If you lived or grew up in Europe during the late 1980s through the early 2000s, you will no doubt remember the iconic Rallye series from Peugeot, which started out with the 205 supermini and continued with the 306 compact and the smaller 106.
The common denominator of the series was that the Rallye models were usually based on fast versions of their respective hatchback counterparts (i.e. the 106 XSi and 306 GTI) but did away with most luxury amenities such as electric windows and mirrors, the heavy seats and in some cases, even power assisted steering and airbags.
Peugeot's ultimate goal was to lower the cars' weight to improve performance and handling while also offering them at a lower price point – something that made the Rallye models extremely popular with driving enthusiasts on a budget.
Today, Peugeot is looking to re-enter the sports hatch segment with the new 208 GTi that is lighter at 1,160kg (2,557 pounds), smaller, and thanks to its new 197hp (200PS) 1.6-liter turbo engine, more powerful than the disappointing 206 and 207 GTi models.
The fact that the 208 series in general is lighter and more compact in dimensions than its predecessor, gave Peugeot dealer Clara Automobile in the French city of Le Mans, which is known for its famous tracks and car races, an idea.
Why not create a Rallye edition of the new 208 based on the 156 THP Feline model that is motivated by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four (shared with the MINI models) that delivers a feisty 154-horses (156PS) while tipping the scales at a relatively low 1,090kg (2,403 lbs)?
The Peugeot dealership's boss Philippe Beaugé tells CarScoop that his team made some mild modifications to the 208 THP 156 in the spirit of the original Rallye models by removing soundproofing, the rear headrests and center armrests. The car is finished in white, as are the alloy wheels, with the final touch coming from the Rallye stripes and decals on the car's profile and hood.
Now, we know that you may find the changes minimal, but the purpose here was to give us a taste of what Peugeot could do with the 208, not to produce an actual Rallye – remember; this is the passionate work of some enthusiastic people.
Beaugé says that the French carmaker could further reduce the car's weight by eliminating most comfort features including the glass roof, air-conditioning, interior soundproofing and electric amenities while keeping the 1.6-liter turbo engine.
And you know what; Beaugé and his team have hit a sweet spot with the 208 Rallye. Given Europe's and let's not forget, Peugeot's economic woes, the French automaker could tap into a small, but not negligible market that's thirsty for lower priced sport hatches and which would prefer a faster and better handling car over a more lavishly equipped but much less focused model.
Here's what Philippe Beaugé told CarScoop on the 208 Rallye Project:
"I am the boss of the Peugeot dealership in Le Mans, my staff and I are very fond of cars, and fond of sporty Peugeot of course!
We are very happy with the decision of Peugeot to replace at last the iconic 205 GTi with the 208 GTi, sporty, classy and powerful just like its famous predecessor.
Nevertheless, a quick look at the performance figures of the 208 156 THP Feline (0 to 60 in just 7.3s thanks to a weight of 1090 kg vs 1281 kg for the far too heavy 207 THP) has given us the idea to give birth to a « RALLYE » version of this promising 208.
Even if we’d love a much more radical car (less weight, equipment, refinement), we are proud to present what could be the successor to the famous 205, 106 and 306 Rallye !
With no central armrest, no rear headrests, no soundproofing in the boot and under the bonnet, the sound of the original exhaust fitted by Peugeot to the 156 THP Feline car is louder and thrills! Some white paint inside and out, combined with the famous stickers give this 208 a sporty touch. Technical specifications are unchanged.
Looks are one thing, performance is another. The raspy sound of the exhaust and this elastic engine combined a sharp chassis and a sleek 6 speed gearbox compose an exhilarating cocktail and we strongly believe this RALLYE would be a nice alternative and complement to the more powerful but heavier (1160 kgs) and full equipped GTi !
Think about it: we dream of the same car with no panoramic roof, no automatic devices (lights, air-conditioning, park assist, mirrors etc …), no soundproofing, this would be the recipe for those who place pure driving above all!"