WHEEL WOMAN REVIEW: Peugeot 208 GTi
Durban - Test driving a car can feel a lot like wearing someone else’s wardrobe for a week.
Some are so not you, or so unsuited to your lifestyle, yet as reviewer your job is to experience the car as someone in the target market would.
Driving the Peugeot 208 GTi felt a lot like wearing a pair of killer heels to do the weekly grocery shop. Gorgeous, but inappropriate.
Racy two-door cars are only practical if you almost never have reason to put people - especially adults - in those back seats. Not to mention dogs. Collapsing and sliding those heavy, stiff front seats forward to let the teenagers in and out of the back at regular intervals was hard work.
Even with empty back seats, two-door cars don’t really work for me, to be honest. The doors are wide and heavy, making emerging from a tight parking space without damaging the car next door an extra challenge.
And as a shortie, with the driver’s seat slid fairly far forward in order to reach the pedals, it’s a bit of a schlep to reach the seatbelt hanging way back at the edge of that wide door.
But what a fun car this is.
I had an absolute ball in it. It’s a hot hatch, this GTi, going up against the Renault Clio RS, Polo GTI, Mini Cooper S and Fiesta ST, among others. And it’s got all the usual go-faster styling cues: lowered stance, side skirts, rear spoiler, a prominent GTi badge on the C-pillar - that bit of metal between the back window and windscreen - and liberal flashes of chrome.
Providing the go to match the show is a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine that which puts out 147kW and 275Nm and gets the little thing from standstill to 100km/h in just under seven seconds.
Its suspension is fairly stiff, as you’d expect in a sporty number, but not bone-jarringly so, which is just as well, as our roads have many ways to unsettle a car. The combination of sharp handling and an awesome power to weight ratio had me unintentionally reaching surprisingly high speeds.
The cabin is what you’d expect from the racy version of a standard model – hip-hugging sports seats, red stitching, a teeny-tiny steering wheel and touches of leather. But there are unexpected, rather fetching touches, too, most notably the piano black finish on the dash, which morphs into bright red colouring which is repeated on the door handles.
It’s very in-your-face, but it works.
Peugeot says the instrument panel is raised above the dash “so you can see it comfortably without taking your eyes off the road”. Nevertheless, it took some manoeuvring of seat and steering wheel height for me to be able to see those key numbers at all. Once I got that right, though, everything came together perfectly.
There’s a lot of spec crammed into this GTi, considering that it sells less than R300 000 – R291 100, to be exact. Six airbags, 17” alloys, a 180mm multi-function colour touchscreen, letting your fingers do the walking through radio, music player, hands-free Bluetooth set-up and satnav.
There are two USB ports, dual-zone climate control and a five-year or 60 000km maintenance plan, on top of the three-year warranty. What’s not on that spec sheet is hill hold or power seats.
Fuel consumption is a claimed average of 5.9 litres per 100km, and even accounting for real-life driving distortions of that figure, it’s pretty good for the performance you’re getting.
This is one very sweet ride. - Star Motoring
Engine: 4-cyl, 1.6-litre turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power: 147kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 275Nm @ 1700-4500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 6.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 230km/h
Consumption (claimed): 5.9 litres per 100km
Price: R291 100
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Maintenance plan: Five-year/60 000km
Ford Fiesta ST (134kW/290Nm) - R267 700
Mini Cooper S (141kW/300Nm) - R354 347
Renault Clio RS (147kW/240Nm) - R294 900
Volkswagen Polo GTI (132kW/250Nm) - R293 900