Considering Peugeot’s long association with the diesel engine and the GTi, this car was bound to surface sooner or later. The all-alloy 1.6-litre engine, part of Peugeot’s second-generation HDi family and co-developed with Ford, has a combined fuel consumption figure of 58.9mpg, which should be a novel experience for GTi drivers.
It’s surprisingly clattery at idle, but smooth and refined once on the move, with effortless pace, especially once the ‘overboost’ facility (which supplies 195lb ft) arrives. Trouble is, it doesn’t feel fast. Opting for a diesel engine in a hot hatch can mean forgoing many genre essentials: raw power, infectious character and throttle response.
But some competitors offer vast reserves of torque by way of compensation. Skoda’s Fabia vRS produces a heady 229lb ft of torque that gives a considerable kick; in a straight line, our long term vRS would eat this little lion whole.
The petrol 206 GTi has become used to a drubbing where handling is concerned. But away from the likes of the Renault Clio 182, and put into context with cars such as its diesel VAG rivals, the GTi HDi feels good. Without an iron-block engine slung over the front wheels, the 206 feels agile, and with the ESP switched off the rear suspension works to help the nose turn in.