Read that standfirst? Think I'm mad? Thought so. But read on, just for a minute or two, for an explanation of why the Peugeot Sport 208 GTI might really be one of the very best hot hatches of the 21st century.
Don't misunderstand: it's not perfect. The gearshift is a bit baggy, the driving position odd, the engine noise rather plain. The key to the PS 208's success and reputation, however, is that it was so unexpected; Peugeot hadn't made a truly great hot hatch since the 1990s, only for the 30th Anniversary 208 - the Peugeot Sport in an earlier, limited-edition life - to transform that image. The regular 208 GTI was an unexceptional hot hatch, lost amidst the Clio's track breeding and the Fiesta's scandalous value for money. The 30th, on the other hand, was a scorcher, a hilariously fun hot hatch that did justice to the 205 its name evoked.
It was lower, wider and stiffer than standard, lending it that crucial sharpness and eagerness so patently lacking from the regular car. The entertainment on launch, rotating the car into a bend off the throttle and being hauled out by the limited-slip diff, was tremendous. And it was just as good back on UK roads.
Indeed the main drawback of the 30th was the odd 'Coupe Franche' two-tone paint, an issue remedied by the series production Peugeot Sport. Then, almost just like that, the PS was gone, a new 208 is now here and the prospect of a hot hatch in the mould of the last one looks as likely as a 607 replacement. That's what makes the Peugeot Sport so special: it came from nowhere to be a class-leader, made everyone fall for a Peugeot hot hatch again, then disappeared almost without trace - and with no replacement in sight. Many dismiss it as merely a jazzier 208, but the Peugeot Sport is so much more special than that. Don't let the rarity, or others' prejudice, put you off.
The PH fondness for the 208 was only further cemented by a long-term car in 2017; Ben raved about it for many months and nearly 10,000 miles, a view that I would support. For a country so fond of a hot hatch, it seems odd that the Peugeot Sport hasn't garnered more of a reputation amongst enthusiasts. Especially now it's £10k...
Yep, this white example, with average mileage and one of those annoying ads that just lists equipment, has a price beginning with '10'. That's not a lot for a car of this ability and, while it will continue to depreciate, hopefully it will claw some of that back eventually as the market realises its significance. It certainly deserves to.
So while there is of course the fast Ford alternative, it would be remiss of any prospective buyer not to give the Peugeot a try as well. It's a more exciting, more capable hot hatchback. Yes, really. For proving that there really were better hot hatches than the Fiesta ST Mk7, for carrying an essentially moribund Peugeot back to the minds of enthusiasts and for looking damn good while doing it, I think the Peugeot Sport might be my hot hatch of the century. That and the oversteer, of course. Don't believe it? Go drive this one - or any of them - and report back...
SPECIFICATION - PEUGEOT 208 GTI BY PEUGEOT SPORT
Engine: 1,598cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 208@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@3,000rpm
First registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 30,000
Price new: £23,550
Yours for: £10,952