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AFTER POOR EFFORTS OF THE 207 and 206, can the new 208 finally put the GTi ghost to rest?

THE weight of expectation has been enormous – almost unbearable.

You see, following in the footsteps of a true icon is not easy – especially in some quarters where the 205 GTi is deemed the best hot hatch ever.

Longevity has proven the Golf trumps that but second best is no mean feat when you consider it made its debut 30 years ago.

Emulating the success of the original 'boy racer' proved impossible for the French car giant and quite frankly efforts of the 207 and 206 were dismal.

So it was back to square one for Peugeot who in their wisdom decided that competing with a ghost was pointless.

Instead they took a long hard look at the competition (namely the Fiesta ST and Clio Renaultsport 200) and went looking for a fight. First weapon in their arsenal is the subtle tone of the 208.

Posh rather than bosh, the three-door stands out from the crowd with a muscled-up body and lower stance that doesn't scream 'hooligan'.

Little tell-tale signs indicate that this is something rather special with 17in alloys, red brake callipers, wheel arch extensions, side sills, roof spoiler, twin chrome exhausts, chequered front grille and of course – chrome inlays in the rear quarter emblazoned with the GTi logo.

Inside the sporty theme continues with some lipstick red flashes peppered around the dash to warn you of the imminent fun ahead.

Half leather bucket seats (again with red inset panels and cheque cloth), thick, flat bottomed leather steering wheel and brushed aluminium gear knob leave you in no doubt of its sporting credentials.

There's plenty of creature comforts too with standard kit including LED daytime running lights, dual zone air con, cruise control, rear parking sensor, auto lights and wipers, 7in touch screen infotainment system with Bluetooth and music streaming and a full-sized spare wheel.

But this car will live or die by the way it drives. On paper the stats were very impressive indeed, boasting performance figures of 0-100kph in less than seven seconds and a top speed of 230kph. Environmentally the CO2 emissions were also mega with a tally of 139g/km – meaning road tax of €280 and a staggering 47mpg. Fire up the 1.6 litre turbocharged and the snarl gets the blood pumping.

Drop the hammer and the imp comes into its own steadily awakening the 200bhp lurking beneath. At first it doesn't seem to be 'peel-your-face-off' quick which we expected considering its shares the same power plant as the blistering RCZ.

It's there, you just gotta look for it and pushed at higher revs its true potential is revealed and the fun begins.

HANDLING

The ride is taut and the handling crisp and she gobbled up tight bends with ease while the feedback from the steering was excellent but it lacked that bit of madness.

Compared to the Fiesta ST, the GTi seemed a little lethargic, a little too composed and dare I say it – not exciting enough.

More to the point, the ST is a massive €2,000 cheaper.

The Peugeot GTi costs €27,995 plus dealer delivery related charges.


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