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Ford Focus ST vs Peugeot 208 GTi

The Peugeot’s 205 GTi set the bar for 80s hot hatches. It was fast, handled beautifully and was oodles of fun to rag around. Fortunately for petrolheads far and wide, Peugeot is aiming to keep the iconic hatchback’s spirit alive with the forthcoming Peugeot 208 GTi, which will go on sale from the 1st of March.

There’s just one problem: The little pug has a formidable opponent in the Ford Focus ST, a car we love to bits. And then some. So which of the two is worthy of our hard earned cash? We pored over the specs for both, argued amongst ourselves and present our conclusions below. Let us know whether you agree.

Can the itsy, bitsy Peugeot 208 GTi punch above its weight and tackle the Focus ST?
Can the itsy, bitsy Peugeot 208 GTi punch above its weight and tackle the Focus ST?

Design

Peugeot’s 208 GTi only comes in three-door flavour, which means rear passengers will no doubt flash their knickers every time they clamber inelegantly out of the thing. This is not the case in the five-door-only Ford Focus ST. It is, therefore, no surprise to find the Ford is the more practical choice, particularly if you regularly ferry passengers around.

Extra doors can affect the aesthetics of a car and the Focus suffers here. Where the lines of the ST are interrupted by its rear door, the 208 GTi’s lines sweep cleanly from front to back. Make no mistake, the Frenchie is a good-looking hatchback. Sadly, a lot of what made the 205 GTi so appealing has gone. Those distinctly 80s straight edges? Now curvy. Plastic bumpers? Generic, colour-coded. The 208 GTi is very modern-looking, but almost forgettable because of this fact.

The Ford Focus ST is arguably more in your face. The twin exhaust pipe poking out from its sporty rear bumper screams “lout”, and the front air intake leaves an almighty gap where you half expect to see a giant intercooler poking out, Escort Cosworth style. Every time we see one we half expect The Fast & Furious star Paul Walker to step out with a can of NOS in hand.

Ultimately, the ST panders to the boy racer who’s come of age, a fact backed up by the somewhat garish paintjobs and over-the-top styling cues. The Frenchie is more reserved but its alloys and styling tweaks hint it’s more than just a typical Pug. Either way, both cars say you are a bit of a hooligan at heart so it’s a draw here, it just depends on how much of a hooligan you want to be.

Best design: Draw

Performance

Performance and handling count as a huge part of the hot hatch ownership experience. The Ford Focus ST is extremely impressive in this respect. A 2.0-litre 247bhp engine propels the five-seater to 62mph in 6.5 seconds before hammering along to a top speed of 154mph. What’s more, 339Nm of torque is on tap from as little as 1,750rpm, which means you don’t need to drop it down a gear to blast around Sunday slowpokes.

Peugeot has long ditched the fiesty 1.9-litre naturally-aspirated engine used in the original top-spec 205 GTi. Under the bonnet of the new 208 GTi lies a more eco-friendly 1.6-litre turbo. It may be small, but it produces 197bhp and 275Nm of torque, and Peugeot claims it can complete the 0 to 62mph sprint in 6.8 seconds and hit an estimated top speed of 140mph. 

We’ll have to wait and see whether it handles well. The standard, non-GTi 208 was a little poor in the handling department. The suspension has been firmed up, weight added to the steering and the front and rear tracks widened, but whether this will be enough to transform the ride is anybody’s guess. The Peugeot may give the Ford a run for its money, given the weight difference between the cars — the Pug weighs 1,160kg versus 1,461kg for the Focus ST — but on paper the heavier Focus is faster and we can’t see the 208 GTi beating it through the twisty stuff, either. 

Best performance: Ford Focus ST

Economy & Environment

Given the aforementioned weight difference and the Peugeot’s smaller engine, it should be the more efficient of the two cars. Unfortunately there are no official figures available to back up the logic, which means we can only speculate it should come out on top. Peugeot has, however, confirmed the 208 GTi will emit CO2 at a reasonable rate of 145g/km.

Amazingly, considering the weight of the Ford Focus ST, the 2-litre turbo unit returns a smidge under 40mpg if you can keep your inner-hooligan at bay. CO2 emissions reside at 169g/km, much less than the outgoing ST but more than the Pug.

Overall, it’s a tough call to make as not all the facts are available. The 208 GTi wins on CO2 and potentially fuel economy, but both cars sit under the 180g/km mark and that means road tax is the same for both cars.

Best economy & environment: Peugeot 208 GTi – maybe

Pricing

Ford’s Focus ST comes in three trim levels – ST, ST-2 and ST-3 – which seems unnecessarily confusing. The £21,640 base ST car has 18-inch alloys and sporty Recaro seats. Spend more and the £23,140 ST-2 grants you xenon headlights, a heated windscreen and an MP3-compatible head unit. At top spec, you get full leather trim, electronically adjustable Recaro seats and a six-disc auto-changer for £25,140. It’s worth bearing in mind the five seats become four with the ST-3, denting practicality somewhat.

The Peugeot 208 GTi comes in only one guise. It costs £18,995 and comes with part-leather seats, a DAB radio, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, and LED daytime running lights. There are options, but they’ll mostly be cosmetic.

The Focus ST is obviously more expensive, but it does offer better performance and practicality. The cheaper, entry-level 208 GTi is smaller and slower, but comes with more gear than the entry-level ST and is likely to be more frugal, so we’re going to call this one a draw. 

Best pricing: Draw*

Verdict

There’s every likelihood Peugeot will deliver a solid 208 GTi package when the car is launched in March 2013. It’ll certainly need to if it’s to convince the public it’s worth more than the market-leading hot hatch. Based on the evidence available to us now, we’d say the Focus ST is the winner of this particular battle. It’s faster, more practical, provides better value for money and ultimately more deserving of your affections.

Winner: Ford Focus ST

*A previous version of this article erroneously listed the Focus ST pricing without VAT and declared it the winner of the pricing section. We’ve since re-evaluated this decision and are calling this section a draw.

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