So Peugeot is to abandon not only the GTI badge, but the concept behind it. Put another way, and if Peugeot is to be believed, it has designed its last hot hatch.
My emotions on the subject are mixed. On the one hand I can get all misty eyed about 205 and 306 GTIs and observe that we’ll never see their like again. On the other, that’s been true for some time and Peugeot’s more recent past has produced an unbroken line of such hot hatch mediocrity that I wonder if anyone’s really going to miss them at all.
What interests me is the thought process that led Peugeot to conclude its future lies in expensive coupes like the forthcoming RCZ. If I understand the thinking properly, such cars will help build the Peugeot brand more quickly and effectively that souped up versions of extant product and are potentially more profitable per unit. Fair enough.
But history is littered with cases of car manufacturers with ideas for their brands loftier than they are able to support and by putting these coupes at the forefront of its brand building aspiration, Peugeot is declining comparisons with Vauxhall, Renault and Citroen and instead inviting them from Audi, BMW and Alfa Romeo.
And for Peugeot, a company that has not put a decent driver’s car on the market in at least a decade, that is some leap.
I hope it is not too far. In the last year and for the first time in too long, I have enjoyed driving some of the most unlikely Peugeots, the 3008 and 5008 MPVs among them. At last Peugeot seems to be thinking about the driver again. I’ve driven the RCZ too, albeit in concept form, and thoroughly enjoyed that too.
But to abandon entirely a genre of car as practical, cheap to design and produce as the hot hatch in favour of these coupes strikes me as a potentially hazardous strategy.
Ford and VW show very clearly there is nothing wrong with the hot hatch concept, so perhaps Peugeot should have looked more closely at its execution before walking away completely.
Such is the warmth of feeling that still pervades from the day of the 205 that I have no doubt at all that if Peugeot produced a genuinely worthy successor, customers would flock to it just as they did to the Golf when VW finally got the GTI back on track a few years back.
I wish I could speak with such confidence about the commercial potential of premiumm-priced Peugeot coupes.