Peugeot 208GTI 2013 Road Test

The Peugeot 208GTI is, pitched straight against the Ford Fiesta ST and the RenaultSport Clio. How does it compare? 

Back in 1984 I bought a Peugeot 205 diesel. Then in 1986 I graduated to a 205 1.6GTI.

I loved that car.

It was small, light, space efficient, agile, fun to drive and one of the first cars with a plastic front and back to eliminate rust traps.

The similar looking Ford Fiesta that followed was a very poor copy. And so were the warmed over versions of it.

But since 205 days, the huge sales success of the Peugeot 206, (of which more than 7 million were sold) was not matched by the character of the car. And, while the 207 managed to recapture a bit of the magic of the 205, it was hardly a groundbreaker.

So now Peugeot has dumped the design and come up with an entirely new 208.

Smaller outside, bigger inside, lighter, more fuel-efficient, with the promise of putting some Peugeot fun back into driving.

I didn’t find that in the cooking petrol and diesel versions, so, after driving the excellent Ford Fiesta ST, I was a bit apprehensive that the 208GTI would not measure up.

Happily it does, but in a slightly different way.

0-60 of 6.5 seconds is the same. CO2 emissions of 139g/km are the same. Power is slightly down in the Fiesta at 180PS against 200PS of the Peugeot. But torque is the same, with 240Nm from just 1,500 rpm, rising to 275Nm from 1,700rpm in the Peugeot.

They’re even on similar tyres: 205/45 R17 Michelin Pilot Exaltos, in the case of the Peugeot.

So they’re similarly eager, they track round corners in a similar way, they steer well. But the Peugeot is a bit more refined, both in engine noise and in ride quality. It’s less of a hot rod and more of a posh rod. Probably more suited to Britain’s crumbling, pot-holed roads than the Fiesta.

Inside, the Peugeot cockpit beats the Fiesta’s with a small, leather covered steering wheel, line-of-sight instruments, including both digital and analogue speedometers, and a line-of sight 7” satnav screen that’s intuitive to use. Materials are also better, with nice, grippy leather sports seats that don’t pinch your shoulders, and plenty of room inside.

The 208GTI is a genuine 5-seater, with a touch of class. And when you consider that to get similar levels of equipment in the Fiesta ST you have to fork out an extra £1,000, the price gap between the two cars narrows.

Put it this way. I’m no racing driver, but driving the Fiesta ST, I wondered what it would be like on a racetrack on slicks. Driving the 208GTI, with its better refinement, I thought the Peugeot more a car I could live with day by day and no such thoughts came to mind.

I’ll have to leave that to my co-driver, Bradley Philpot, who will be driving a race prepared 208GTI in the Nurburgring 24 hour race (see the video).

And what about the RenaultSport Clio? According to those who have driven all three, the Clio’s torque comes in later and gear ratios are more widely spaced, which make it less pleasant and harder work to drive, despite the paddleshifting Efficient Dual Clutch gearbox.

But the Renault is the only one of the three with five doors so, if you have a wife and kids, the combination of back doors and an autobox may leave any suggestion of the Fiesta ST or 208 GTI up the creek without a paddle.

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