208 GTi and GTi 30th. Peugeot’s secret weapon?

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I could go on and on about the facts and figures and “turn in” and “braking force” and make the whole thing a dull-as-dishwater car review, but I won’t. Instead I’m going to tell you about having these two on a track.

You’ve probably seen a few of these GTi’s around the place. They look brilliant don’t they? Peugeot threw us the keys, and as were standing beside a race track……

And here we have it, the successor to the magnificent Peugeot 205GTi.

Cool V8 bloke Andrew Jones and dirt racer Cody Crocker were on hand to make sure we didn’t bin the goods. Crashing would otherwise cause much embarrassment and not just a little cost.

After taking a couple of moments of instruction we were thrown in at the deep end. “Drive it like you stole it” came to mind. We drove the GTi first, then the GTI 30th to get a proper feel for subtle nuances.

A track day is the reason most scallies ache for a GTi badged anything. Sometimes they even consider paying for them. They want nothing more than to hear the tyres screaming for mercy and to smell the sweet scent of brakes cooking at the limit of their endurance. They love the sound of an engine with the life being wrung out of it as a tiny hatchback is taken by the scruff of the neck. Most however will never savour the delights and the thrill that racing into a corner at terminal velocity brings. Try this in a car park and men dressed in blue will come. It is also the reason that P platers so often come to grief. This kind of driving must never be done on an open public road.

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Peugeot love and trust us implicitly and it is because of the deep sense of paternal caring that they asked Cody and Andrew to hold our hands for the day. I for one was very glad of a hand to hold. As thrilling as a race track is, there is nothing worse than ending a pleasant run in the kitty litter.

We had a quick drive of the GTi some while ago but the 30th has always eluded us. The differences between the two cars is more obvious from the outside, most notably the striking (optional at 5 grand) paint job. It is stunning with bright shiny fire engine red and dark brooding matte black looking like a menacing Black Widow spider. I love the look very much. As PHAB as it is, explaining at dinner parties that the black is not a vinyl wrap would become tiresome. There has been much care taken to dissect the scheme precisely. Rather astonishingly, one colour is not painted over another. They are both THE colour.

The 18” wheels (17” on the standard GTi) and chrome exhausts really look the business and I can see this being someone’s pride and joy collector’s item. It is a limited run too with only 30 examples released this time with no more to follow.

The changes are not just skin deep. The engine scores an extra few horses with 153kw,,, and an even more impressive 300Nm of torque to get you off the mark fast. You can have any transmission you like as long as it’s the 6 speed manual. Don’t start your whining, it’s as light as a feather and is thoroughly delightful to use.

208 GTi 30TH 012The 30Th has something called a Torsen limited slip differential and some specially designed “car-to-ground” connecting components, including special shockies. I don’t know what all that means but it’s forcing me to believe it! Unless you drive mindlessly you can expect 5.3 L/100k emitting only 125g/km and considering you get from 0-100 in 6.5 seconds that is somewhat remarkable. It means it sticks to the road and get uses as little fuel as possible.

The build quality has been given a boost over the last few years too. The quality checks and improved design has knocked the rough edges off what was once might have been rocky owner’s experience. There is a short film which is a take on the famous 205 GTi ad 30 years ago. I particularly like the way the aspect ratio changes as the 208GTi swings into view:

The interior of all new Peugeot’s is delicious, the 208 GTi 30th particularly. The tiny steering wheel allows the instruments to be over the top rather than through it. Once used to it you start to imagine it very much like a heads-up display. If the seat isn’t adjusted properly some will think it awkward. Once in the right spot, view is excellent. I asked why not just have a normal heads-up display but there was no clear answer. Someone suggested a cost thing, someone else said design so we may never really get to the bottom of the new cockpit thought processes.

The tablet-style infotainment system controls the Satnav and entertainment as well as some vehicle functions. There is no Apple CarPlay which is slightly disappointing. The screen responds to touch and although it isn’t as fast as some systems I’ve used, is easy to use. The sound is a bit of alright too.

Just as we were getting to getting to grips with the features, our rally and track drivers whipped us out on to the into the pits. This is where the true enjoyment is fully realised. The safety gear was left on for obvious reasons (and should always be left “on” on a public road) and it soon became abundantly clear that Andrew Jones’ job was completely safe as far as I was concerned. I drive like a nana and despite being told to let it run wide, turn in here, and brake now, my times were an embarrassment. Even in these amateur hands the GTi 30th was a treasure. On the rare occasion when entering a corner too fast the brakes were able to wash off there excess with no trouble. I only glanced at the speedo sparingly but 160kph felt like there was plenty left in the tank. Importantly the electronic nannies gave a load of leeway before trying to curb the fun. This car is a product of Peugeot Racing, and it shows.

In the afternoon Cody Crocker bravely volunteered to take me out but I wanted to see what the 208 could do in competent hands so he played captain. Even with the racing seats holding firm the ride was like a roller coaster and I felt like a rag doll, if a very large portly one. There was much screeching with some of it coming from the tyres. With the raucous note from the engine signaling max effort, the Peugeot was graceful and very fast. There was a touch of understeer here and there under the control of someone who knew what they were doing but on my rounds it was much less pronounced. It was frantic and frenzied but it is the sort of trip money can’t buy.

Cody is more used to a WRX on a rally track so tarmac at Eastern Creek was a doddle. What a wonderful experience and one everyone should share.

It was a brilliant day with two brilliant cars. The $35,990 price tag for the 30th is a big ask but totally justified. They are as rare as hen’s teeth and are a joy to behold. Its relative scarcity will make this a must have for those wanting something a bit different and remember, could well be a collector’s car in time.

The big brother 308 will soon be joining us and will have the delicious 200kw power plant.

Peugeot is back.

For full pricing and features you’ll need to see a dealer because blink and they’ll be gone.

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