Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review – French Pocket-Rocket Finally Returns to Form

Superlative handling, good power-to-weight, good standard spec level, quick car

Still some cheap interior trim, exhaust note not meaty enough

Peugeot 208 GTi ?

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

If you’re reading this and you were A. born in the 1980’s, and B. lived in Europe or the U.K., then you will likely remember the original Peugeot versus Volkswagon battle for hottest hot hatch of the nineties. Lines were drawn in the sand as VW released their Mk 2 Golf GTi, while the French bought out the Peugeot 205 GTi. Owners took sides, each defending their car’s reputation fiercely, and no doubt a punch or two will have been throw in their sake’s at some point, in some pub, somewhere.

Whatever side you took though, looking back, these were the original bad-boy hatches of the day – pocket rockets that’d leave a big-engined, heavy car in the dust on the twisties. They were lightweight, quick off the block, and you could push the speedo needle past the last digit with enough of a run. Following on from these two though, the cars lost their flavour, and the spice went out of the mix. In place of that came a dollop of lard as the cars gained an extra tyre round their middle’s, and started to lose that all-important power-to-weight ratio, while their looks also went down the pan too.

2013 arrives, and something has just fired the engines of all those (now-older) owners of the original 205 – the release of the Peugeot 208 GTi. Peugeot promise big things from this GTi, with the lard gone, the spice back and great presentation to boot. I gave the accelerator the boot to find out if it’s good news or bad.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

The 205 GTi was a cool-looking car, and there’s not been one since that has had a good a design, as the 206 GTi looked flimsy and weak, while the 207 GTi was both ugly and characterless. I gotta say though, as I rounded the corner of the house and clapped eyes on the 208 GTi in the flesh for the first time, I was a happy man.

The GTi has purpose – it looks lean, edgy and ready for a bit of hooliganism at a moments notice. The body is tight and muscular, but balanced in its proportions almost perfectly – the very epitome of the phrase ‘pocket-rocket’, in fact.  The 17-inch alloy wheels fill the arches well, while the body sits low-enough to the floor to send out the sporty message, but not so low that you’ll rip the exhaust off at the first speed bump you come to.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

From the front, the 208 GTi is nicely designed, with enough detail to make it interesting without it being over-fussy or messy. To make sure you know it’s a GTi, there are hints of red here and there, such as the word ‘Peugeot’ in red against chrome set back under the lip of the bonnet, and a short section of red trim under the registration plate. The centre section of the bonnet is raised too, while the edges cut above the wings sharply, giving the front enough of an aggressive demeanour to make sure you know it means business.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

The front lights have the daytime LED’s, as is the trend now, but they do look very cool. One thing even better looking are the frontal LED indicators, which are shaped light a backwards ‘C’. They’re possibly the best-looking I’ve seen on a car yet.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review LED running light indicator

Instead of Peugeot’s designers just leaving the roof as a flat, plain panel, they’ve done a raised section sunning either side of the roof front to rear, with the centre sitting lower. It’s a lovely touch that’s not immediately obvious, but it was actually one of my favourite features of the exterior. Around to the rear, and the 208 GTi doesn’t fall flat, and there’s just enough sportiness to keep things flowing. A roof spoiler juts out at an angle, while the bottom valance features a double, flat exhausts tip section. There’s something I don’t like about the rear though, and that’s the light clusters, which are, I’m guessing, meant to be shaped like a ‘G’ – as in GTi – but they aren’t attractive.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

Overall, I love the look of the Peugeot 208 GTi. It’s a proper little sports car, with on-road presence and a design which physically want to get in and drive it. The colour to have? It’s got to be the same as the tester I had – white, just how everyone remembers the original 205 GTi.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

For the past couple of decades, Peugeot’s interiors have not had a good reputation for either quality of design. It’s true, they were cheap-looking, and made out of plastics that were usually drab grey or lifeless black, and bits would fall off or break with alarming ease. They were, and I’m being polite here, the epitome of monotony.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

Open the door to the 208 GTi, and you’re greeted with something almost as opposite of the above  description as is possible. The seats have sumptuous leather around the edges, while the fabric centre sections are reminiscent of the original 205 in colour and style. That’s a good thing, as full  leather seats get too hot in summer and too cold in winter. They’re deep, and supportive – possibly being the same seats as the Citroen DS3 Cabrio I previously tested – but just like the Citroen’s, I found them to not be wide enough for my legs, and I could never fully relax properly. And no, I’m not a massive bloke either, before you think it.

