In retrospect Peugeot may well feel that the 206 GTI 180 should have been how they started hot 206 offerings. While the original 138bhp 206 GTI wasn’t a terrible car, it fell short when compared to its rivals of the time. The Civic Type R had more power, the Renualtsport Clio 172 handled better and the MINI Cooper S was generally considered to be more effective all round. So after a few years of being second best (or fourth…fifth…sixth) Peugeot came out fighting with the GTI 180.
Badged as the 206 RC in Europe, even the outward appearance hinted at the improvements within. A subtle rear spoiler, smart looking twin exhausts and purposeful looking 17in alloys along with factory colour-coding made for a much more sporty looking hatchback. That was a good start then, but Peugeot didn’t stop there. Under the bonnet the engine may remain the same two litre capacity as the earlier GTI, but much else was changed. The most significant difference was the variable valve timing on the intake camshaft, plus a revised cylinder head supposedly designed with Formula One know how.
The result was far more power, a wider torque band and more air flow into the engine, which coupled to a longer ratio first gear made for a significantly punchier package. The bigger wheels, stiffer springs and revised rear axle arrangement further enhanced the GTI 180s appeal, making it a much sharper car through the bends than its predecessor. It had better seats too.
A few years on and the GTI 180 is generally holding its value better than the 138bhp GTI. It’s worth paying the extra though as the GTI 180 is a much more accomplished hot hatch, that can provide bundles of fun once you get the revs up on those back roads. It may still not be quite a match for the Renaultsport Clio 182 (especially the excellent Trophy model), the Civic Type R or the MINI Cooper, but it’s not that far off.
There may be some question marks over the build quality of French cars, but if you’re prepared to take that risk then you could be rewarded with that fun factor that only our French chums seem to be able to truly deliver. A 205 GTI it is not, the days of Peugeot building the best hot hatches around is over, but the 206 GTI 180 is a decent all-rounder with enough mettle to entertain.
PEUGEOT 206 GTI 180 2003-2007
0-60mph: 7.5 secs
Top speed: 137mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The exhausts can be a little prone to needing replacement prematurely so if it’s making a load of noise then consider knocking the price down. Generally there are very few specific issues with the GTI 180, but owners have reported numerous niggles like faulty wiring circuits on the handbrake, and excess amounts of engine movement under acceleration/ deceleration due to worn engine mounts.
TUNING A 206 GTI
Obviously being naturally aspirated massive gains aren’t readily available. The usual route of air filter and exhaust system will free things up a bit, and some recommend fitting an adjustable fuel pressure regulator and exhaust manifold.
Superchargers can be fitted to this engine, and with 300bhp possible that would certainly be a fun route to take. They handle pretty well out of the box thanks to revised spring ratios, but some work on the chassis with coilovers and anti-roll bars will further improve this area and make the most of the GTI 180s performance.