FACTS AT A GLANCE Peugeot 208 GTi, £18,900 Engine: 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol engine producing 197bhp and 203lb.ft of torque Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels Performance: Top speed 143mph, 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds Economy: 47.9mpg combined Emissions: 139g/km

CAN THE 208 GTi survive an entire road test without unfair comparisons to its much-lauded stablemate?

It should do; the 205 GTi was certainly one of, if not the finest, hot hatch of the 1980s and even into the 1990s, though things were very different back then.

As wonderful as the 205 was, it did without any kind of electronic safety intervention beyond (optional) ABS and like most cars of the period it would happily spin in its own length with little provocation.

And it was noisy and flimsy – again like most cars of the period.

The 208 GTi should only be compared with its contemporaries, although that means just as stern a test.

But the starting point is a good one; the 208 is a smart, modern design with just enough nods to the past to remind you of its forebears. And even the most humble version drives with a pleasing sharpness, and there’s no doubt it can cope with more power.

So this 21st century Peugeot hot hatch announces its GTi status more subtly; there are small GTi badges, pretty alloy wheels and a discreet bodykit, nothing too lairy that will attract unwanted attention. The same goes for the cabin, which adds plenty of leather, attractive sports seats and some nice detailing that gives it a lift over the standard car.

Underneath the stubby bonnet, the 208 GTi chooses the favoured route for increased performance, namely a small capacity turbocharged engine. Already seen in the recently revised RCZ Coupe, The GTi’s 1.6-litre four cylinder unit dishes out a hearty 197bhp with 203lb.ft of torque to match – making it one of the most powerful cars in the class.

There’s a six-speed gearbox taking drive to the front wheels, while the suspension has been beefed up to match.

There’s stiffer springs and a lower ride height plus, for those who really want to play, the ESP system can be fully switched off.

You don’t get the sense of being in any kind of street racer once you’ve climbed aboard. This is civilised performance; sporty but not raw. The seats are supportive and the big glass area gives a good view out.

The unusual instrument position, designed to be viewed over the small steering wheel rather than through it, will suit some more than others but it is easy to get comfortable.

Fire up the 1.6-litre turbo and there is a muted rumble from the exhaust.

Turbocharging can mute all the character out of an engine but the GTI’s unit offers a pleasing mix of aural feedback.

As much as this is at the sporting end of the 208 scale, it’s still designed to be a usable and practical car, and it demands nothing more from you than a regular 208 will.

That scaled-down steering wheel and the sharp steering means you can keep your hands planted, which is good for both urban darting and spirited out-of-town driving.

With so much torque from low down and spread right across the rev range, the 208’s engine feels more like a large non-turbo engine and in a car like this that is definitely a good thing. It pulls strongly out of low speed bends and displays admirable traction even when the surface is less than perfect. It will rev quite happily when you want to concentrate on braking and steering but you can be lazy too and use the torque.

On the kind of roads you’ll want to take a GTI on, there’s plenty of fun to be had. With the engine pulling strongly whenever you need it you can lean hard on through the bends. It grips strongly and keeps you well informed about what’s going on, while the ESP system is there to back you up but won’t interfere. It’s good clean fun that will please most of the people most of the time – anything much racier would cause a headache on the motorway home.

And that’s why The 208 GTi is a car of its age.

It thrills, when you want them won’t drive you mad with its hyperactivity when you just need to get home, is well-equipped for the money and won’t cost a king’s ransom to own.

This is what a modern GTi is all about.