Introducing then the feisty, petite Peugeot 208 GTi. This small Frenchman embodies the Napoleon complex, but despite this Pug’s lack of physical stature, it does have plenty of bite.
Looking to continue where the 205 GTi left off, the new 208 GTi is the French marque’s most convincing GTi and has recently been announced as one of the South African Car of the Year finalists. This littlest tyrant is out to make a name for itself.
Featuring the best performance engine in its class, the 208 GTi manages to outmuscle Ford’s Fiesta ST thanks to a nippy 1.6-litre turbo-petrol powertrain producing 147kW of power.
It’s a lot of dynamite being thrown at the front tyres and squeaking some tekkie off the mark is easy. Admittedly, the Frenchman doesn’t feel as quick off the mark as its American rival, but once you find yourself in the mid-range power, the little hatch scampers into the distance.
The perfect blend of healthy engine performance and a sporty drive makes sure there are plenty of thrills to be had behind the wheel. The punchy torque works well in the lower gears that can be easily engaged via the slick six-speed ’box. It’s a delight out the blocks but becomes cocky when launching it through the bends as the body control and ride quality is impeccable, although at times there are hints of body roll, but that isn’t a bad thing.
What I didn’t like was, despite the sportiness of the vehicle, there was no gargle or growl from the exhaust to complement the vroom.
From a styling perspective, the car offers visual hints of its athletic prowess. The 17-inch alloy wheels and GTi badge and front grille all signify the little Pug’s intentions, while the cabin is similar to the mundane 208, but with an evil twist. Red stitching and sport seats along with the well-placed pedals complete the sporty package to give the driver the responsive feel when hammering the car to its limits.
The 208 GTi’s intrinsic compactness means you sometimes feel stifled, but a cleverly laid-out cabin with good ergonomics does afford a sense of roominess. Having been blessed with long limbs, finding the perfect driving position proved tricky since the rake and reach of the adjustable steering column had to be set to the very top, which meant the steering wheel obstructed the instrument panel.
Like all things French, the 208 GTi brims with character. While it may not live up to the legacy of the mighty 205 GTi, it is worthy of its badge and is perhaps carving a new legacy for the brand with its fun-to-drive and good value-for-money proposition.
We will be curious to see what happens when its fellow Frenchman, the Renault Clio RS, arrives. In the meantime, this small hatch might look composed on the outside, but inside it’s got all the rage and anger of a tyrant with Short Man syndrome. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s angry and out to prove itself, which makes it fun to drive. One thing’s for sure: it isn’t scared to leave skid marks.