The upcoming 208 GTI joins a great tradition of fast, fun Peugeots. Here's a look at the latest car's family tree
7 September 2012

When Peugeot says the new 208 GTI will “regenerate the legend” of the much-loved 205 GTI, the manufacturer's choice of words are fitting. The venerable 205 GTI still offers a benchmark driving experience today and is part of a long tradition of Peugeots with the magic three letters on their bootlid. Some have been greater than others, but many have been iconic driver's cars.

Just where do you start with the 205 GTI? There are many who argue it’s the greatest hot hatch there’s ever been. In both 105bhp 1.6 and 130bhp 1.9-engined form it redefined the genre with its low weight and sparkling handling. With its pepper pot alloy wheels and red-striped detailing, it looked absolutely spot on, too. Together with other hot hatch icons such as the VW Golf GTI and Renault Clio Williams, it’s an all-time great.

The 205 magic translated to its bigger brother too. Built around a stretched 205 chassis, the boxy 309 GTI was just as able as its illustrious sibling. Sharing the same engine and gearbox as the 205 GTI 1.9, its longer wheelbase and more even weight distribution made it less prone to the smaller car’s entertaining but occasionally unnerving tendency towards lift-off oversteer.

Autocar ran a much-loved and tinkered with 309 GTI as a fast road and competition car for some years, bought for the princely sum of £250 and going on to sprint and hillclimb success.

Those famous three letters appeared on the boot of non-hatchback Peugeots too. The 505 GTI sometimes gets forgotten in the pantheon of hot Peugeots, but there’s something beguiling about its long, low, square-cut proportions. Mind you, the GTI badge was also put on the eight-seater estate version, perhaps not the most obvious driver’s car. The 505 GTI’s 2.2-litre engine put out 130bhp and drove the rear wheels, making it the only rear-wheel drive car on this list. There are very few left on the road today.

So far, the closest Peugeot has come to recapturing the magic of the 205 GTI was the 306 GTi-6, launched in 1996. Combining a close-ratio six-speed ’box with a 167bhp 2.0-litre engine, it was exceptionally agile and involving to drive and became a firm favourite with keen drivers. There was also the limited-edition 306 Rallye, a GTi-6 that had gone on a crash diet to shave 52kg from its kerb weight. Introduced in 1998, only 500 were built.

The 306’s smaller sibling, the 106 gained a GTI version of its own in 1997 with a 1.6-litre 16v fuel injected engine putting out 120bhp in a car that weighed just 925kg. It gained universal praise for its steering feel and playful handling and, like the 306, there was a flyweight Rallye version too.

The brilliance of the 205 and 306 has become a millstone around Peugeot’s neck. Woolly handling meant the 206 GTI was largely regarded as a disappointment and the 207 GTI just wasn’t sharp enough to cut it against the Renaultsport Clios and Corsa VXRs of the modern hot hatch world.

So there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the upcoming 208 GTI. It will weigh just 1160kg, which is promising, and boasts 197bhp from its turbocharged 1.6-litre THP engine, but Peugeot management has cautioned that the car will be angled more towards everyday usability than out-and-out driving thrills. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a little longer for the return of a Peugeot GTI as an ultimate driver’s car, but hopefully the 208 GTI will be a step in the right direction.

James Taylor

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Comments
11

7 September 2012

Nice article and I'm already looking forward to the 25 mile drive home in my mi16-powered gti.

There is a lot of flannel in that article about the 206gti; the pictures are of the 180, which wasn't a standard gti by any means.

7 September 2012

With the exception of the 505 all the well regarded hot Peugeots used the torsion bar independant rear suspension. It might not have worked that well on the 206 but the 207 and 308 dont really deserve to be in this list at all. Peugeot have not to date made a decent car with the dead beam, or torsion beam rear suspension, so fingers crossed they learn what Renault already appear to know when it comes to setting up the 208GTi.

It also makes me wonder what sort of idiot bean counters these firms employ that can leave a company making so many dull cars just a few short years after they were making cars which were so well regarded. I have no doubt Peugeot engineers know how to create a car that drives really well, as long as they have the right hardware to start with. I really hope they have created something special this time.

7 September 2012

Doesn't the 205 still look brilliant?  I really can't think of many 30 year old designs that have tested the time so well.  

Guy

7 September 2012

I had a Nova GTE...1.6 litres but just 8 valves.  It must have been around 1992 on the northbound M40 one night, that a 205 GTI drew alongside me, the driver obviously urging me to put my foot down.  I just edged ahead...maybe it was the Formula Shell I used to use in those days!  Of course, the Nova wasn't half as much fun to drive on twisty roads, but it was British and more solid.  Mind you, both were more solid than the Renault 5 Turbo...

7 September 2012

I'm sure the Nova was built in Spain

7 September 2012

Didn't the name Nova translate badly in French or something?

Can your GP prescribe anything for range anxiety?

8 September 2012

I think Peugeot lost it when they stopped making their own bespoke shock absorbers..For the time the 405 Mi16 and the T16 where virtually untouchable, If they can get the 208 GTi right it will sell but Isuspect it will be too expensive compared to its rivals, and I think the forthcoming Fiesta ST will leave it for dead.. 

8 September 2012

The journalist who written this peice has some infomation wrong. The 106 Rallye came out before the GTI, The rallye and the XSI were the top of the range of the 106 pre-facelift. Peugeot saw how succesful its sister company was doing with the VTS/VTR models and released its own GTI. Then realised another 106 Rallye with a different engine to the pre-facelift model Rallye. Personally I have never been a fan of the Peugeot GTI family. Having owned a 205 1.6 GTI, a 106 GTI and looking after a friends 306 GTI while he was on holiday. I always found many little problems that detracted from the driving experience. (Offest pedals/bad seating posistion, dull brakes, a gear change that was akin to beating eggs with a whisk, and bad electrics/poor build quality).

10 September 2012

the 106 was a superb  it was an enclosed gocart.  Shame it was great for the taller stature.  The 206 gti 180 was funny but never felt happy on tarmac.

Myk

10 September 2012

I must admit that I never really saw the appeal of the Peugeot GTi's.  I had friends with a 205 (1.9) and a 309, and although both had a certain "alive" feeling when I drove them, they also both felt terribly built, tinny contraptions, with horribly rough engines and shoddy gearboxes.  Both were unreliable too.  As something to have a B-road blast and then give back they were fine, but I'd never have dreamed of buying one.

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