The rear seats are comfortable on the derrière – even the middle one, hoorah! – but they aren’t leant back enough to get really comfortable. Still, there’s a surprising amount of leg room, and even my lanky brother sat in the back with room to spare. Head height wasn’t an issue for the tall one either.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review seats speakers interior

The colour scheme running through the GTi’s interior is black and red. There’s no option for anything else, and the half leather seats are standard too. No worries though, as everyone who entered the 208 loved it. Peugeot have genuinely worked hard to bring this model into the modern world, where low cost cars now don’t mean bad quality. There are glossy plastics on the doors, centre console and dash, and while I was split on the black-to-red fading on the plastics – which is kinda tacky, but then countered by the fact it does actually suit this car – the overall layout, with highlights such as the ‘floating’ touchscreen navigation/entertainment unit, is pleasing.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

The quality as a whole is decent, with red stitching on the dash, door cards and seats giving the GTi a bit o’ class, and the buttons and switchgear are good enough too. However, there’s still a few reminders of the bad days of yore unfortunately, with cheap, hard plastics being used on the doors (where your elbow resides during travel), and the back section of the dash. Is it really necessary to use second-rate materials like that, when companies like Kia can still sell a cheap car with nice rubbery plastics on? No.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

The driver’s console is really very nice. Without the ignition on, it looks simplistic, but maybe to minimal. Turn the key though, and the console bursts into life. A read glow surrounds each section of the dials, while a multi-functional screen tells you your speed, fuel consumption, music choice, and even instructions for the next turn-off when using the sat-nav.

The GTi comes with a 7-inch touch screen as standard, although the model I had featured the £400 navigation upgrade with DAB radio. I actually liked this system, as it was easy to use with plenty of options to choose from – you could even load up your photo’s onto it. I used the sat nav for an airport run, and it was fine, taking me all the way to the correct terminal drop-off point. There was an issue I had though, and that was with the digital DAB radio. It was as useless as a chocolate fire guard. No matter where I was, the signal was weak and it lost it almost constantly, which was a huge annoyance.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review radio sat nav screen

The other big problem I came across was with the steering wheel. It’s a nice one, no doubt about that, as it’s small and chunky, making you feel a bit like you’re controlling a go-kart. However, as the space between the spokes was small, I couldn’t get see the dials properly as it cut right through them visually, blocking out the speed from 0 – 40 mph. The only option was to pump the seat high, and have the steering wheel uncomfortably low. The thing is that you can’t position the wheel high enough – with a normal-sized steering wheel it’d be fine, but Peugeot have just bolted on the small one without changing the adjustment. A very silly thing to do.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

Boot space is decent enough for a small car, and you can fit in a couple of medium-sized suitcases in there with the seats up, plus and as the back seats fold down, there’s more than enough room for a load of luggage, should you need the space. I like that the interior options for the 208 GTi are surprisingly inexpensive too. For instance, a beautiful panoramic roof is only £400, cornering-assist front fogs are just £70, while automatic parallel parking is a snip at £300. Out of any, I’d certainly have the glass roof at that price. One option not available at all is a reverse-parking camera, which is a weird thing not to be able to have.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

All in all though, I liked the 208 GTi’s interior. It’s modern, cool and suits the GTi to a T, but most of all Peugeot have come on in leaps with their quality both in terms of build and materials use. Thankfully.

Engine and gearbox

200 hp. Out of a 1.6 litre petrol turbo engine. Yes, you read that correctly; Two. Hundred. Horsepower. In a car weighing just 1,160 kilograms (2,557 lbs) – less if you only have a half-tank of fuel – the light weight equates to a quick little car. More about that later. The THP 200 – standing for Turbo High Pressure – also produces an impressive 203 lbs ft (275 Nm) of torque.

