Wednesday, 19 September 2018

There’s no match for a spin down memory lane

I took a drive down memory lane this week and found myself in the comparatively carless Caversham of my childhood.

I took a drive down memory lane this week and found myself in the comparatively carless Caversham of my childhood.

What brought this all on was a visit to Henley. Passing through Sonning Common I encountered one of those lovely old spindly-legged Austin Sevens, circa 1936, a similar model to the one my grandfather, who lived in Caversham most of his life, used to drive us to and from primary school in Emmer Green as a special treat.

Happy days. And this got me thinking about how my old haunts had changed. Naturally living in our modern world of instant communication I Googled old Caversham and came up with some delightful pictures of the village (before my time I have to say) with deserted streets and few cars.

Today of course Caversham is very different. It is a main route into Reading over Caversham Bridge and is in constant use. But back in the day, like most roads it was devoid of vehicles and certainly had a more serene appearance.

Following that baby Austin Seven with its cute little body and tiny wheels I was also struck by how much cars have changed. I was following the Seven in a car that could not have been more of a contrast, this week’s drive, a 21st Century top-of-the-range Peugeot 208 GTi.

This is a rapid car: tucked under the bonnet was a 1598cc 16-valve petrol engine that produces 200bhp. That translates into an acceleration rate of 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 143mph. Not bad for a “hot hatch” supermini. Part of the reason for this is that the GTi’s Turbo High Pressure (THP) petrol engine, says its makers, delivers “25 per cent more power than equivalent THP engines”.

Just to pause a moment down memory lane, the supermini of its day, the 1936 Austin Seven (Sports version) with its 747.5cc engine, by comparison produced 23bhp at 4,800rpm. The Peugeot’s muscular 200bhp comes in at 5,800rpm. So even if you are not in the least technical minded (or interested in this kind of thing that anoraks love) then you can see how far smaller cars have advanced power-wise in the ensuing decades.

And this is what I like about cars such as the Peugeot 208 GTi: their power-to-weight ratio is like an agile rock climber. He is light on his toes, strong and quick and so too is the 208 GTi. The fact that the new model is lower, wider and lighter at 1160kg than its predecessor add to this new agility. The car really does pack a punch if you want it to and was great fun to drive as I imagine the Austin Seven Sport was for those drivers of the Thirties.

Actually, this Peugeot 208 GTi has the best of antecedents, too: Peugeot has had great success in the past with performance vehicles such as the XSi, Rallye and GTi. Peugeot says the new version of the GTi is aimed at “driving enthusiasts” who appreciate a car that displays a nice blend of performance and style.

A friend of mine might appreciate this new car. He is a great enthusiast and cites his much-loved Peugeot 205 GTi (1984-1995) as the best car he ever owned.

On my first drive of the new 208 GTi, along the M4 on my way to Henley, my overall impression was that it had great pace. The power and zip was there if you wanted it. This effortless energy source is always handy when it comes to motorway driving where the demands for alertness and the need for sudden acceleration to pass a slower vehicle or simply maintain a good constant speed are paramount.

Inside the cab the car is well designed with clearly detailed dashboard and instruments. I liked the colour scheme too on the test car with its Bianca White livery and black half-leather-and-cloth trim. The design has somehow maintained that special Peugeot GTi look of old yet at the same time brought it bang up to date. And I happen to like the Onyx Black 17in alloy wheels, which I think reinforce this 21st Century look for the GTi.

I would probably prefer a sunroof though I know that now is an outdated notion because the full Cielo Panoramic Glass Roof (that costs an extra £400) gave my passengers spectacular views of scenery especially during the recent good weather.

I think that anyone who regards GTi driving as something of the past, a bit of a throwback for older car enthusiasts, should try the new Peugeot 208 GTi. I believe that any new driver to this type of fast GTi way of driving could not help but become a convert.

