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Driven: Peugeot 208 GTi pocket rocket arrives

80s nostalgia: The Peugeot 208 GTi harks back nearly 30 years to the iconic 205 GTi.

Range-topping $29,990 Peugeot 208 GTi sizes up Polo GTI, Fiesta ST and Clio RS

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Peugeot logo7 Aug 2013

PEUGEOT this week returns to the Australian hot hatch market in earnest with its new 208 GTi - a car the company hails as a return to the pared-back ethos that spawned the 205 GTi of the 1980s.

Lighter, smaller and cheaper than the 207 it supersedes, Peugeot’s pocket rocket touches down with a starting price of $29,990 plus on-road costs: a little higher than three-door rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI (from $27,990) and the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST (here in September from $25,990).

It does, however, trump them both for power and torque, with its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine - familiar from the RCZ and a host of Mini models - punching out a hearty 147kW of power at 5500rpm and 275Nm at 1700rpm (the VW and Ford have 132kW/250Nm and 134kW/240Nm respectively).

It also goes to some way to justifying its higher pricetag by offering features such as satellite navigation as standard.

With a kerb weight of only 1160kg to lug around, the engine fires the pint-sized Pug from zero to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds. With more careful driving, Peugeot says fuel consumption can be kept to 5.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

This kerb weight, incidentally, is lighter than rivals such as the 1163kg Fiesta ST, 1165kg DS3, 1189 Polo GTI and 1253kg (five-door) Fabia RS. The claimed 0-100km/h sprint time also pips the Polo and Fiesta by one solitary tenth.

Power is sent through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox only, as it is with the Fiesta. Rivals such as the Polo and - when it lands here next year - the Renault Sport Clio, are dual-clutch automatic propositions only.

The GTi goes straight to the top of the 208 range, regular three- and five-door versions of which launched in Australia last year. The addition of the GTi nameplate will both act as a halo for the whole range, and bring in new buyers altogether, according to Peugeot Australia general manager Bill Gillespie.

“Whilst appealing to Peugeot traditionalists we believe the new 208GTi will bring new buyers to the Peugeot brand,” he said.

Early interest is understood to be strong, with Mr Gillespie saying the company has had “unprecedented levels of interest”, with dealers already holding numerous forward orders.

Contrary to reports, Peugeot Australia’s line of supply from the French factory that makes the car is not limited, with Mr Gillespie targeting 25 to 30 sales per month.

In addition to the extra grunt up front, Peugeot’s engineers have added resistance and weight to the electric steering system and firmed-up the suspension front and rear.

The set-up remains, as with the regular 208s, a front MacPherson strut layout and a space-saving (and cheaper) rear torsion beam.

The spring damper adjustment, anti-roll bar, front sub frame and rear cross member have been stiffened and the shock absorbers have been reinforced.

The braking system has been upgraded too, with the 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/45 tyres housing 302mm ventilated discs at the front and 249mm discs at the rear. Red Calipers are standard fit The GTi also has a wider track - 10mm at the front and 20mm at the rear - while exterior additions include a gloss-black rear skirt, twin chromed tailpipes, chrome window strips, GTi logos, red highlights on the front grille and LED daytime running lights.

Signature touches inside the cabin include red-stitched seats, belts, handbrake, dash, floor mats and steering wheel (which comes with a red racing market at 12 o’clock), as well as red rims around the dials.

Cloth bucket seats with leather inserts are standard, as are aluminum paddles and chequered-flag patterns and white dials on the high-mounted instrument panel.

The standard equipment list is lengthy, and includes cruise control with a speed limiter, a seven-inch colour screen with satellite-navigation, Bluetooth and two USB ports, dual-zone climate control, trip computer and steering wheel audio controls.

Also included are rear parking sensors, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, electric folding side mirrors, tinted glass, front door stowage bins, back-seat map pockets, a cargo cover, embossed GTi seats and 60/40 split folding rear seats.

Safety equipment includes six airbags plus all the requisite safety acronyms. Six colours are offered, including flat white and metallic red, silver, blue, grey and black.

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