HAPPY 30TH: 208 GTi 30th Anniversary celebrates the iconic 205 GTi and is a road and track tool par excellence
HAPPY 30TH: 208 GTi 30th Anniversary celebrates the iconic 205 GTi and is a road and track tool par excellence Mark Bean

Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary review

SEEN the Peugeot 208 GTi TV commercial?

The daddy of all hot hatches - the Peugeot 205 GTi - is parachuted onto a frozen lake, and the 1984 icon morphs into a modern-day 208 GTi while being dramatically chased down by a bomber plane and fighter helicopter.

It's all very French, very sexy, but also really rather good in cleverly incorporating the original 205 GTi advert of 30 years ago with modern footage.

The link is obvious. Many see the 208 GTi as a worthy successor to the hot 205 - with Peugeot's other GTi efforts in the intervening years never really blowing up the skirts of die-hard enthusiasts.

I count myself among that number as I'm now on my second 205 GTi - a 1989 version used as a weekend and track car. For me - even after all these years, and despite its fragility - the 205 GTi remains a revelation to drive.

So 30 years after the first hot Pug's arrival, the French brand is celebrating with this, the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary.

CLEAN CUT: Coupe Franche paint scheme a unique option ($4000) for the 30th Anniversary, and one to get collectors all excited
CLEAN CUT: Coupe Franche paint scheme a unique option ($4000) for the 30th Anniversary, and one to get collectors all excited Mark Bean

And it's not just a matter of slapping some '30' badges on a 208 GTi. Peugeot Sport has been let loose and found more power and torque from the 1.6-litre turbo, then widened the track, added beefier Brembo brakes, firmer suspension, stickier rubber and an all-important limited slip differential.

The result is bloody good. So good in fact it makes a 208 GTi look a bit wanting, as capable a hot hatch as it already is.

Peugeot asks buyers to part with $6000 more than the 208 GTi's current sticker price for a 30th Anniversary.

Is $35,990 too much for a French hot hatch? Collectors and enthusiasts don't think so - just four of the 26 in Australia are yet to find homes.

Comfort

Stylishly racy is how I'd describe the Anniversary's cabin.

A la 205 GTi there's an abundance of red for the trim, stitching, steering wheel and floor mats, plus funky illuminated dial surrounds.

Compared to a normal 208 GTi there are Peugeot Sport bucket seats with Alcantara trim - brilliantly supportive, chunky and they feel of high quality.

RACE READY: 30th's cabin has abundance of red for the trim, stitching, steering wheel and floor mats. Note the high instrument cluster so it remains in peripheral vision.
RACE READY: 30th's cabin has abundance of red for the trim, stitching, steering wheel and floor mats. Note the high instrument cluster so it remains in peripheral vision. Mark Bean

The instrument cluster sits nice and high to remain in peripheral vision - although it can be obscured by the steering wheel depending on how you like it positioned - pedals are small and well-spaced for heel-toeing, but the gear stick is too chunky and a world away from the nice little unit found on a 205 GTi.

Only testing the 30th on the track meant ride quality on typical Aussie roads can't be commented on, but with firmer dampers and springs than a normal 208 GTi expect it to be quite crashy on poor surfaces. But hey, isn't that what we expect from our proper hot hatches?

On the road (track)

Our test of the Anniversary was to compare it to a boggo 208 GTi to feel the difference. As we're sure the core market will appreciate, this was best done at the race track.

Driving the two cars back to back proved plenty. Firstly, that the 208 GTi is a very competent toy that doesn't shame itself on a circuit, with decent punch, grip and superb steering feedback.

Secondly, hop in a 30th Anniversary and the competence leap is startling. If anything that made me feel sorry for 208 GTi buyers, as arguably the 30th is the model the normal 208 GTi should always have been.

But perhaps the 30th is ideal as it is - a limited edition special that has the right level of rawness for the true enthusiast seeking a 205 GTi successor. It isn't a car for mass consumption, adding to its appeal, and only those with some decent twisty roads at their disposal or a penchant for track days should apply.

AT HOME: Syndey Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) an ideal playground to test the 30th. Sharper than a stock 208 GTi, the 30th is a brilliant track tool
AT HOME: Syndey Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) an ideal playground to test the 30th. Sharper than a stock 208 GTi, the 30th is a brilliant track tool Mark Bean

Performance-wise, the 30th's upgrades shave 0.3-seconds off the 0-100kmh sprint (6.5-seconds) compared to a 208 GTi, but the most marked change is the handling.