Factfile

Peugeot 208 GTi

Retail price (on the road): £18,895

Euro NCAP (safety) rating: five stars

Combined fuel cycle: 47.9mpg

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Multifunction Colour Touch Screen Navigation Upgrade plus second USB socket (£400 optional extra fitted)

Sports seats, cruise control among standard refinements







lPeugeot 208 GTi:

lRetail price (on the road): £18,895

lEuro NCAP (safety) rating: five stars

lCombined fuel cycle: 47.9mpg

lTransmission: 6-speed manual

lMultifunction Colour Touch Screen Navigation Upgrade plus second USB socket (£400 optional extra fitted)

lSports seats, cruise control among standard refinements

I TOOK a drive down memory lane this week and found myself in the comparatively carless Caversham of my childhood.

What brought this all on was a visit to Henley. Passing through Sonning Common I encountered one of those lovely old spindly-legged Austin Sevens, circa 1936. It was a similar model to the one my grandfather, who lived in Caversham most of his life, used to drive us to and from primary school in Emmer Green as a special treat.

Happy days. And this got me thinking about how my old haunts had changed. Naturally, living in our modern world of instant communication, I Googled old Caversham and came up with some delightful pictures of the village (before my time I have to say) with deserted streets and very few cars.

Today of course Caversham is very different. It is a main route into Reading over Caversham Bridge and is in constant use. But back in the day, like most roads it was devoid of vehicles and certainly had a more serene appearance.

Following that baby Austin Seven with its cute little body and tiny wheels I was also struck by how much cars have changed. I was following the Seven in a car that could not have been more of a contrast — this week’s drive, a 21st century top-of-the-range Peugeot 208 GTi.

This is a rapid car. Tucked under the bonnet is a 1,598cc 16-valve petrol engine that produces 200bhp. That translates into an acceleration rate of 0 to 62mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 143mph. Not bad for a “hot hatch” supermini.

Part of the reason for this is that the GTi’s Turbo High Pressure (THP) petrol engine, say its makers, delivers “25 per cent more power than equivalent THP engines”.

Just to pause a moment down memory lane, the supermini of its day, the 1936 Austin Seven (Sports version) with its 747.5cc engine, by comparison produced 23bhp at 4,800rpm. The Peugeot’s muscular 200bhp comes in at 5,800rpm. So even if you are not in the least technically-minded (or interested in this kind of stuff that anoraks love) you can still see how far smaller cars have advanced power-wise in the intervening decades.

And this is what I like about cars such as the Peugeot 208 GTi: their power-to-weight ratio is like an agile rock climber who is light on his toes, strong and quick. So, too, is the 208 GTi.

The fact that the new model is lower, wider and lighter at 1,160kg than its predecessor adds to this new agility. The car really does pack a punch if you want it to and was great fun to drive — as indeed I imagine the Austin Seven Sport was for drivers of the Thirties.

Actually, this Peugeot 208 GTi has the best of antecedents, too: Peugeot has had great success in the past with performance vehicles such as the XSi, Rallye and GTi. Peugeot says the new version of the GTi is aimed at “driving enthusiasts” who appreciate a car that displays a nice blend of performance and style.

A friend of mine might appreciate this new car. He is a great enthusiast and cites his much-loved Peugeot 205 GTi (1984-1995) as the best car he ever owned.

On my first drive of the new 208 GTi, along the M4 on my way to Henley, my overall impression was that it had great pace. The power and zip was there if you wanted them.

This effortless energy source is always handy when it comes to motorway driving where the demands for alertness and the need for sudden acceleration to pass a slower vehicle or simply maintain a good, constant speed are paramount.

Inside the cab the car is well-designed with clearly detailed dashboard and instruments. I liked the colour scheme too on the test car, with its Bianca White livery and black half-leather-and-cloth trim. The design has somehow maintained that special Peugeot GTi look of old, yet at the same time brought it bang up-to-date. And I happen to like the Onyx Black 17in alloy wheels, which I think reinforce this 21st century look for the GTi.

I would probably prefer a sunroof, though I know that now is an outdated notion because the full Cielo Panoramic Glass Roof (that costs an extra £400) gave my passengers spectacular views of scenery, especially during the recent good weather.

Anyone who regards GTi driving as something of the past, a bit of a throwback for older car enthusiasts, should try the new Peugeot 208 GTi.

I believe that any driver new to this type of fast GTi driving could not help but become a convert.

By Nigel Wigmore

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