Gran Turismo Iniezone or GTI/GTi in short, was coined back in the day when fuel injection automobiles were a luxury enjoyed by the well-heeled, and only found in grand tourers. Later on, VW took the GTI monicker and gave the world the first Golf GTI (Mark I) which was the fastest Golf one could buy at the dealership, and somehow, the name stuck. Peugeot jumped on the bandwagon some 10 years later with the introduction of the 205 GTi in 1984 and subsequently a 200PS scorcher of a car called the 205 T16 that featured a turbocharged 16-valve 1.8l engine to pull less than a tonne of curb weight. The rally bred 205 T16 was even more insane, with 424 horses on tap! The Peugeot 205 GTI, together with its other famous sibling the 405 T16 dominated the rallying scene in the 80s and had successfully elevated the marque to cult status as a serious contender in the motorsport arena. Subsequent variants the 206 GTi and later on the 207 GTi, were also much sought after, but a slew of hot hatch offerings from other marques meant that the original allure of the GTi had lost some of its shine.
Nonetheless, the GTi monicker stuck fast into the hearts and minds of motorists since then, and any car with a “GTi” badge had to live up to certain prescribed standards for performance and exhilaration at a pocket friendly price. Enter the Peugeot 208 GTi, the latest imagining of the French hot hatch which is friendly to the pocket as well as the environment, boasting a highly tuned 1.6-liter Twin-scroll turbocharged mill with Direct Injection that picks up the pace with a respectable 275 Nm of torque from a low 1,700rpm and maintains it all the way to 4,500rpm, peaking out at 5,800rpm to deliver 200 ponies to the front wheels, enough to whisk the fairly light 1,160kg vehicle to 100km/h in a mere 6.8 seconds. This highly potent powerplant is dubbed the THP200, for Turbo High Pressure 200 that actually means what it says; a high pressure turbocharged engine that actually boosts in excess of 0.6 Bar to really liven things up in the engine bay, unlike the slightly sedate THP150 or THP163 offerings of the Lion marque’s more economy based family variants. Said THP200 also features in the marque’s exciting RCZ coupe.
Peugeot 208 GTi: Modest Outlook
It’s actually not very easy to spot a 208 GTi on our streets, not because of the lack of representation, but due to the fact that it doesn’t give much away in terms of outlook, save for the sportier two-tone carbon alloy wheels and checkered flag front grille. Its modest outlook is not helped by the fact that Nasim (Peugeot Malaysia) also sells a 3-door variant of the vanilla 208 with 17” wheels (albeit with a different wheel design) complete with panoramic moon roof. For color options, the 208 GTi comes in only two Performance-oriented choices; Digital White and Rogue Red, two colors that are also available on the normally aspirated 3-door 208 Allure. Enthusiasts will not make a mistake though, as they would be able to spot right away the chromed wing mirror housings and distinctive wheel design of the GTi. Many would find it hard to instantly recognize the GTi for the aforementioned reasons. Having said that, the GTi does indeed look different after a couple of days of test ownership. First off, the front headlamp clusters feature a unique LED design not found on ol’ vanilla 208. Peugeot calls it “Signature LED” indicator lights to explain the C-shaped DRLs that also double up as indicator lights, turning amber on demand and returning to pure white when the indicator stalk goes back to rest in the middle position.
If that alone is not proof enough of its pedigree, look under the Lion badge on the hood and you’ll find the race inspired checkered flag design front grille to add an additional hint of what lies beneath. The next clue takes a really keen eye; chromed inserts surrounding the front fog lights accentuate the frontal design for a dash of bling, much like how the French plate their dishes in a fancy restaurant.
Over to the side, the first hint of power lies in the chromed wing mirrors, as opposed to body colored wings on the vanilla variant. Said chromed wings contrast very nicely against the Rogue Red color of the test unit as a continuation of the bling factor that started from the front of the car. The vanilla 3-door 208 gets 17” Two-tone Oxygen alloys while the fire-breathing GTi gets Two-tone Carbon alloys. The tester personally prefer the latter wheels on the GTi, engine performance notwithstanding. Elsewhere along the sides, a beautiful GTi badge sits proudly along the rear pillars on either side, a dead giveaway to its pedigree and probably the last thing you’ll remember seeing as it whizzes past you on the highway.
The subtlety continues at the back, with just a GTi badge on the right side of the rear door, while at the bottom of the rear bumper a chrome garnish takes pride of place, beckoning your eyes downwards with its bling so that you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the GTi’s purposeful-looking twin-exhaust finishers which are also chromed for effect. Again, the sum of all the parts might seem like a fair bit of differentiation, but to the untrained eye, the Pug 208 GTi remains as subtle as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or in car terms, a relative sleeper waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting victim who dares to tailgate one, only to watch it take off like the devil possessed when provoked. Unless the provocateur happens to be another hot hatch or hotrod, you won’t need to take sh*t from most tailgaters on the road, period.
