My youngest daughter came home from school on Friday with news that her friend’s little sister had been born.
“She’s called Elise, because her dad loves sports cars,” she explained. Ididn’t have Elise’s dad down as a Lotus man, but as his choice was either Elise, Exige or Evora, I’d say he’s definitely picked the best of the line-up.
My son then chipped in that his friend Enzo was named after Ferrari, which got me thinking about other “bonkers monikers” that must be out there. Is there aVW Sharan in your office? Ever met an Aston Martin? Do you know Su Baru? (Stop, that’s enough.)
Of course, it’s usually the other way round, with cars being named after people. I wonder what Ettore Bugatti, Louis Chevrolet, Walter Chrysler, Andr-Gustave Citron, Henry Ford, Soichiro Honda, Ferruccio Lamborghini and Ferdinand Porsche would make of the fact that their names are now global brands?
This week I am driving a car that carries the family name of Armand Peugeot, the French industrialist who died shortly after the outbreak of the First World War.
Peugeot (the brand), of which 25.2 per cent is still family owned, now employs more than 200,000 people six of whom are Peugeots. A couple of years ago I met one of the fortunate six Xavier Peugeot. He runs the firm’s museum in Sochaux, and I am sure he’ll be one of the first to get his hands on the clan’s newest member the 208 GTi.
The family firm already has a bit of a reputation when it comes to hot hatches (which sounds like birdspotter slang for this week’s sexiest chicks).
Mention the 208’s predecessor the205 GTi to anyone who started their driving career in the mid-80s and areverential look will come over their face. Thirty years later that 205 GTi is still lauded as one of the greats of budget performance motoring.
Then there followed hot versions of the 206 and 207, but their impact was lukewarm at best. So the question many of us, and Xavier too, are now asking is: will the 208 GTi restore Peugeot’s hot-hatch mojo?
The heart of big-thrills, small-car motoring is, obviously, the engine and this 208 is blessed with an excitable 1.6-litre turbocharged unit that produces an amazing 200bhp. It’ll whip you from a standstill to 62mph in 6.8 seconds with the sort of zip usually enjoyed by trick waterskiers.
So admired is this powerplant that it has just picked up the 2013 award for International Engine of the Year. For the more academic of the piston-fancying community, that’s the big one the Oscars of internal combustion.
Unleash this award-winning beauty on the road and an appreciative smile will creep across your chops. It’s quick, eager and zealous. On the corners, it feels grounded and stable. It gets the bends. But one of its real bonuses is that it’s not just aparty animal.
Drive it in a more sedate fashion and you’ll find it is comfortable and surprisingly refined. In country-music parlance, it’s asinner on a Saturday night, asaint on a Sunday morning
From the outside, the 208 is a feast of curves, where the 205 was box-cornered. But don’t think it’s gone too la-di-da there’s still plenty to appeal to your lairy side: 17in alloys, red calliper brakes and chromed twin exhausts.
The word Peugeot glints in red lettering from under the bonnet, and the lower edge of the grille is anangry metallic red squint at it and it looks like it’s got a thick lip.
Inside, red stitching romps across the sports seats and picks out the edges of the dash and door trims. The steering wheel is tiny yet somehow still manages to obscure the instruments. Who cares, you’ll only have eyes for that endless grey ribbon.
Overall it feels and drives like awell-considered, well-made premium product that Peugeot (and I expect Xavier and his cousins) will feel very proud of.