bigger power. More torque yet less thirst. The advances in turbo and injection technology have reached other vehicles too but I find they’re most noticeable in cars with thin sidewalls and big exhausts.
Where Peugeot’s 206 GTi still used a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre motor, this new 208 range-topper benefits from a state-of-the-art 1.6-litre, direct-injection, high-pressure turbo-charged four cylinder engine developing an astonishing 147kW (200hp) at 5,800rpm and 275Nm from just 1,700rpm onwards.
That means it’ll rocket to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds (t’is true, we clocked 6.4 at sea level) and its speedo needle can easily reach the early 200’s. All the while, it will only help itself to an average of 5.9L/100km and emit just 139g CO2/km. Although I did reach 6L/100km at some stage, expect a bit more if you plan on driving the car.
Other versatile and hot hatchback-worthy items are 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, ESP, six airbags, auto lights and wipers, ISOFIX anchors, full size spare wheel, the world’s tiniest adjustable sports steering wheel with buttons, parking sensors and auto-steer park assist.
More luxuries come in the shape of climate control, a cooled cubby hole, on-board computer, cruise control and speed limiter, 60/40 folding rear seats, some leather trim, very comfortable sports seats at the front and a radio/USB/Bluetooth audio system with navigation and touch screen monitor.
The new Peugeot 208’s compact shape and trendy proportions have been dollied up with extra chins and fins on bigger bumpers, GTi badges along its flanks, stylized exhaust pipes and pointy chrome bits on its grille. Red to black gradients, silver accents and red stitching plaster a crisp, modern cabin.
Just like its smaller siblings, the 208 GTi’s instruments have been raised from behind the steering wheel to just under the windscreen. A few seat and steering wheel adjustments fix any visibility issues but the odd-numbered markings and generous red zones on some gauges take a while to fathom.
The touch-screen sound system also seemed a bit counter-intuitive at first but all this is irrelevant as the 208 GTi is all about the way it drives. As mentioned, the front sports seats look hard-core but are actually complete softies with good support – something that’s mirrored by the typically French suspension.
Not too hard and quite forgiving in most situations, the sporty little Peugeot has plenty of grip and cornering ability when you push harder. That teeny steering wheel is linked to a very direct mechanism and, together with a crisp six-speed manual gearbox, helps to elevate the 208 GTi’s fun factor to even higher levels.
The brakes can be a bit touchy and the first two gears appear to be quite tall; more importantly though, this car is almost devoid of turbo hesitation and, given the slightest whiff of petrol, will shoot forward like a little black puppy whose owner thought it was ok to drop the leash. It goes and goes and goes!
Priced from N$291,100 with very few optional extras, you also get a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 5-year/60,000km service plan with what I think is a proper, modern hot hatch. Lots of power, fun, easy to park, blessed with great handling, versatile and frugal enough for that trip to the seaside.
The dog, by the way, was eventually caught by the time I typed this sentence.
0-100m: 6.0s / 96.7km/h
0-200m: 9.2s / 120.1km/h
0-300m: 11.9s / 138.0km/h
0-400m: 14.4s / 150.3km/h
1/4mile: 14.4s @ 93.6mph (150.6km/h)