Peugeot attempts to reinvent the GTi


It seems a risky strategy for Peugeot to claim that the legendary 205 GTi is back. After all, the company has cried ‘wolf’ many times before – 206 GTi, 207 GTi, 308 GTi.. none has been a patch on the sometimes lively, but always entertaining 205 GTi 1.9.

I remember whiling away many an hour ‘running in’ a 205 GTi at Goodwood circuit, having previously borrowed it from an unsuspecting performance hire company. Ah, the ignorance of youth..

So, do we think it likely that Peugeot has cracked it this time around? That the new 208 GTi is the 205 GTi reincarnate?

On the face of it. No.

Peugeot begins its introduction to the 208 GTi Concept not with words of reassurance about a chassis finely honed at the Nurburgring, or a steering so direct that it feels hard-wired to the driver’s wrists – instead it talks about the “chequered-flag motifs on the front grille..”

Oh dear. Do they not realise there are bridges to be rebuilt in restoring Peugeot’s sporting credentials?

Peugeot describe the first sensations when approaching the 208 GTi Concept as being completely visual, and in addition to those chequered-flag motifs the lower bar proudly affirms its origin by displaying either the French ‘Le Tricolour’ flag or the Union Jack when in the UK.

Other distinctive exterior features include: double chromed exhaust tailpipes, aero lower bodywork spoilers and lower sill skirt extensions that all capture the signature badging. A brushed aluminium GTi Concept logo on the front grille and rear quarter panels is intended as a salute to legendary 205 GTi.

On the inside, the passenger compartment features a sports leather stitched steering wheel and gear lever, double stitching in the seats and enhanced LED backlighting of instrument surrounds. Sports seats are trimmed with Nappa leather on the outer section, and cloth in the centre with an embossed tartan motif, and a leather head restraint.

The red perforated leather steering wheel continues the check motif, and has a pronounced lower flat section, which carries the GTi Concept logo set in an aluminium ring. To complete the interior, the fascia capping is dressed in Alcantara with grey stitching, the roof lining is entirely black and the pedals are aluminium. The centre console architecture and ventilation vents all feature a graduated red to black effect, and the chequered-flag theme is also present on the aluminium door crossbars.

And finally some reference to its performance capabilities..

In the closing few paragraphs we find reference to the GTi Concept’s powerplant, which uses the same engine 1.6-litre THP 200 engine as the Peugeot RCZ sports coupe, combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox.

Then the press release returns to the aesthetics – small steering wheel, raised instrument panel, dials with brushed al aluminium background and precise graduations… before mentioning a few words about the chassis.

Compared to the regular Peugeot 208, the GTi Concept has a 36mm wider track, at the front and at the rear, and a rear roof spoiler to generate down force at speed. It is also equipped with four (brake) discs; 302mm diameter at the front and 249mm at the rear, set off by red-painted brake callipers.

If like me you remember the 205 GTi, then you’ll know that it was a business-like hot hatchback and apart from the mandatory chequered seats of the era and plenty of red highlights, it was completely focused around its gutsy 130 bhp 1.9-litre engine, incisive, super-grippy chassis and scalpel-like steering.

That’s what defines a Peugeot GTi and until I see something with those self same values, I very much doubt it’s back.

You can judge for yourself at Geneva next month, where Peugeot will be showcasing both the GTi Concept and 115bhp 1.6-litre e-HDi powered XY Concept.