208 GTI: ‘The best or we forget it’

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Peugeot’s 208 GTI concept will not be made into a production car unless “it is the best car in the category’, a senior company official has told Autocar.

Peugeot director of range Laurent Blanchet, who reports directly to company president Xavier Peugeot, said evaluation work was already under way as to whether the GTI should be built. But he said it would not go beyond the concept stage unless it was better than key rivals such as the Renault Clio 200, VW Polo GTI and Mini JCW.

“We do not want to create a car like the 207 RC or 308 GTI again,” said Blanchet. “We want to launch a car that is modern and genuine, a real GTI. We want the genes of the 205 GTI to run in the car, but to present those things in a modern way.

“This isn’t a revival of the 205 GTI — it cannot be in this world today — but we are genuine in saying that we want this car to sell widely and because of its merits. Our history of the 205 GTI dictates that we only launch the best product in this sector.”

However, Blanchet emphasised that the 208 GTI would not be sold only on its merits as a performance car.

“The engine will have 180 to 200bhp, and the ride and handling absolutely must be best in class, but that alone is not enough to sell the car in the numbers that are a benefit to the brand,” he said. “Our research suggests there are two ways to build this car: as a raw performance car with no radio, no air-con and so on, or one that combines driving ability with equipment and style. The former will sell few cars, but the market for the latter looks better. We must find an equilibrium.”

Britain accounted for 61,220 205 GTI sales — more than 20 per cent of the total number sold worldwide. As a result, Blanchet revealed the new car would be developed on British roads if it gets the production go-ahead.

“We have seen the effect a good GTI product can have on our brand, and we know the major markets we want to sell to,” he said.

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