The arrival of the Peugeot 208 GTi has led a lot of people to cast their minds back to the days of the iconic 205GTi, one of the most sought-after hot hatches of its day.
But while no one can deny the superb performance of that early pocket rocket, there’s often a tendency to see it through rose-coloured spectacles.
Times have moved on, and while the latest small GTi from Peugeot may not quite have the same seat-of-the-pants excitement, it does have the sort of thrill-a-minute performance to satisfy most people – while at the same time having the sophistication and luxuries that we now demand from our cars.
Even in entry-level form the 208 is a smart cookie, but the 208 GTi, with its low stance, distinctive 3D chequered gloss black grille with chrome inserts, its smart body kit and its 17-inch “carbon onyx” alloy wheels, is particularly appealing.
But this is a car which is not just exterior show. Open the doors and you find the cabin is just as impressively sporty.
The predominantly black interior is broken up with vivid flashes of red on the upholstery, on the door handles, on the dashboard and even on the gear shift. And, cleverly, rather than having two distinct colours, the black – in a lot of cases – actually morphs into the red with dramatic effect.
The main dials have a red border around them and sit immediately in the driver’s line of vision, thanks to the traditionally small, low-slung 208 leather steering wheel.
High-backed sports seats in leather and cloth hold you firmly in place and have the bonus of being heated.
And my test car – being the Prestige version of the GTi – came with satellite navigation and a panoramic glass sun roof with ambient strip lighting along its side edges.
As you sit in the car the cockpit seems to wrap itself around you, adding dramatically to the sporting persona and making you at one with the car.
This is a model which is light and easy to drive and an ideal town and city car. But when you want performance, the 208 GTi is more than happy to deliver.
Its impressive acceleration time means it’s up there with the best and is never found wanting whatever gear you are in.
Drop your right foot and you get a throaty roar from the twin-pipe exhaust as the little car throws you back in your seat. The rev counter needle whips round to the red zone in a flash with each gear change as the power just keeps on coming.
But the nice thing about the GTi is just how sedate it can be if that is your preferred driving style, so in that respect it’s very much a car for all reasons and ideal if you have more than one driver in the family.
Drive it hard and it will grow horns. Treat it gently and it’s a pussycat. The choice is yours.
Model: Peugeot 208 GTi Prestige
Mechanical: 1598cc, 200bhp, 4 cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.
Max speed: 143 mph (limited)
0-62mph: 6.8 secs
Combined mpg: 47.9
CO2 emissions: 139 g/k
Warranty: Three years/unlimited mileage