After four months and just over 6000km, it’s goodbye to CTG 49F, better known as Pug. Is it a fond farewell, all misty eyes and waved handkerchiefs? Or more a case of see-ya-later, and don’t let the garage door hit you on the way out? Neither, really.
While there’s no doubt the Peugeot 208 GTi is a good car, not one member of staff managed to form a close bond with it, despite their best efforts. Certainly no one complained about driving it, but equally, no one was itching to snare the keys come weekend time. To put it another way, if Pug were a human, we’d hang out every now and then, but we’re certainly not besties.
Undoubtedly, Pug’s best attribute was its engine. Whether it was an urban 60km/h or a highway 110km/h, it was always surprising how quickly the speed limit arrived. A fulsome 275Nm, available from just 1700rpm, allied to the lightest kerb weight in its class, meant there were no complaints about the Peugeot’s straight-line prowess.
For those who care about such things, we clocked 0-100km/h in 6.96sec and a 15.14sec quarter-mile at 154.44km/h. Average fuel use of 8.2L/100km wasn’t too shabby, either, given we were fond of using the performance.
We liked the interior, too. Mostly. It feels like a nice place to be and there’s a decent amount of room in the rear. The folding rear seats came in handy on more than one occasion as well.
As you’d hope in four months, nothing fell off or stopped working, but a couple of things do work against it. Firstly, on hot or cold days, changing gear is near impossible without burning your hand on the alloy gearknob. Secondly, while the driving position works in a city car context, sitting so high with the steering wheel so low feels weird in what is a sporty hatch.
While we are on the subject of steering, with such a tiny tiller you would expect the steering to be razor sharp, but it’s actually quite a slow rack – it’d be positively naval with a regular-sized wheel. This lack of response manifested itself in other ways, too. The brakes were quite robust but the soft pedal never inspired confidence, though it did make it quite easy to heel-toe your way around town pretending to be a racing driver.
The handling was similarly soft-edged, though Pug did shine on a certain sort of road. Medium-speed corners, preferably with a few bumps thrown in, tackled at about eight-tenths were its forte. Tighter roads, the type you would think a mini hot hatch would shine on, became an exercise in frustration, with the 208 lacking the front-end to turn in sharply and pivot the rear. It’s certainly quick, but just not capable of delivering the same involvement and fun factor as its key rivals.
Which is the whole point, really. For all its positives, if it were our $30K, we wouldn’t be driving away in a 208 GTi. If you get your buzz from driving neat and tidy, or if the 208 GTi is your first performance car, you’re probably going to love it. Just make sure you never drive a Fiesta ST or Clio RS. And then there’s the updated Volkswagen Polo GTI coming later in 2015. In such a tough market, merely good isn’t good enough.
Hope is at hand, however, with the imminent of the faster, sharper, more focused 208 GTi 30th Anniversary. Can it take that crucial final step?
This article was originally published in MOTOR February 2015.