Peugeot director general Vincent Rambaut told Car Dealer that while harking back to the historical success of the 205 version was important, there was also a need for the brand to move on.
And if that means losing some of the things that made the 205 GTI great in favour of luxuries, then so be it.
The French firm unveiled the 208 GTI concept on its stand at the Geneva Motor Show this week and it has been met with a mixed reaction from the press.
And with two lukewarm offerings in the shape of the 206 and 207 that went before it, many fans are hoping Peugeot can finally recreate the magic once more.
Rambaut said: ‘First of all it’s a concept car, but let’s imagine for one moment that it becomes reality. We have to realise this is not 20 years ago – it’s today and the world has changed.
‘What makes our brand special is that we have a history to look back on and draw from and part of that is the 205 GTI. In the UK this was a car that was very special and something big. It’s understandable people look back on this favourably, but we can’t dwell on the past.’
Rambaut explained that buyers now want something more from performance cars – it’s not just all about speed, they want creature comforts and a few luxuries too.
‘We have to thank about generation X and generation Y – what do they want from a new GTI?’ he added. ‘We need to have a strong link to history, that’s for sure. We are thinking about that – and hopefully we can come up with the right answer.’
Many hot hatch fans fear this could lead to another watered down GTI, like the 207 version that proceeded it and which was received poorly.
‘We didn’t succeed with the 207 GTI,’ explained Rambaut. ‘I had one and I was extremely happy with it, but it didn’t succeed with buyers. I hope we can get it right with the 208 version. There was something magical about the 205 GTI – it attracted men and women in equal measures. I hope the new version will do that again.’
Rambaut said the new 208 – which arrives in showrooms in a few months – has been extremely well received with those dealers who have driven it.
‘Many of them get out with a big smile on their faces and know we have recaptured what made our B segment cars great in the past,’ he said. ‘The new car is fun and exciting to drive – you get in it and grip the steering wheel and it just makes you want to drive. Dealers, from all over the world, say the new 208 has just got it.
‘We have a lot of years ahead of us with this car and we will go on writing history with it. I am confident it will be a success.’