Ahh, the Peugeot 208 GTi red, the color that makes my blood boil
The moment that the writer opened the door of the GTi, the subtlety of its exterior began to fade into the inner recesses of his memory, for the cabin is anything but subtle! The inner door handles were the first thing that caught his eyes, what with its alluring two-toned airbrushed affair. Have you ever seen a door handle with airbrushed paint effect? He hasn’t, until now. It’s a good thing that the test unit came in Rogue Red, for the reviewer is fairly opinionated on this; Rogue Red is by far the most beautiful color for the 208 in any variant. And to have the body color in red only helps to elevate the racy nature of the red-toned interior of the GTi. He is pretty sure that Digital White will not fare as well in this department. When he reviewed the vanilla 208, the writer was rather impressed by the semi-bucket front seats of that car; the GTi takes it a step further with its two-toned look complete with semi-leather finishing and red stitching accents.
The steering wheel is very similar to the one on the vanilla, but the writer’s pretty sure the leather is a little different, and then some. For one, the bottom of the wheel seems ever so slightly flatter than the one in the vanilla. Then there is the GTi faceplate stamped on the bottom of the steering wheel and a red colored 12’o clock position indicator for those times that you need a quick visual confirmation on the status of your steering wheel position.
Moving further inside, the reviewer was greeted by a beautifully sculptured stick shifter with a knob that he felt was hewn from a solid piece of aluminum, forged if you will. That is one bloody brilliant piece of kit there if the writer may say so. Cool to the touch, said forged gear knob was smooth and solid, which made rowing through the gears such a joy, helped by the fact that the shifting was effortless on the most part, but more on that later. The pedals were also not left out in the design imagining process, and for that the GTi got curved aluminum pedals that curved ergonomically in a way that makes pedal feel rather pleasant and effortless. In other words, owing to the curve of the pedals, you are essentially making a larger contact patch with the pedals which makes it easier to clutch and de-clutch without so much as lifting your heel off the floorboard. Elsewhere inside the cabin, the GTi is peppered with many red nuances to constantly remind you that you are driving a race-bred 208 GTi around town and not some run-of-the-mill compact with a dull interior.
Peugeot 208 GTi: Unleashing the Power
The turbocharged Prince engine, even with all its power on tap, does not sound labored at all, be it during steady cruising or at its rev limits. Crank up the engine and its presence is mostly felt rather than heard, with just a hint of a soft purr and the tacho needle being your only guides that the engine is running. For the most part, the GTi handles very well with a high adherence limit around the bends. The writer for one isn’t a big fan of stick shifts after having been stuck in traffic congestions since the dawn of his driving days, but Peugeot has managed to make the experience enjoyable to a point that he no longer felt disadvantaged when stuck in traffic jams. The torque delivery is very linear which makes it very easy to drive around town in moderate traffic without shifting up or down much, even while cruising in 6th.
In a straight line, this little pocket rocket is a barrel of fun and then some. The tight chassis and able suspension really shone through while the reviewer weaved in and out of moderate traffic, passing them as if they weren’t moving at all, like a scene from a sci-fi movie or modern music video. That punchy Prince engine (codenamed EP6CDTX) spools up very quickly to meet the demands of your right foot, thanks to the use of a variable geometry turbocharger that finely varies boost output depending on load and demand without the associated turbo lag. As such, old school passengers in the test unit commented that the GTi lacked that turbo kick and accompanying torque steer madness of a highly strung front-wheeled transverse layout. On that note, maybe the tester should have turned the ESP off to take the fun factor up a notch.
On NVH, the GTi is hard to fault, displaying much of the charm of a French-mobile; graceful and well-mannered on straights with little wind noise intrusion, with just the right amount of damping and rebound over the nasties that we fondly call our roads. If he could, he would have wished for a little more drama in the soundtrack department as the tester rowed the gears from redline to redline. Just like in the movies, a great soundtrack serves to take things up a notch for a more engaging and immersive driving experience. Perhaps then his lady passengers would scream a little.
About that steering. To be honest, the 208’s steering wheel is by far one of the most beautiful and elegant designs in this decade to ever meet the writer’s grubby palms. On the GTi, that feeling was enhanced further. the writer thought it had to do with how the steering was weighted in relation to the car’s dynamics. The writer thought that the decision to use an electric power steering (EPS) system on the 208 GTi had really paid off as the engineering team were given a free hand to fine tune the steering character down to the nth degree. To the worrywarts, rest assured that an EPS system does not mean that the steering rack is mechanically disconnected from the wheels, because it isn’t. It merely uses an electric motor in place of hydraulics to muscle the front wheels around without the accompanying parasitic losses of a hydraulic system.
In retrospect, there isn’t much that the writer’d like to change on the Peugeot 208 GTi, as it is a very accomplished ride with a lot of niceties thrown in. The low asking price of RM139,888.00 is relative chump change for arguably one of the best hot hatches for our devaluing currency. Having said that, the tester would’ve wished for a redesign of that center console as it does get in the way of rapid shifting. He’s not saying to remove it completely as it does support his elbow, but perhaps a little lower? Also, a car in this class, with such great credentials, surely deserves a set of Bi-Xenons. Understandably, there isn’t such an option on the 208 series anywhere in the world, but it is a bit of a letdown nonetheless. All that speed and not being able to see much further ahead, doesn’t seem like quite a good idea. If he ever bought one, those halogens would be gone in an instant. Then, it’d be perfect.
Peugeot 208 GTi