Hard going: the new Peugeot 208 GTI

This special-edition 208 marks the 30th birthday of the original Peugeot 205 GTI

Price: £21,995
Engine capacity: 1.6-litre petrol
Power output: 205bhp
Top speed: 143mph
Fuel economy: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km

When people ask you what on earth Peugeot has done to the paintwork on this special celebratory model of its 208 GTI you can tell them two words. No, not those Anglo-Saxon ones. You should answer, "Coupe franche," which means "straight cut" and is, I believe, more usually applied to a hairdo. That should shut them up. If not, or even if it does, you can go on to explain how the matt black front end of the car is very trendy, while the glossy red rear is a classic hot hatch look.

Which is sort of true. This special-edition 208 marks the 30th birthday of the original Peugeot 205 GTI, which was a great car in many, many ways. It was the only vehicle that could plausibly follow in the tracks of the Mini Cooper and VW Golf GTI, and it was as elegant and understated as this Anniversary successor is, well, inelegant and overstated. Quite an odd compliment, really.

One thing you may be assured of is that three decades of automotive progress do make the new car faster, safer, and more economical, reliable and durable than its slightly fragile predecessor, cute as it was. Then again, maybe it's not as much of a leap forward as you'd think: just a second faster to 60mph, because the modern car is carrying so much more weight, and despite a hike in power of about 50 per cent. Even more grievously, the Peugeot has lost any pretence of a "ride" during its transformation under the tutelage of Peugeot Sport, responsible for its admittedly awesome response. The old 205, and its various 206, 207 and mainstream 208 sporty successors, managed to retain a certain traditional suppleness, but not this car, which "trashes the brand" so far as comfort is concerned. The new car has had its suspension lowered, and comes with absurdly large 18in alloy wheels, with rubber bands for tyres. No wonder it is hard going.

In fact, I now realise what this Peugeot reminds me of: one of those messed-up Corsas or Saxos that get chopped and customised way beyond the limits of taste and safety once they get old enough and their price drops. But the Peugeot 208 30th Anniversary edition has been modded "from new", so to speak. So in 2025 or so, will the custom-car community be giving it a tasteful paint job, and fitting sensible steel wheels with bouncy tyres? Like hairstyles, cars are also prone to changes in fashion.

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