Peugeot has improved its already decent 208 GTi with a peppier, more agile and more entertaining 30th Anniversary model that looks the part, too

What is it?

It's 30 years since Peugeot's 1980s icon, the 205 GTi, took to the roads of the UK. It wasn't the market's first hot hatch, but pretty soon it became known as one of the best for its agility, great handling, small size and zippy 1.6-litre and 1.9-litre engines. Soon, rival hot hatches were tumbling out into most manufacturers' product lists, but only the pioneering Volkswagen Golf GTi had anything like the 205's cachet, and that car was bigger, more expensive and never quite matched the French car's baked-in joie de vivre.

To mark the anniversary, Peugeot has launched a special limited-edition 208 GTi. The standard model was already a strong return to form for the brand, after years in the doldrums with the lacklustre 206 and 207 GTis, but the anniversary model adds further excitement to the mix. Its launch colour is a radical red and matt black finish called Coupe Franche, pioneered in various motor show concepts in recent months, but the models also come in all-red and all-white schemes, with black wheel arch extensions and black embellishments.

What's it like?

The components that make the Anniversary GTi quicker and – hopefully – more fun to drive are a 10mm lower ride height, a standard set of 18-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, a circuit-friendly set of suspension mods and an engine tuned both for tighter Euro 6 pollution regulations and to yield an extra 18lb ft and 8bhp. 

Inside, a new and more supportive set of Peugeot Sport bucket seats hold the driver firmly in place. Underneath, a bigger set of Brembo brakes are standard, while the dampers are rerated, the spring rates are hiked by 30 per cent in front and 80 per cent behind, and the handling balance is shifted away from understeer by a slightly softer front anti-roll bar and a stiffer one at the back. To boost traction, the car gets a Torsen mechanical limited-slip diff, and the stability electronics have been tuned to allow a little more slip before intervening, to add spice to the handling.

On a greasy circuit in France, we found the 30th Anniversary considerably quicker and more stable at speed than the standard 208 GTi, which itself sets a pretty good standard. The stiffer suspension delivers extra stability and cuts body roll to a minimum, and the Torsen diff efficiently prevents the inside wheel from spinning power away in corners.

There's less understeer (you can now occasionally get the tail to step out modestly), but the whole thing is kept safe by the ESP – unless you deactivate it, whereupon you discover that the car retains great natural stability. The small steering wheel and a quick rack make the car quick to manoeuvre, too.

We had no chance to try the car in the dry, but there's no doubt the Anniversary would be a fast and entertaining all-weather mount for track days, as the 0-62mph sprint time of 6.5sec shows. Still, a Ford Fiesta ST with the addition of the £650 Mountune performance pack has even more bite, even though you don't get larger brakes or a fancy differential for that money.

On the road, the 208 GTi 30th is more than just tolerable; it works really well. It feels firm, of course, but remains flat and composed, without the jitters over bitumen ripples you might expect.

There is some noticeable torque steer during big power applications on high-crown roads, but the car mainly tracks straight. As is the case with the standard 208 GTi, the long-throw gearchange seems rather an anomaly, but it is always accurate enough and easy to use. The brakes feel immensely capable, and the new seats feel great. 

Back to top

Should I buy one?

Certainly, if this is your kind of car. This is an improved iteration of a very decent hot hatch that is better in practically every way. However, you'd better get your skates on.

The UK market is getting only 100 of the 800 due to be built, and these have already been snapped up by dealers. The price premium of around £2000 over the standard 208 GTi pushes the price closer to the Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nürburgring than traditonal rivals from Ford and Renault, but this will surely become the classic 208 to own, with a residual value to match.

It helps a lot that the CO2 output falls from the standard car's 139g/km to just 125g/km, too, an output that until recently was only in the realm of economy cars.

After a pause, Peugeot is suddenly making life hard for Renault, whose latest Clio RS is a backward step. Peugeot, meanwhile, is moving decisively in the right direction.

Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary

Price £21,995; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2 125g/km; Kerb weight 1185kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 205bhp at 4400rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed automatic 


Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
artill 3 December 2014

I also like the paint job. It

I also like the paint job. It suits the car. It seems this is just what the car needed. I have tried the standard car, and was a little unimpressed. It just seemed to civilised for a hot hatch. I suspect most of the improvements are down to that diff, i wonder if it will become optional on the standard car after this special sells out?....One aspect that needed changing, and there is no mention of here. The seat is set too high. I wonder if this new grippier seat is a little lower too.
Andrew 61 3 December 2014

Nice to see Peugeot can

Nice to see Peugeot can stiffen the handling without wrecking the ride, unlike some. Maybe this suspension set up could be an option on all GTi's and let a few more, than the one hundred UK cars available on this model, get the benefit ?
Nearly 1200 kg ..... I thought this car was a trailblazing light weight ?
Peter Cavellini 3 December 2014

Dare to be........?

Yes, different,i quite like the paint job.