Peugeot is set to launch a hot hatchback whose performance and handling are designed to recall the greatest days of the iconic Peugeot 205 GTI. Reversing its thinking of the past 20 years — and encouraged by the target-busting success of Citroën’s DS3 range — Peugeot has decided to fit its most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engines to the all-new Peugeot 208 being launched next summer. Likely to be badged RC in France, the new GTI will appear just months after the mainstream three-door and five-door models are due next June. There are likely to be two power levels. Both versions will use the much-praised 1.6-litre twin-cam turbo engine that currently powers the Citroën DS3 and Mini Cooper and is built in a joint BMW-PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) factory in France.
A 154bhp version is likely to be used in the mainstream GTI, which will be priced from about £18,000. A hotter 204bhp unit will go into a rarer, more focused model, possibly called GTI Racing, starting close to £23,000.
The quickest Peugeot 208 is on course to offer sub-7.0sec 0-60mph acceleration and a top speed well over 140mph, thus providing decent opposition for Renault’s highly successful Clio Cup, until recently largely unchallenged in the UK.
Like the rest of the new 208 range (and Citroën’s C3/DS3 models) the new GTI will use the smallest of three platforms that underpin PSA’s mainstream cars. Compared with the five-door, the three-door has a sportier look, the result of unique door, roof, rear pillar and hatch designs.
The GTI will have its own design of grille and front splitter, unique wheel designs and tyre sizes, plus a rally-derived rear roof spoiler. Sports seats and GTI-only interior decor will complete the package.
With the new 208, Peugeot’s clear intention is to ditch what it now believes is the outmoded, over-aggressive design style of the 206 and 207. The 208 has a prettier, more elegant shape that emphasises the car’s compactness and lightness. Peugeot design boss Gilles Vidal says the clearest influences on the new car’s design style are last year’s SR-1 roadster concept and the 1980s 205 hatchback, whose unprecedented success literally saved the company.
The 208 loses several inches of length, mostly in its nose overhang, and about 100kg of kerb weight. It has an identical wheelbase to the 207, but despite a slightly smaller exterior, its interior dimensions are modestly bigger.
The 208 also has a new-style fascia understood to include a head-up display in many versions. Most of its major functions — including internet connectivity — are grouped on a central touchscreen.
Peugeot’s mainstream 208 range follows a growing trend among supermini makers by introducing a new super-frugal range of low-friction, small-capacity petrol engines, understood to be 1.0 and 1.2 litres in capacity, with outputs of between 75bhp and 100bhp. There will also be a range of e-HDi diesel engines with outputs of up to 140bhp.
Mainstream 208 sales should begin in the UK next summer. The GTI will be in showrooms before the end of 2012.