Peugeot 208 GTi - from £18,895
Key specs: £18,895. 197 bhp and 203 lb /ft.
There are two types of GTI in this world; those from Peugeot and those from Volkswagen. Whilst the latter has released excellent variants, the former simply hasn't. the 206 GTI sucked and the 207 GTI was anything but hot. Step up the 208 GTI then.
To look at the Peugeot GTI is a sleeper. To the untrained eye it looks remarkably like a 208 1.6 HDI Feline, but look closer and the hotter version shows its true colours. A sporty rear splitter, a more aggressive front bumper, dual exhaust tips and the obligatory hot hatch spoiler make the 208 stand out from the standard 208's in the car park. I like this. It doesn't draw attention.
Out on the road the Peugot 208 GTI is quiet, gentle, and comfortable. It feels soft yet composed, complacent yet not fiery, but I haven't gone above 2,500 rpm yet. Much like a lot of small capacity turbocharged engines the 208 GTI can be driven like a diesel, and riding the wave of torque the GTI's 1.6-litre turbocharged engine makes is as easy as pie.
With 197 bhp and 203 lb /ft of torque the Peugot 208 GTI is not a softy soft car, though. As I head in to the hills and the national speed limit sign is passed, I floor it from second gear at 30 mph. Immediately at 2,5000 rpm the car springs to life and I've hit 58 mph in second within around 3 seconds. Not bad for a car that 10 minutes ago I could have transported ten full bags of eggs in.
It has two different sides to it then this latest PUG, both of which are very lovable indeed. Inside, the interior is a marked improvement over the 207 GTI and of course the plastic horribleness of the 206 GTI. French cars have come a long way in the past few years and aside from the glove box which feels as though it was made from a wheelie bin, the cabin is high quality. The chunky steering wheel has great feel to it and the six speed gearbox is coated in leather. The seats are also very supportive, and in the back there is plenty of leg space.
The best thing about the 208 GTI though is its gearbox. The six speed manual is crisp, a pleasure to use and the clutch is light, too, for those of you who still have broken legs from the ride quality in the 206 GTI.
So, the 208 GTI is a winner. It's fast, it's practical, and it looks great in a very subtle way. At just a nudge under £19,000 this car is a direct alternative to the Renaultsport Clio and, as you'll soon see, the KIA Proceed GT.