Peugeot has followed up the launch of its tamer 208 models last year with a wilder new 208 GTi sporty hot hatch.
Unveiled at Highlands Motorsport Park earlier this week, the compact and characterful car is being billed by Peugeot as its bid to shake up the super-mini segment.
It has all the right credentials to do so. Powered by a 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine - the same mill that drives the RCZ Sports Coupe - it crouches aggressively over its 17-inch alloy wheels and chromed twin exhausts.
The excitable powerplant, coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox, has maximum torque of 275Nm and maximum power of 147kW, meaning it totals a stirring 200hp of acceleration.
The three-door 208 GTi, priced at $38,990, is available in New Zealand in one specification level. Standard features include chrome detailing, GTi badging, a half leather and half cloth interior with red side panels and contrast stitching, a rear park aid, a seven-inch touchscreen and double optic headlights.
Differentiating it physically from the standard 208 is its stance: The GTi has a 10mm wider track at the front and 20mm wider at the rear to enhance its performance, according to Peugeot general manager Grant Smith.
Its GTi-specific front and rear axles, sportier suspension, steering settings and larger front brakes all add to its allure.
Around the exterior there are funky coloured guards, a chequered-flag stylised front grille and the option to personalise the lower finisher.
Regardless of which of the five colours buyers choose, red punctuates the vehicle: in the interior's over-stitching, on brake callipers, the lower grille, Peugeot lettering on the tailgate and even a wee splash inside the gear selector.
The headlights are a new, flatter version of their former selves; in fact, there is no longer an indicator light. Instead, they are flat orange LED lights. At the rear, the taillights take on a lion-like scratch effect.
The 1160kg GTi has been equipped with the latest technologies, including direct injection turbo, variable valve timing, a volume flow-controlled oil pump and an on-demand water pump. The engine improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions by about 10% compared with the previous generation.
Not that the journalists at the launch were thinking of carbon emissions when we headed on to the Cromwell-based track to test the GTi's performance.
Racing around after the Downforce Auto Events and Training instructors, we had plenty of opportunities to hammer through the claimed 0-100kmh acceleration in 6.8sec.
Performing timed slalom runs also gave us a chance to try out the springs, calibration of the shock absorbers, antiroll bar, enhanced front subframe and rear cross-member rigidity, all included to ensure the GTi feels like the fun little hot hatch it is designed to be.
Also launched in Queenstown were the world's first diesel electric hybrids, Peugeot's 3008 Hybrid 4 and the 508 RXH.
Engineered to match frugal fuel consumption with spirited driveability, the hybrids have a 2-litre HDi diesel engine to drive the front wheels. A six-speed automated transmission coupled to an electric motor runs the rear wheels and is powered by a rechargeable traction battery.
''We are sure once you combine the power of the diesel and the power of the hybrid, we still have 200hp [in sport mode],'' Mr Smith said.
Both vehicles offer a choice of four driving modes: automatic, zero-emission, (ZEV), sport and 4WD, while chalking up an impressively low fuel consumption of 3.8 litres/100km in the combined cycle, with only 99g CO2.
There are three offerings available - the 3008 HY4 is priced from $59,990 for the entry-level model and $64,990 for the luxury variant, which adds a few treats such as 18-inch tyres, a panoramic glass roof and a heated driver's seat.
The handsome 508 RXH is priced at $74,990 and will be the Peugeot flagship, Mr Smith said.
All three models come with 50,000km of paid road user charges.
The 3008 and 508 RXH are in station wagon format and Peugeot is not considering a sedan variant at this stage.
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