Peu­geot 208 GTI by PS

The feisty 208 trumps its big­ger brother… un­til the go­ing gets tricky

Evo - - FAST FLEET - Will Beau­mont (@Will­beau­mont)

AROUND A YEAR AGO I WAS RUN­NING a Peu­geot 308 GTI, an­other prod­uct of Peu­geot Sport, which is a de­part­ment I am be­com­ing quite evan­gel­i­cal about. I of­ten preach about the holy trin­ity – the 208 GTI by PS, the 308 GTI (270 ver­sion) and the sadly dis­con­tin­ued RCZ R – to any­one who will lis­ten. So when we were dis­cussing last month’s test to pit the new Hyundai i30 N against a Golf GTI and, im­por­tantly, a 308 GTI, I made sure I was there to spread the good word of Peu­geot Sport.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the 308’s 2017 facelift; its new pedes­trian-friendly bul­bous nose makes it look like a sperm whale. Thank­fully, what I re­ally love about the 308 – how it drives – hasn’t changed. It feels like the ar­che­typal front-wheel-drive per­for­mance car. Its pas­sive dampers, me­chan­i­cal LSD and tor­sion beam rear axle mean it be­haves ex­actly how you’d ex­pect a hot hatch to.

What I’d for­got­ten was just how sim­i­lar the 308’s in­te­rior is to that of the 208. The steer­ing wheel is iden­ti­cal, the di­als still aren’t prop­erly vis­i­ble, the driver’s seat – al­though a lit­tle fan­cier-look­ing – feels the same, and be­cause the en­gine and gear­box are pretty much the same too, the car makes a sim­i­lar noise and the gearshift is eerily fa­mil­iar. Even the way the two cars ac­cel­er­ate is alike. The 208’s 1.6 is down 61bhp but the whole car was 121kg lighter when we weighed them both on our scales, and that helps make up for the power deficit.

What does feel dif­fer­ent is the chas­sis – dis­ap­point­ingly so. Af­ter driv­ing along mo­tor­ways and straight roads for some time, the fami­lar en­vi­ron­ment meant I’d com­pletely for­got­ten I was in the 308 and not my 208. Then I got to a slip road – es­sen­tially a long, wide, quiet one-way cor­ner, so a great op­por­tu­nity to in­dulge in some com­mit­ted driv­ing. I trail-braked into the late-apex banked left-han­der, but when I turned the steer­ing wheel I was served up a less im­me­di­ate front end and more body roll than I was ex­pect­ing. I was also ready to quickly ap­ply some cor­rec­tive lock to catch the ex­citable rear-end if re­quired as I skit­ted and scrab­bled to­wards the apex. But there wasn’t any of that, and I was rather dis­ap­pointed by the 308’s general lack of vigour com­pared with the 208.

Then, later in my jour­ney, the tem­per­a­tures dropped and the rain came, and I dis­cov­ered that the ex­tra roll and added com­pli­ance that sap away at the 308’s en­thu­si­asm make it that bit more pre­dictable when the go­ing gets slip­pery. This was em­pha­sised fur­ther

when I swapped back into the 208 on a grim, wet evening a cou­ple of days later. I found my­self tee­ter­ing around, be­ing gen­tle with the throt­tle and del­i­cate with the steer­ing so as not to scare the front tyres into los­ing grip. I couldn’t lean on the front end as con­fi­dently as I could the 308’s, so I couldn’t make the most of that more mo­bile rear end. The 208 does sur­prise you with how much trac­tion it can find – on the exit of a sod­den cor­ner it hooks up im­pres­sively – but the 308 keeps you in the loop the en­tire time, al­ways com­mu­ni­cat­ing how much grip is avail­able, help­ing you en­joy every as­pect of a cor­ner.

I still pre­fer the 208 over its big­ger brother; its fighty at­ti­tude and fo­cused chas­sis suit me more and it’s so en­ter­tain­ing when it’s dry that I can put up with its wet-weather be­hav­iour. But in an ideal world I’d have a 208 for dry days and a 308 for when it’s wet and grimy.

Top: 208 is the more ex­cit­ing GTI in the dry. Above: 308 feels more se­cure in the wet

Dateac­quired Septem­ber 2017 To­talmileage 6558 Mileageth­is­month 1575 Cost­sthis­month £0 mpgth­is­month 37.1

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