‘I want 230bhp in 208 GTI’

Time 10 years ago

PEUGEOT hot hatch fans worried the 208 GTI won’t live up to its predecessor’s legend can take solace in one fact…

The man leading the team behind the engine choice put the 1.9-litre in the 205 GTI!

Philippe Merckx is in charge of Peugeot’s 100-strong engine design team and his workforce is currently testing prototypes of the next GTI. So what engine does he prefer?

‘There’s really only one choice,’ said Merckx. ‘And that’s the 1.6-litre turbo from the RCZ. The decision we’re currently debating is whether it should be in 200bhp or 230bhp guise.

‘I prefer the 230bhp but there are issues with torque steer. There are options to use electronics to reduce these issues, but I really don’t think a performance model should have restrictions like this.’

Merckx has been with Peugeot for 24 years and has worked on a series of key powerplants for the French maker. His first was the iconic 1.9-litre lump that was so successful in the 205 GTI as well as the 2.2-litre HDI engine with the first particulate filter.

‘Developing the engine for the new 208 GTI is very difficult as so much has changed since the 205 GTI,’ explained Merckx.

‘When I had my 205 GTI 1.9 I would drive everywhere at high speed but now there are speed cameras everywhere and etiquette issues to contend with.

‘The image for GTIs has changed over the years. Now the bosses have to consider marketing and how high powered cars will be received.

‘However, I have tried the 230bhp 1.6-litre 208 GTI prototype and was very impressed. There is development to be made and no decisions have been taken, but I am passionate about making it exciting and great to drive.’

Merckx has ruled out a larger unit than the 1.6 though as there are cooling issues. A 1.8-litre was considered but the modifications needed to make it into production ruled it out early on. ‘It would have been possible for small production numbers but not for the GTI,’ he added.

The engineering chief also admitted his department had been asked to look at a series of Rallye models over the years and he didn’t ruled out the name reappearing on the back of a hot hatch again in the future. ‘We’ve looked at a number of Rallye engine options, but none have so far got the green light,’ he revealed.

But does be really think the 208 GTI can live up to the legend of the 205 and recapture the magic of that legendary hot hatch?

‘Things have changed over the years, but I want to see an exciting car to drive again,’ explained Merckx. ‘It’ll be up to the bosses to decide which unit gets the go ahead, but I know which I prefer and which I’ll be fighting for – and that’s the 230bhp version.’

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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