Peugeot 208 GTI THP 200 car review

What does this equate to on the road though? 0 – 62 mph ( 0 – 100 kph) comes up in just 6.8 seconds, so you’re probably talking about the early end of six seconds with the physical zero to sixty time. That’s not just nippy, that’s actually quick, and with a top speed of 143 mph it’s no slow-poke there either. Gone are the days of the Golf GTi being a rival to the 208, now that the Golf has outgrown the little Peugeot. These days, Peugeot say their GTi is a group ‘B’ segment hot hatch, meaning competition comes in the form of cars like the Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo EDC, VW Polo GTi 1.4 TSI 180PS, and Ford Fiesta ST2 1.6T EcoBoost 182 PS.

There’s not much difference in performance between the four cars, as they all come with around 100th of a second of each other on the zero to sixty mph sprint, and the top speed is give or take literally a few miles per hour between them.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

So, you’re probably thinking that because Peugeot has squeezed that amount of power from a 1.6 petrol engine, that the fuel economy will be terrible. This isn’t the old day’s though, where achieving high performance from a small engine meant having to tow a fuel bowser behind. The 208 GTi is actually very good, returning 34 mpg urban, 60 mpg extra urban and 47.9 combined. On a long motorway run I managed an indicated 43 miles-per-gallon, which I think is excellent for a car with this sort of performance.

The 208 GTi has a 6-speed manual gearbox, with no option for an automatic. However, this is the proper choice for the GTi. It’s a real drivers car, and an auto would only spoil it, and no, I don’t care how good an auto ‘box you offered. Even if it was some seamless dual-clutch sequential, which knocked a fraction off the acceleration time, it still wouldn’t seem right. The 208 GTi’s manual gearbox is fine anyway. It’s an easy change between gears – although I do think the throw could do with being less long – and the short ratio’s make things fun to. A long 6th for cruising means the engine is relaxed at at higher speeds.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Turn the ignition on, and the GTi’s dial needles flick across and back to zero. At the same time, something on the engine whirrs electronically in preparation for the next stage. Turn the key once more, and the engine fires into life, the exhausts producing a rasping tone, rather than a growl. It’s loud enough to show it’s not something pokey, and it suits the GTi nicely. The engine itself doesn’t sound so nice though, and from the front the exhaust sound isn’t so obvious, drowned out to an extent by the four-pot.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

From the moment you set off, the 208 GTi leaves you in no doubt that it’s a quick car. It’s a very eager car, and the acceleration – thanks to close-ratio gearing – is strong and fluid, and with little turbo lag. Drive it around town like an old man on a Sunday outing, and the GTi will behave well, allowing a relaxing drive with no twitchiness or jerkiness in acceleration. However, if you drive the GTi as it rightfully should be driven – fast – then it will reward your right foot action with all the vim of a whippet who’s just seen the faux rabbit through its beady eyes.

Give the accelerator a great big hoof from the off, and the electronics will calm the wheel spin quick and efficiently, without limiting it too much. Peugeot physically point out in the press blurb for the GTi, that the ESP (electronic stability programme) is ‘fully disengageable’, so they obviously know that customers wanting full control can have it. On a safety front through, the Peugeot has a stack of electronic aids, including anti-skid regulation (ASR), emergency brake assist (EBA), electronic brake force distribution (EBFD) and cornering brake control (CBC), plus intelligent traction control to allow more or less slip to each of wheels at the front.

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review

As the GTi is a front-wheel-drive car, I was expecting it to torque-steer crazily during quick acceleration, but it’s actually fairly minimal, probably thanks to the clever ‘intelligent traction control’ system. It’s an exciting car to drive, this one. The handling is utterly fantastic, for starters (or main), with the grip and direction change of a go-kart. Seriously, the steering is so direct than even the merest twitch of the ‘wheel will make the car move over. It’s not unmanageable or scary obviously, but the responsiveness will impress all who drive it.

