Peugeot GTi: Golden oldie takes a new turn

By Liz Dobson

The 205 GTi granddad would be proud of the 208 GTi hatchback

The old 205 GTi (far left) and the Peugeot GTi that has just been launched in NZ.
The old 205 GTi (far left) and the Peugeot GTi that has just been launched in NZ.

Peugeot New Zealand can't help but compare the newly-launched 208 GTi hatchback with the famous 205 variant - so much so that they are calling the older model the granddad of the 2013 sports hatchback.

During its 1983 to 1998 life span, 5.3 million units of the 205 GTi were sold - the highest production ever for the French brand - with 2.4 million of the 207 GTi manufactured.

Although the company would love to see that many sold of this model - especially as the parent company, PSA, is still reeling from the global recession in Europe - it's enticing new customers to the brand with what it is calling a "modern interpretation" of the 205 GTi.

The three-door hatchback comes with a 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine, producing 147Kw (275Nm) and is paired with a six-speed manual transmission - of course, as an automatic gearbox would be insulting for this speed-thirsty car.

To help the 208 GTi nip through to optimum speed, the gears have a shorter ratio than the 208 three-door petrol model that was launched in New Zealand in September last year.

Priced from $38,990 (just under $10,000 more than the "normal" 208 three-door version), the new GTi is visually different to the standard three-door model. It has 17in alloys, and is 10mm longer at the front with an added 20mm at the rear.

It also gains a new front chequer-ed grille that is supposed to resemble a racing chequered flag. But my exterior styling highlight for the 208 GTi was the stunning orange loop LED indicator on the front. The GTi badge now sits near the C-Pillar and at the right rear of the boot with twin, chromed exhaust pipes below.

Inside, there is a Peugeot name on the door sill, and a colour scheme combining red, black and satin chrome - best shown in the door handles that fade from red to black.

Front seats are lower by 8mm and are comfortably contoured, while the oval steering wheel now has thumb rests, with the aluminium gear lever knob sitting close by, along with a leather handbrake.

The engine goes from zero to 100km in 6.8 seconds and to test this figure it was on to Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park track to test the GTi around a series of slalom and gymkhana exercises.

The slalom test showed off the GTi's gear ratios - slipping quickly into second gear with the engine and suspension coping as it swerved at high speed around the cones. In the gymkhana test, the hatchback moved into third gear for the long loops with a nimble nudge of the small gear lever to get it to second gear for some tight corners at speed.

But speed was secret to this car once we were allowed to drive around the race track for some hot laps. The GTi had comfortably hit 110km/h in fourth gear with no sense of urgency to move into fifth or even sixth.

The car loved the speed so much that the driving instructor in the lead car had to often remind us to brake into corners and slow down coming into the blind corner instead of letting the GTi dictate our driving.

I think granddad 205 GTi would been proud.

- NZ Herald

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