04 March 2012

GTi'm back for Peugeot?

Could the new 208 GTi be the spiritual successor that's been long awaited for the legendary 205 GTi? Should we be excited? Or should we be cynical?

I WAS gutted on when Peugeot confirmed that they were no longer going to make Hot Hatches. Something that I previously wrote about on Definitely Motoring. But the French manufacturer is to be making a return with the new 208 GTi. What I'll want to know on whether this could be the car that will redeem Peugeot.

Peugeot's most recent GTis haven't been Hot Hatches. The 207 and 308 GTis were too tame and too heavy to be Hot Hatches to begin with. They were quick but lacked sparkle akin to a flat can of Coca-Cola, leaving you wanting more.

I instantly made my mind up on the new Peugeot 208 being a better looking car. Not exactly hard to see why. Gone is that over-sized grille, with its gawping mouth and the bulbous looks of the old 207. Replaced with a cohesively styled car. That's leaner, more athletic looking with the minimal overhangs having the wheels at each corner.

Peugeot has made the new 208 smaller and lighter than the outgoing 207. A trend in more recent superminis with the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the Mazda2. The new 208 is at least 100kg lighter and the front overhangs have been shortened by 6cm.

These are all great starting points for the 208 alone, with the benefits of better handling and fuel economy. It wouldn't surprise me if Peugeot used the legendary 205 for inspiration. As that was a pretty, nimble and agile supermini. The 205 GTi today has enormous respect and is already a sought after classic - especially the 1.9s.

Judging from their recent GTis, they have been lukewarm efforts from Peugeot. I have some scepticism over the new 208 GTi as it could be something of a disappointment. But hang on, maybe I shouldn't be cynical with Peugeot recently getting back on form with the RCZ and the 508.

It's more than likely that the new 208 GTi will share much of the oily bits with the Citroën DS3 Racing. For example being the 1.6 litre turbocharged engine that pumps out 200bhp. The same engine that also powers the MINI Cooper S. The 208 GTi should have plenty of grunt - something Peugeot's most recent GTis lacked - especially with it being lighter and more powerful than the old 207 GTi. This also means a higher power-to-weight ratio, the benefits will mean quicker pace and performance.

There's also a healthy market for Hot Hatches right now. With the Renaultsport Clio, Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Skoda Fabia vRS, Seat Ibiza Cupra and the Volkswagen Polo GTi to name a few. Even Citroën, Peugeot's sister company, has done well with the DS3 Racing. Then there's the new Ford Fiesta ST on the horizon.

The new 208 GTi will be unveiled at this year's Geneva motor show. It's likely that Peugeot will put their new GTi in production and on sale. It couldn't come at a better time for Peugeot to re-invent themselves in making great Hot Hatches again.

If Volkswagen did it with the Golf GTi, I'm convinced Peugeot can do it themselves. To conclude this, I am rather excited of the new 208 GTi, and optimistic of it highlighting the turning point in Peugeot's renaissance.

Many regard that the 205 GTi as the car that sets the benchmark for Hot Hatches, nevermind Peugeot.

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