If I tell you GTI ? Peugeot GTI ? Peugeot 205 GTI? Oh, that tells you something!
We never really knew what was the celebrity of the 205 GTI around the world.
Thanks to its many victories in rallies like the 1987 Paris-Dakar with Ari Vatanen and Bernard Giroux in the Turbo 16 version, it has become a real myth in France! Maybe also because we saw plenty of 205 all day long in the GLD version… at the end of the day there was a little Saharan magic in these cars (even in the diesel version).
In 2013, Peugeot decided, in a joyful, to resurrect the GTI badge and fixed it on a Peugeot 208. Good or bad idea ? Actually it’s just a plastic badge, but what is really going on behind the wheel? Is a 208 GTI fun to drive? At least as much as a actual 205 GTI.
Who better to judge the 208 GTI than an expert of the 205 GTI? When we talk about expert, it is a collector who enjoyed his car since the late 1990s and knows it by heart: Jean Gabriel. The opportunity for us to discover his 205 GTI 1.9 and make him discover our already vintage 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport. Yes, the sporty car is already retired, last spring it left the Peugeot production chain with the general indifference…
Aboard a rally myth: Peugeot 205 GTI
Let’s start with the beginning, let’s get into the legend! Small, very small, we feel good in the 205 GTI.
With an height of only 1.35m, it’s a small go-karting from the inside. Tiny steering wheel, long gearbox, we are here to drive: everything invites to take the wheel and hit the road.
The dark gray interior on the upper parts and red on the lower parts is stripped. On the center of the wheel, the huge GTI logo encrusted brings back a childhood memory to us. Our uncle used to drive us in his GTI through small roads in south-eastern France on the rear seats of this small car from which we admired this huge logo. This one brings out the red of the whole interior. It’s as if Peugeot had been eclipsed by its creation, intimidating! even at our present age.
It’s definitively a car that sweats sportsmanship without doing too much. In fact from the outside there are only a side badge, some beautiful specific rims and a red stripe that goes around the car to highlight its minimalist line. We’re in love.
Back to the past
Turning the key, grrrrrrrr it is the sound of a small 4-cylinder bewitching that we are on the roads of the Vallée de Chevreuse. In the middle of nature, on small country roads, this is where the 205 GTI belongs !! The thin doors and light windows of the 205 let the sound of 1.9 purring at each downshift, the French girl is bright. The car is taped in every turn, it is light and agile and we notice that from the passenger seat. Fun to drive clue: the giant smile that Jean Gabriel after more than 20 years behind the wheel.
His front end is communicative and precise, giving his driver the impression of driving a true race car. And that’s all the magic of the 205 GTI, offering sensations of motor sport in a only 850kg “standard” production car.
So yes, you will not beat the world speed record with its 130hp and 0 to 100 in 7.5 seconds (at the time, today probably a little less cv and more tens of a second) but you will take a crazy pleasure with a car that will fit you like a glove! That is how you create a legend.
Back to the present
Sometimes, the most ambitious drivers had the surprise of spinning around in their old school 205 GTI because of its lack of driving assistances. Today, it’s over thanks to the super modern 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport.
Much bigger, between 10 and 20 cm from all sides and 1160kg, the 208 is a totally different world. Inside, the same recipe as in the 205 that has been applied: customizing the everyone’s car to make it “unique”. But it works a little less well, the magic is not really at the rendezvous. Hard to explain why.
In fact, it is nothing more than a daily car. It is neither pretty nor ugly, without real character, nor flavor. Unfortunately adding touches of red or aluminum doesn’t change much of this. Red line on the seatbelt, Peugeot Sport logo on the armchair, red insert in the headrest, red stitching, « coupe franche » option etc. We understood. The only really striking element of the 205, the huge logo on the steering wheel disappeared. RIP. He was replaced by a small badge, below the Peugeot lion. Pity.
But what do we see? A beautiful manual gearbox! In a contemporary car! That give us confidence about the future of humanity.
Behind the 208 GTI wheel
The transmission and the aluminum cranks are calling us. When you start, you can admire a small round-trip counter hands. Gorgeous ! Very good idea not to give up good old cockpit like everyone else.
The small 4 cylinder wakes up. It is discreet, or maybe it’s the car that’s (too) soundproofing. We go outside to check that. No no, it is the 1.6L who is a little shy.
On the road it’s a different story. He heats his way and starts to roar (nicely). With a little training one can even hear some bubbles to the downshift. However, it’s not a concert.
Under the fingers we feel an effective chassis, very effective that turns without flinching. It could probably support a little more than the 208hp delivered by the engine but it is fine. About the engine: always here for us when we need it, and that is a good point. Turbo is properly adjusted. Only downside, you need to push it again and again to feel something at high RPM. Speedometer is us but it is still tasteless. The gearbox is very good and it is a big pleasure to have a manual transmission. Again and again, thank you Peugeot!
However, the 208 GTI is not perfect. Some says it’s a radical little car. We don’t share this opinion. The suspensions and the direction seem too smooth, especially at high speed. Indeed, we got the impression that the front gear gets all fogged up. And that’s a big problem. It’s probably not blurry but it feels like it. This Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport is insanely efficient but also comfortable, perhaps too comfortable.
Due to this comfort, you can be at atmospheric speeds without noticing it and without taking a lot of pleasure. When finally we start to have fun, we are at the national speed limit and with the car’s red butt, Police will not take a long time to bust us.
Reincarnation or not ?
Like its big sister 205, the dashboard and steering wheel are the perfect size, very nice and very comfortable, especially on small winding roads. But unlike her, the seats are giant marshmallows in a bucket seat skin.
Side by side, the two cars are completely different, aesthetically but also on the road. The 208 GTI is not very communicative and therefore the fun is limited. It is certainly a good little track car but we don’t feel the passion of the 205 GTI that we used to love so much in the 80s. In our opinion, it could be simpler but better.
The 208 GTI is no longer available for sale from Peugeot, is it a future classic ? Probably not. However, we are looking forward to the new 208 and especially its new GTI version. Maybe an hybrid power help whatever, we hope that the 205 attributes have skipped generations to be back to the next GTI car. Please Peugeot Sport bring back : driving pleasure for everyone.
#FunToDrive score : 62/100
Yes the 208 GTI is a good car but not really a fun car. It’s not enough expressive for the driver but also for the passengers. Please make a new car more beautiful, extrem, noisy and communicative. Let’s free the lion and make a wow car again!
Jean-Gabriel (205 GTI owner) score : 75/100
It is a small versatile car with sportive skills. A good chassis, a communicative engine and a “come-hither” look but it is a linear car which do not have much than a 208 HDI… or other GTI competitors. The 208 GTI is more powerful and efficient than a 205 GTI from the 80s but is it really so much fun? I am not in a good position to answer that question.
It’s now time for you to discover our “208 GTI” story at the top of our Instagram profile.
Super important, keep it #FunToDrive.
Special thanks to the 205 GTI Club de France and Jean-Gabriel.