It instantly feels sharper, more planted and supreme under braking, and it's a joy to slide through the short-throw manual box (commendably, no auto is available). Fast corner in a normal 208 GTi and it'll understeer wide to a degree, whereas in the 30th if you carry the same speed into the same corner you'll find a tight line is much easier to hold.

Firmer dampers and springs, a wider track and very grippy Michelin Pilot Sport tyres all play their part, while the addition of a limited slip diff up front helps get the power down, with no torque steer detected during my track blast.

But is it as much fun as a 205 GTi? The 30th certainly felt less inclined to swap ends as quickly as my 205 does (driver aids clearly assist with that), giving the driver far more confidence to push on. They are different drive experiences - separated by 30 years of development - but both can make the driver feel a hero. If you've space for both in the garage you'll be a truly contented hot hatcher.

What do you get?

Over the normal 208 GTi, the 30th receives all those performance and interior goodies plus a dual tip sports exhaust, forged 18-inch alloys, wheel arch extensions, different grille and 30th Anniversary badges.

Weigh up the cost of the Brembo brakes, suspension tweaks, front limited slip differential, Michelin rubber, body aesthetics - not forgetting the man hours development costs put in by Peugeot Sport - and the 30th easily justifies its price leap over a 208 GTi.

SPECIAL EDITION: The 30th Anniversary celebrates 30 years since the arrival of Peugeot's iconic 205 GTi hot hatch
SPECIAL EDITION: The 30th Anniversary celebrates 30 years since the arrival of Peugeot's iconic 205 GTi hot hatch Mark Bean

Funky factor

With the sort of style enthusiasts got mushy for, the 30th really is an aggressive, purposeful looking hot hatch with its wide and low stance.

Splash another $4000 and you get the Coupe Franche (clean cut) paint finish seen in the pictures. The cut separates a textured black finish and high gloss red. It's a polarising style but certainly looks special and will get collectors all trembly. Pricey though.

Running costs

The insurance man won't be kind, but the revised more powerful engine is actually more efficient than a 208 GTi's at just 5.4-litres/100km.

Re-shoeing with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres won't be cheap though, and don't even think about damaging the Coupe Franche paint scheme if you go for it. Your local smash repairer will have a good giggle...

Other options

Special hot hatches? Look to the Renault Clio R.S. Cup Premium ($37,490), Abarth 595 Competizione ($37,000) or Citroen DS3 DSport ($33,990), but the Ford Fiesta ST ($25,990) is a gem for a lot less coin.

Or why not just buy a classic 205 GTi? Immaculate versions are under $10,000, so you could buy four for the price of one 30th Anniversary with the trick paint. Buy a 205 GTi donor car for parts though. You'll need it. Lots.

BIG SHOES: Peugeot's 205 GTi (left) arrived in 1984 and is regarded as arguably the finest hot hatch ever made
BIG SHOES: Peugeot's 205 GTi (left) arrived in 1984 and is regarded as arguably the finest hot hatch ever made Contributed

The lowdown

An instant classic? No doubt. And the driving reward now Peugeot Sport has weaved its magic on these very special 208 GTi's is priceless.

At $6000 more than the 208 GTi the 30th is a big ask, but you're buying into true fast road and track ability here with a staggeringly talented chassis and drivetrain wrapped in an aggressive skin.

And as the ultimate collectors' GTi, hold on to it as values are sure to remain very strong indeed.

 

What matters most

What we liked: More agile, tighter and sharper than a standard 208 GTi, quality grippy Recaro seats, LSD, a collector's dream in that black/red.

What we'd like to see: More of the 30th's abilities filtering down to a normal 208 GTi, more than 26 in the country.

Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is annual or every 10,000km.

 

Vital statistics

Model: Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary.

Details: Three-door, front-wheel drive special edition hot hatchback.

Number produced: 500 globally, 26 for Australia.

Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol developing maximum power of 153kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 300Nm @ 1700rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual, Torsen limited slip differential.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.5-seconds.

Economy: 5.4-litres/100km (combined).

CO2: 125g/km.

Bottom line: $35,990 (before on-roads).



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