Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport

Rare, fun and frugal, could this mid-2010s hot hatch prove to be a canny second-hand purchase?

- Stephen Dobie (@stephen_ dobie)

’ I had to work the search filters hard to sieve out the versions I was interested in’

PUTTING YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR mouth is can prove easier said than done in this business. The steady stream of cars floating past an automotive journalist’s door means the ones that truly burrow under your skin are usually the more obscure. The ones you’d have to be pretty steely to actually purchase yourself. I’ve never shied away from championin­g the stuff I really love, yet flying the full-time nest into the murky world of self-employment recently saw me have a minor crisis of confidence about how committed my everyday wheels should be. But there’s one particular model I was besotted with from its launch and which I vowed would be my ‘normal’ car at the first appropriat­e moment.

The most loyal evo readers might remember me and my Clio Williams waving goodbye to the pages of Fast Fleet precisely 100 issues ago (evo 201). I’m afraid to say only one of us has returned, and it’s not the Renault. I kept that car for a few more years, but living in London without the budget for both a flat and a garage – which run each other close in the shockingne­ss of their rental costs – isn’t especially conducive to maintainin­g a fragile old French hatch. Who’d have thought. When the rot finally started, I moved my Willy on to someone who’s a dab hand at welding.

Clearly not learning my lesson, the Clio’s followup is a French hot hatch that – yes – has already revealed the odd moment of fragility. While the buying public was going gaga for the Ford Fiesta ST, I was trying to convince them into something far more specialist and exotic. The stock Peugeot 208 GTI was decent enough, but the 30th Anniversar­y and Peugeot Sport specials, with their Torsen limited-slip differenti­al, wider tracks, more negatively cambered wheels and focused Michelin Super Sport tyres? Well, they were truly special, whatever the results table of ecoty 2015 may look like. (Suffice to say I wasn’t here to witness the 208 trail the pack with a paltry 11 points.) Other highlights included a small power hike – to a surely intentiona­l 208 PS, or 205bhp in old money – a fabulous pair of wing-back sports seats and some natty red Peugeot Sport floor mats, arguably worth the price jump over standard all on their own.

Not that many people agreed, it seems. The classified­s are littered with regular 208 Gtis, but I had to work the search filters hard to sieve out the versions I was interested in. And what I eventually found was mildly dishearten­ing. With 50,000-plus

miles on the clock, they’d all long since had their Michelins swapped for budget rubber and their ‘Lithium’ black wheels thrown wantonly at the kerb then apparently repaired with a Sharpie. And all while everything costs several grand more than it ought to as the domino effect of new car shortages adds significan­t premiums to the price tags of even scratty second-hand stock. I doubt I could have picked a worse time to be so fussy.

With the clock against me, I simply couldn’t be as much of a perfection­ist as I’d hoped, so I reluctantl­y prioritise­d the lowest mileage within budget over unruffled seat bolsters. Which led to me becoming the owner of this 2016 Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport for a mite over half of its original £21,995 sticker with a comprehens­ive valet and wheel refurb negotiated into the mix. It’s a facelifted 208 with Apple Carplay built into its touchscree­n, something that delights me more than it ought to given the magazine in which you’re reading this.

The thrill of smoothly connecting Google Maps.

Its Nankangs can be replaced when they’re a little more worn, while its suspension, which isn’t as supple as I remember (and is more abrupt than a couple of other examples I test drove), can also have a refresh further down the line. What can’t be changed is its Ice Silver paint – matt grey to you and me, and something that gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I wash the car, which I’ll admit doesn’t happen often. It’s preferable to the Dennis the Menace-esque Coupe Franche paint that seems to adorn most BPSS on sale, mind, though I’m growing a little bored of the petrol pump conversati­ons I’ve unwittingl­y invited. ‘Nice wrap, mate. Where’d you get it?’ Er, it’s not a wrap. ‘You sure?’ Yep, it was like this from the factory. ‘Really?!’ And repeat…

At least my visits to the forecourt are kept to a minimum by its startling efficiency. I’m sad to say this proved one of the deciding factors in choosing the 208 over one of the GT86/BRZ cousins (or the much thirstier Fiesta), what with fuel prices soaring and the vast majority of my miles being mundane hauls between airports, where regularly striking 45mpg is annoyingly useful. This really is my everyday car, which has surely contribute­d to the fact that – three months into ownership – I’ve not yet enjoyed a doe-eyed honeymoon period with my new purchase. Occasional cross-country detours to avoid M1 gridlock show just what potential sits beneath those red mats, but I think I need to plan some miles focused solely on fun to fall fully head over heels with my latest French fancy. The credibilit­y of my own advice rests on it.

Date acquired April 2022 Total mileage 36,472 Mileage this month 812 Costs this month £0 mpg this month 45.5

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