Because, as weekend big-boy toys go, the 208 GTi already lugs performance goodies while giving little, if any, to “mainstream” sports cars in terms of cabin space -- backseat room, specifically. And this funky hatchback throws in properly upscale materials to the package, too.
In the 208 family, the GTi slots in only a half-notch down from the top dog GTi 30th anniversary edition (a tribute to Peugeot’s hot hatch icon, the 205 GTi that debuted in 1974). This means the car is no slouch, packing a turbo-charged 1.6-liter gasoline engine that makes 200hp at 5,800rpm and 275Nm of torque at a low 1,700rpm. With only a subcompact body to haul, the output is plenty enough that a full-throttle mash gets the 208 GTi climbing to triple-digit speeds in proper sports car fashion (Peugeot quotes a standstill-to-100kph sprint time of 6.2 seconds). This rush is accompanied, almost comically, by a good old-fashioned, forceful tug at the steering wheel. Torque steer is the technical term for this.
Just as delightful is the car’s capacity to switch directions quickly, instantly. The GTi’s low mass and stance work harmoniously together, affording the car the kind of reflexes and agility -- the playfulness -- usually associated with, well, pugs. Impressively, this does not equate to a spine-shattering ride; on the contrary, the suspension is pliant and can easily soak moderately bad bumps and ruts. On the well-paved northern expressway, the 208 GTi is simply unruffled.
Living up to French haute couture is the 208 GTi’s styling bits. The car’s body, itself a perfectly shaped homage to the 205, is lavished with exquisite details like the added GTi trim for the grille, a quirky swath of shiny decor on the tip of the rear side windows, and GTi-specific 17-inch alloys. The cabin is even more chockfull of GTi jewelry. Flat-bottom steering wheel; sporty leather-wrapped seats; intricate polished-metal pieces; instruments that appear to have been obsessed on by graphic designers; dash and door trim in glassy red-to-black finish; all the other red accents -- awesome stuff, these. And not just to look at but to touch as well.
While the 208 GTi’s cabin isn’t spacious, the model’s modern econobox roots means there’s good enough room for passengers and cargo.
Expectedly, there’s no shortage of space in front. But even the backseat can fit a couple of leggy adults, as the pair of passengers who sat there on a quick out-of-town trip during my stint with the GTi attested to. And aft of them is genuine space for some luggage.
As great as the 208 GTi’s cabin furniture is, unfortunately it is not without flaws. Chief among the niggles is that the steering wheel, in its highest setting, obscures the instruments behind it. It’s especially bad when the driver’s seat is set low -- as I prefer -- because then the meters are completely hidden. Now Peugeot may dismiss this snipe as just a bad seating position, but then how come this happens in no car other than in the 208 GTi?
Making this more annoying is a seatbelt that goes over the base of my neck instead of over my shoulder -- a safety risk. Raising the seat may solve this, as the 208’s seatbelts can’t be repositioned because of their fixed mountings. But, again, why can’t I default to my preferred seating position in this Peugeot when I have no problems doing the same in other cars like, say BMWs, which also have fixed seatbelt mountings?
Driver’s seating quirks aside the 208 GTi remains a great mix of playful driving dynamics, haute couture pieces and youthfully vibrant styling that, thankfully, seems appropriate even for mid-lifers. But just so. -- Brian M. Afuang
Price: P1.950 million
Engine: 1.6-liter, inline-four, turbocharged, gasoline; 200hp @ 5,800rpm, 275Nm @ 1,700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 205/45
Key features: Auto head lamps, wipers; LED daytime running lamps; multimedia with seven-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, USB; dual-zone climate control ; GTi-specific leather steering wheel, leather/cloth sport seats with red stitching; GTi door trim