Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

The hot hatch is dead. Long live the hot hatch!

Roger St. Pierre revs up the latest Peugeot 208 GTi supermini

Peugeot 208 GTi supermini
Peugeot 208 GTi supermini

Ever escalating insurance costs for younger drivers have chased legions of boy racers off our streets but enough are left to furnish a ready market for the latest rendition of Peugeot’s iconic little 208 GTi hot hatch.

Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to think this could the right car for you. Indeed, close on half of 208 GTi sales are likely to be to drivers aged between 35 and 45. Not surprisingly perhaps, 70 per cent of the car’s buyers are expected to be men,

Fact is, anyone whose priorities are sparkling performance and a high driver satisfaction quotient should at least add this pert little car to their tick list. Family motorists are likely to be pushed into opting for a less potent five-door model from the lower echelons of the 208 range but free spirits who love to drive hard will easily be seduced by this quick little range-topper.

Outwardly, there are lots of cars right now – including the petite Pug’s bigger siblings – that have similar jelly mould styling but open the door, climb in behind the chunky, leather-clad sports’ type steering wheel and you’ll find yourself in one of the best, most distinctive cabins on the market, with superbly clear instrumentation, slick finger-tip and palm of hand controls and eye-catching trim, including interior paintwork that cleverly fades one colour into another.

My only gripe is the cramped footwell, which fails to provide a place to rest your left foot when it’s not operating the clutch – which task, to be fair, it will probably be doing for much of the time as you work your way up and down the smooth gearbox, ringing the best you can from the gutsy 1.6-litre engine. That means a brisk 6.8 sec 0-62 mph acceleration time and a cited 145 mph maximum speed.

Standard kit on the GTi includes 17-inch wheels, electric heated and folding door mirrors, double chrome exhaust pipes, body coloured wheel arch extensions, a rear parking aid, sports seats with a half cloth, half full-grain leather trim, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning and a visibility pack that features automatic headlights and wipers and an electro-chrome rear view mirror., as well as stop/start ignition and an upgraded multi-function touch screen whose sat/nav is one of the clearest I have ever used. There are even eight different alloy-wheel style options, while a five-star NCAP rating evidences that a lot of thought has been given to the car’s safety aspects.

How much would this set you back? – £18,895, but that’s a fair price for such an entertaining little hatchback.

Last year’s sales’ leaders in the supermini market segment were the Ford Fiesta ST, the VW Polo GTi and the Renault Clio RS. The new 208 GTi offers those likeable contenders a serious challenge.

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