Come to a long corner, or huge roundabout, and you’ll realise quickly that the chassis is about as flexible as a medieval oak door, for the Peugeot 208 GTi will not only cock a rear wheel in the air at the first opportunity, and as often as there’s a sharp turn and some good acceleration involved, but it’ll almost give oversteer before understeer too, such is the grip. Lift-off oversteer is as easy to achieve as smiling, and you’re going to be doing a lot of that should you find yourself behind the wheel of the GTi on an empty, winding stretch of road.
Peugeot 208 GTi 200 car review

Although there’s lots of lovely grip to play with, and a stiff chassis to make things interesting, the suspension isn’t as hard as you’d guess it is. There’s enough softness to keep you comfortable on bumpy, poorly-maintained roads, but passengers in the rear will complain if you go over a speed bump at more than 10 miles per hour, due to their heads popping though the roof. It’s not overly severe, but let’s be realistic – you cannot have that type of sublime handling and the quality ride of a Rolls-Royce.

There’s something very exhilarating about driving the Peugeot 208 GTi. It’s a bundle of energetic excitement which begs to be driven hard, and reminds me to a degree of the Subaru WRX STi 340R, minus the extreme ferocity. The 208 GTi is above all else fun. From the rad looks, to the sports interior, to the go-kart style handling, fans of the original 205 GTi, and in fact any kind of sporty car, will not be disappointed.

Price

The 208 GTi is not an expensive car, for what it is. It is priced at £18,895, and with standard equipment like leather bucket seats, a 7-inch touch screen for the stereo, all the electronic safety tech to keep you heading in the right direction, full curtain airbags and loads more, it’s definitely priced well. In the spec I had it was almost £19,500. Competition is stiff for your money, and with performance and fuel economy stats being similar, it may just come down to either personal choice in manufacturer, or a few hundred pounds difference in price, or just whatever you feel most comfortable in even.

The VW Polo GTi with 7-speed DSG gearbox as standard is the highest priced-car here, with a £19,500 starting price and almost £21,500 when specced similarly with the 208 GTi. The Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo EDC LUX starts at almost £20,000, but it’s got a lot of good equipment on as standard too. The Ford Fiesta ST2 is the cheapest in this group though, as its base price is £17,995, or £19,000 with options. It only beats the 208 GTi by literally £500 though, so it’s a close call yet again.

2013 Peugeot 208 GTi verdict & score

Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review-6064

The 208 GTi is absolutely Peugeot’s most exciting car in a very long time. It’s everything you want in a good hot hatch – superlative handling, great performance, cool looks and decent room for passengers. It’s exactly the car it was always meant to be, and with the important power-to-weight ratio back on track, anyone who liked the 205 GTi will absolutely love the 208.

Do you own a Peugeot 208 GTi? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8.5
Interior  8
Engine  8.5
Gearbox  8
Price  8
Drive  8.5
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Peugeot 208 GTi 3-door 1.6 THP 200
Spec includes  Leather upholstery, 7″ multi-function touchscreen + DAB, bluetooth connection for phone & music, 17″ alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, full curtain airbags  See spec sheet for more
Options you should spec  Panoramic sunroof (£400), Touchscreen Navigation Upgrade (£400)
Price (as tested)  £19,465 approx.
Engine  1.6 litre petrol, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, high-pressure-turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  200 bhp, 203 lb ft (275 Nm) | CO2: 139 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 143 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 6.7 seconds | 5-star Euro NCAP
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 34.4, Extra Urban: 60.1, Combined: 47.9
Weight (kerb)  1,160 kg’s (2,557 lbs)
Websites  Peugeot UK, Peugeot Worldwide

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Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 review – French Pocket-Rocket Finally Returns to Form”

  1. Brendan Berman

    Awesome car to own , drive quickly and enjoy , WHY no JBL option in my country, standard sound system very middy and awful. Dealer warned me a day after purchase not to change the speakers or lose the warrantee as well as service plan .Wtf

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