Peugeot 208 GTi - the return of the supermini
One of the cars which originally popularized the hot hatchback category, the Peugeot 205 GTi, looks set to be reprized with an all-new 208 GTi concept to be shown in Geneva next month.
The six-speed manual 208 GTi runs the 203 bhp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine of the Peugeot RCZ THP 200, guaranteeing performance well beyond the original 205 GTi which launched in 1984 with 104 bhp.
A second concept car based on the upcoming 208 will also be shown in Geneva. Known as the XY Concept, it's an upmarket 208 with special paint and Peugeot's new e-HDi drivetrain which couples the 115bhp 1.6 liter HDi diesel engine with a reversible alternator which adds a degree of regenerative braking, perhaps best described as energy recovery, during deceleration.
Big deal? Yes! The 1.6l e-HDi engine has stop-start too, and in the real world this translates to less than 99 g/Km and a staggering 74.3 mpg (31.6 km/l). Throw in the diesel's ample mid-range torque of 285 Nm and the XY concept will be no slouch, yet it will also be capable of driving from Paris to Milan or Berlin in one sitting at autobahn speeds.
The engine is my pick for the whole 208 range of exceptionally efficient engines planned for the 208. In terms of efficiency, the best of the bunch is the 50 kW (68 bhp) 1.4l e-HDi which returns a wallet-busting 83.1 mpg (35.3 km/l). The most economical of the petrol engines available is the 65.7 mpg one liter VTi.
According to Peugeot, the XY Concept's special "Pulsion" paintwork gives it a unique look that appears to change with distance and position and uses sixteen coats of paint and lacquer. It would need to be spectacular to overcome the ownership costs - driving a car with a paint job that can't be matched by your local panel shop has its drawbacks, and cars inevitably get scratched. Besides, you can buy one mid-year with this motor and no paint and the XY is still a concept.
Probably more than anything, the XY signals Peugeot's intentions to push the 208 upmarket. It's frugal with very low emissions, but as cars get inevitably smaller, the world's auto manufacturers are frantically exploring new ways to add perceived value.
It looks great, but I have returned to the parking lot to find my car scuffed too many times to be delusional - the skin of the car is its most vulnerable point.
So for me, the GTi is the pick of the two without question, and I expect it will appeal to a generation that once revered the lightweight pocket rocket's grandpa, and a new generation of inner urban dwellers who like to get out of town.
The 208 is a new Peugeot series that will launch in the middle of this year - the fourth generation of a vehicle with a heritage that stretches back through the numbering sequence to the original 205 of 1983. Though the 208 still embodies the principles of agility and efficiency, the technological progress of three decades shows.
As the 20X series progressed through generations, it grew in weight. Peugeot sold a version of the original 205 known as the 205 Rallye, which weighed in dry at under 800 kg. It was stripped down and lightened, but by contrast, not one model of the 207 weighed less than 1100 kg.
So the new 208 series has come in for some weight reduction, and on average, the 208 is more than 100kg lighter than the 207's equivalent models, with the lightest models tipping the scales at less than 1000 kg. No numbers have yet been quoted for the GTi.
Then there's aerodynamics.
The new 208 shape has been refined aerodynamically to achieve some astounding figures. Aerodynamic efficiency is very important to the performance of a vehicle, either around a track or at the pump, and the 208 has a Cd of 0.29 and a CdA of 0.61. The 208 GTi inherits the shape and also be a slippery little devil, with a spoiler at the rear of the roof to generate extra down force at speed.
There's a lot of information that Peugeot has not yet released on the new GTi - it's weight is as yet unspecified, but more than anything, just how good the GTi will be will depend on a base car that has yet to be driven by the press. On the basis of heritage and the amount of effort that has gone into the 208 project, we can reasonably expect the 208 to be very good, and hence the GTi will be moreso.