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Peugeot's 208 GTi is really hot but so is the €27,995 price

Peugeot's new 208 GTi, a petite hot hatch with a big heart, snaked its way speedily and sure-footedly through taunting twists and turns high in the sunny French Alps.

Over a teasing test route of some 350 km, peppered with perilous hairpins, displaying lots of aplomb in keeping with a pedigree dating back to the legendary 205 GTi.

Strip away the GTi badge and minor cosmetic enhancements, such as the twin exhausts and chrome grille at the rear, and the supped-up version still retains the styling and chunky modesty of the less explosive 205.

No garish adds-ons, all-too-prevalent on some of its rivals, are required to underpin sporty perfor-mance (0-100kmh in under seven seconds, top speed of 230kmh and 139g/km).

Alas, the only negativity comes with price on home soil – the 6spd, 3dr 1.6 THP 200 bhp test car will cost upwards of a hefty €27,995 ex-works.

Standard equipment will include 17in alloys, red painted brake calipers, twin chrome exhaust, and body-coloured rear spoiler.

There is good room and comfort in the cabin, with body-hugging sports seats dressed in black half-leather. Other elements include a rear parking aid and armrest.

In more buoyant economic times, the car, available to order from May, would likely chalk up impressive sales figures.

However, in this climate, even Peugeot admits to being only cautiously optimistic that it will sell a modest 10 this year, and perhaps 20 in a full year.

Stiff competition com-prises the likes of the Volks-wagen Polo GTi, Ford Fiesta ST, Renault Clio RS, Citroen DS3, Opel Corsa OPC and Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo.

The revised suspension system easily soaked up all that rickety surfaces could throw at it on test. Peugeot say is as suited to the Sun-day afternoon driver as it is to someone looking for performance.

Peugeot also took the opportunity to unveiled its highly specced 'XY' luxury versions of the 208, which won't be coming to Ireland but will, they stressed, be a variant offering across its entire range of new vehicles in the future.

Compared to the GTi, on a brief test run, the diesel 'XY,' though lavishly equipped, seemed decidedly sluggish – and a great deal less exciting.

Irish Independent