2013 should be named “Year of the Hot Hatch” in South Africa, what with all the roller-skate cars being launched here. The latest arrival is French - Peugeot's 208 GTi.It's another high-achiever in the segment and builds on the great design of the 208 hatchback with its assertive styling and wicked performance. The car's sights are fixed firmly on Ford's Fiesta ST, and VW's Polo GTI - and Renault’s Clio RS, also headed for our shores.Image galleryPeugeot’s GTi performance heritage is long and illustrious, beginning with the 205 (1985), 206, 207 and now the 208 GTi; even 30 years later, the 205 GTi is still lauded as one of the greats of performance motoring. That model was followed by performance versions of the 206 and 207 but these two failed to make an impact.Peugeot international communications manager Thomas Merchant said: "When we launched the 207 we went off-track with our DNA. The 208 GTi has brought that back as we step back into the ring."Can the 208 GTi restore Peugeot's hot-hatch machismo? Wheels24’s SERGIO DAVIDS got to grips with the new model at Aldo Scribante racing circuit in Port Elizabeth to find out.DESIGNAs befits its hot-hatch status, the 208 GTi has a more assertive design; wider front and rear track (10mm front, 20mm rear), the wheel arches have been extended and wider sills added. There's a prominent hexagonal grille with a chequered design finished in black with metallic inserts, the lip of the grille has a curved air intake and a dual-tone finish reminiscent of the 205 GTi. Metallic GTi logos shine on each side. The rear of the roof has an extended spoiler, the lower apron is black with twin rectangular exhausts. Red is a recurring theme throughout on badging, exterior and cabin trim and the whole package rides on 17” alloys fitted with 205/45 performance tyres. Overall it’s a great-looking car but its design truly shines when you’re behind the wheel. I'll return to the interior later...POWERThe GTi has a four-cylinder, 1.6-liitre, petrol engine capable of 147kW at 5800rpm and 275Nm at 1700rpm. It drives through a six-speed manual 'box and fuel consumption is listed as 5.9 litres/100km with CO2 emissions of 139g/km. Its 0-100 time is given as 6.8sec and top speed 230km/h.WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVEIt’s quick, agile and zealous; unleash the 208 GTi and a grin will creep across your face. It feels balanced and stable through curves and, though not quite as “chuckable” as a Fiesta ST, this French firecracker handles superbly. The suspension has been stiffened and lowered by 8mm and given stronger anti-roll bars and uprated damping. The ride is extremely comfortable, capable of mitigating the dips, bumps and undulations on our roads. The front hugs the road tenaciously but has its limits – push too hard and you’ll veer wide. It’s a party animal on the road but never fully lets its hair down. The GTi rides smoothly through curves and is classy combination of track-orientated performer and practical premium hatch. Overall it’s an agile, fun, well-considered, premium product of which a Peugeot owner can feel proud. OOH-LA-LA INTERIORThe standard 208 has a luxurious cabin and this hot-hatch builds on that standard. There's plenty of performance design tweaks such as chromed trim, red stitching and instrumentation but the basics of a good interior are evident in the comfortable seats and decent head and leg room (in the front, at least). You get a real sense of craftsmanship. The interior has the perfect combination of boy-racer decals (metallic pedals, part-leather seats and sports steering wheel) and premium hatch class (stylish dual-tone door trim, red stitching, metallic gear knob and touchscreen display).The interior is tailored to suit the performance aspirations of the car and the enjoyment of the driver. Both Fiesta ST and Polo GTI, the 208’s main rivals, are decidedly lacking in terms of interior design, the former having ditched many bells and whistles to save on cost and the latter “too dated".I’ll give credit where it’s due: in terms of interior design, Peugeot has nailed it! ‘POWER ISN’T ENOUGH’So at whom is this 208 GTi aimed? Peugeot SA's general manager of marketing Clara Metivier-Beukes said: "Our target market is 68% male, 50% single, younger than 30 and a car fanatic. Power isn't enough for our customers; it must be there, only less brutal. The interior, above all else, must be comfortable."So, PSA is aiming its latest hot hatch at a "more refined" petrolhead.SACRE BLEU! SO MANY RIVALSThe 208 GTi takes on the likes of Mini's Cooper S, VW's Polo GTi and the already mentioned Fiesta ST, soon-to-be-here Renault Clio RS and Audi A1 TFSI Sportline. You can appreciate that the racy Pug has its work cut out... The variety of hot hatches is great for customers, not so much for automakers hoping to move ahead of the pack.The GTi has a more stylish interior than the Fiesta ST, better tech and is much softer on the road. The ST, however, benefits from Ford’s SYNC system but no satnav or touchscreen. The ST is also the better track performer, the trade-off being a harsh ride on a poor road.The GTi has something unique over its competitors, though – it can park and unpark itself. A driver need only feather the accelerator/brake and the system will take care of the steering calculations.OVERALLThe 208 GTi seems to have followed the Golf GTI in that its designers have created a vehicle that’s as at home doing hot laps around Scribante as it is being a practical runabout.Is the 208 GTi a worthy successor to the iconic 205 GTi? In short, the answer is no, mainly because they’ve created a model with its own identity. It won’t entertain skilled drivers quite as much as its rivals and it isn’t as “pure” as the original but sever its tenuous ties to the 205 GTi, and the latest Peugeot hot hatch is a fast and feature-packed all-rounder.With its tenacious grip, superb handling and grin-inducing performance, the car has come out swinging in SA’s hot-hatch segment. Welcome back to the fight, Peugeot.PRICER259 900 and the 208 GTi is sold with Peugeot’s Premium Plan, which includes a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 60 000km maintenance plan. MORE FROM PEUGEOTThe French automaker will also launch an entry-level, two-door 208 in August/September 2013. The car will be powered by a one-litre petrol engine and, according to the automaker. will cost less than R150 000.Since its launch in 2012, 1500 models have been sold locally. Peugeot SA’s managing director Francis Harnie, explained: “Since launch we’ve aimed at 200 units a month. It’s a small start compared to many of our rivals but a good one - it's performing well in SA and we hope to push our target to 250 to 300 in 2014. This is great for a small brand such as us in SA.”In 2014 its 2008 B-segment crossover and facelifted RCZ will reach South Africa.