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XCAR: Peugeot 208 GTI: French fun for all

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XCAR: Peugeot 208 GTI: French fun for all

5:09 /

The Peugeot 208 GTI is the French firm's latest take on the hot hatch. However, many will be irritated that it's not quite as 'good' as the 205 GTI. They shouldn't be.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It's a sentimental longing for the past, the good old days and how they make you feel-- which is precisely why the Peugeot 208 GTI is gonna be a disappointment for many of you. Whenever Peugeot launches a new GTI, enthusiasts and the press all prattle on about how "there's a new 205 GTI" or "205 GTI is back" in big letters and exclamation marks and all that. Now, you see, the 205 GTI, to many people, was basically Jesus on wheels because it was fast, fun, brilliant to drive, affordable, and good-looking. But the problem is the 205 scuppered Peugeot's future GTIs because they really couldn't match up to its brilliance. The 206 GTI was-- all right. Nothing to write home about. And the 207 GTI, well, that was the most copied. Peugeot's wore-off GTIs in the late 90s, but thankfully, French firm changed its mind, and now, there's a new one. The 208 has been given some extra go, and some extra loveliness. Peugeot knows the days of making lightweight, hot hatchbacks like the 205 GTI are pretty much gone. There's legislation in place that makes it damn near impossible to do so. You need to have crash projection-- which is heavy-- you need to have airbag systems and sensors, all very heavy. Then, there's the rules that dictate how high the red lights have to be off the road, and then the rear windscreen, and all that kind of stuff. These regulations are there to make sure than in a crash, you don't get hurt or killed. But they certainly don't lend themselves to ultra lightweight hot-hatchery. Then, there's all the stuff people want to make their lives easier. Things like big, comfy seats, sat nav, air con. You know, the kind of stuff that makes cars nice places to be. And you also have to remember that the car that this one is trying to live up to, well, it wasn't all that good in a crash, and its air con was a crank attached to the door. So, rather than go down the hardcore racer route, Peugeot has done something really smart. It's made it comfortable luxurious, to a point, fast car. In here, you do get comfy seats. They're pretty cool to look at, too. And you get sat nav, and you get air con, and all of that. You also get a 0-62 time of 6.7 seconds. And if you have one way, the top speed of 143 miles an hour, which, fact fans, is much quicker than the same [unk] 205. But it's all about the feeling, I hear the hardcore matter. And they're right. It is all about feeling. And you know what? The little 208 does feel pretty damn good. The steering is nice and light, the gear shift is nice and light and quick and easy, and it does go quite quickly. It's got 1.6-liter 200 brake horsepower turbocharged engine. Same one you might find in say, Minis and a couple of Citreon. And as whole package, it's really, really great. I mean, to look at, I love the way they style the 208 GTI. The interior itself is pretty cool. I love the red to black writings in the GTI flourishes everywhere. I also really, really like the instrument part. One final tiny, little highlight, it's the steering wheel. It's just right, you know. It feels good. It's the right size, it's thick enough. You can get a decent handhold around. And [unk] a little stripe at the top. Racing drivers have those. The ideal is if the stripe's at the top, then you're going in a straight line. That's good. I like that. But one of the big criticisms nettled against it is that your driving position can actually make the steering wheel impede your view of the dial. So, you won't know how fast you're going. That isn't ideal. The suspension, if one of those dissonant setups [unk] Peugeot wants to add a slight sporting edge to it, but still make it drivable every single day. And that's the thing. This car isn't set up for being outright sporty. It's supposed to be comfortable, luxurious, but also pretty quick. Yes, this is a GTI, but it's not that kind of GTI. Peugeot was looking to make something that wasn't big and hardcore and inaccessible. They wanted something comfy that you can also go and play. What Peugeot has tried to do with the 208 GTI is keep the hallowed name alive, but move its own "make GTI something more than a rose-tinted blast form the past" and turn it into something fast, fun, and accessible. So, no. The 208 GTI isn't better than the 205 GTI. It's just different. But different in a good way.

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