Activewear donned for a short stroll is the human dresscode equivalent for the way sports styling accessories have been applied to the 2017 Peugeot 208 GT-Line.
Peugeot argues that some light hatchback buyers want the look of its 208 GTi but without the need for hot-hatch performance or the extra outlay up front and in fuel. And so the 208 GT-Line arrives to the fill the void.
Although the GT-Line’s 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol engine isn’t exactly walking-pace slow, nor is it a sprinter like the GTi’s 1.6-litre turbo. But it has five doors to the latter’s three, gets an automatic as standard, and is $2500 cheaper.
Indeed, at $27,490 plus on-road costs, it even scores the same kit as the 208 GTi.
Vehicle Style: Light hatchback
Price: $27,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 81kW/205Nm 1.2 turbo petrol three-cylinder | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.5 l/100km | Tested: 6.9 l/100km
There’s no shortage of sporty-to-look-at light hatchback in the market, but few arrive with 17-inch alloy wheels, part-leather trim, auto-reverse parking and dual-zone climate control.
A Volkswagen Polo 81TSI starts from $20,990 (plus orc) with similar performance and its equivalent auto transmission, however, and a $1500 sports package then adds 17s, sports suspension and cornering lights. A $1900 comfort package also adds climate control, sat-nav, plus adaptive cruise control unavailable in the Pug (though auto-reverse parking remains unavailable in the VW).
That latter package further adds low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to the Polo, which in the 208 GT-Line is packaged as an optional extra with a rear-view camera (already standard in the 81TSI) for $500 extra.
Suddenly, the 208 GT-Line at $27,990 (plus orc) compares poorly with an optioned $24,390 (plus orc) Polo 81TSI. What’s worse is that with the exception of a glass roof, part-leather, auto-reverse parking and big alloys, the GT-Line’s kit list mirrors that of its also-$27,990 (plus orc) 308 Active sibling from the class above.
- Standard Equipment: keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather/cloth trim and cruise control
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, internet connectivity and satellite navigation
- Options Fitted: $500 rear-view camera and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Cargo Volume: 311 litres (minimum), 1152L (maximum)
There may be some value irks with the 208 GT-Line, but shoppers can save $2000 by trading away the large wheels, piano-black and red trim highlights, panoramic roof and sports seats, and buying the otherwise identical $25,990 (plus orc) 208 Allure.
Peugeot’s latest light hatchback boasts a funky interior brimming with design character, which means the GT-Line trim bits arguably aren’t mandatory.
The tiny leather-trimmed steering wheel continues to polarise some buyers, particularly given that it needs to be adjusted low in order to view the high-set speedometer, trip computer display and tachometer. Loftier individuals in particular may find the wheel falls in their lap, but it isn’t a problem for this 178cm-tall tester.
Front seats that are snug and supportive, and fine 360-degree vision, endows the 208 with a big-car feel but without betraying its nippy, zippy dimensions.
The colour touchscreen can be slow to load and suffers from sub-menu overload, with the sat-nav in particular being clumsy in operation. Peugeot will, however, imminently add Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology to the 208 range, which will also support internet music streaming apps such as Pandora.
At least the touchscreen doesn’t jam the climate controls onto the screen as per its 308 sibling, however. Instead, the climate toggles below are notable for their tactility and ergonomic simplicity.
Unfortunately, looking further down the dashboard reveals a pair of cupholders that are incredibly small and shallow, and definitely more espresso than cappuccino in size. They aren’t backed up by the door-mounted bottle holders of most rivals, either.
Beverage holders are likewise lacking in the rear, with a fold-down armrest and roof grab handles also conspicuous by their absence. At least each door boasts proper, vertical hand grabs and storage bins.
The rear bench itself is softly padded and decently comfortable, with class average legroom and headroom. The boot is among the largest in its segment, too, its volume rated at 311 litres and 31L ahead of the Polo.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 81kW/205Nm 1.2 3cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
By the width of its red grille applique, the 208 GT-Line is the most powerful model in the light hatchback class, with 81kW produced at 5500rpm and 205Nm delivered at 1500rpm. By comparison a Polo 81TSI makes the same power but 30Nm less.
However, the manual-equipped Polo GTI and three-door-only Ford Fiesta ST both also start at $27,490 (plus orc) and these hot hatchbacks respectively produce an additional 60kW/115Nm and 54kW/35Nm more than this Peugeot.
Of course some buyers will need rear doors, and that rules out the Fiesta ST, although its five-door Fiesta S sibling gets a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine producing 92kW/170Nm – but Ford intelligently prices it to rival the Polo 81TSI at $22,525 (plus orc) with its auto equivalent. It brings us back to square one.
Price aside, the 208 GT-Line is a fun and frisky drive. It feels faster than its claimed 10.9-second 0-100km/h would indicate, but in mixed conditions slurped one-third more than its claimed combined-cycle consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
The driving in between flat-to-the-floor acceleration proves a problem for this Peugeot. In the larger, newer 308 range this same engine and auto deliver superb refinement and response, but the smaller, older 208 was never initially designed for this drivetrain and it shows.
What feels like weak engine and transmission mounts results in a significant amount of vibration rising through the floor and steering wheel, while there is noticeable driveline slack.
The auto isn’t finely calibrated in this application, holding lower gears incessantly as though it is working with a high-revving engine. At 80km/h it refuses to drop into sixth gear, keeping revs at 2500rpm when peak torque is provided from just 1500rpm.
At least the calibration is sporty enough for more enthusiastic driving, at which the 208 excels. A comfortably absorbent suspension tune teamed with grippy Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres proves a great combination, with the chassis delivering fine balance and sheer grip.
The result is soothing yet solid ride quality, engaging yet secure handling, teamed with immediately sharp and responsive steering through that go-kart-like small wheel.
NCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Peugeot 208 range scored 34.03 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2012
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, and front and rear parking sensors
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Five-year/75,000km capped price servicing program covers the first five annual/15,000km checks at a higher-than-average $544 per check-up.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Fiesta S is feeling old, but remains a superb drive with a great engine. The Fabia 81TSI Monte Carlo is like a Polo 81TSI, but with its sporty wheels and suspension ready to go – and both remain more affordable picks in this segment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In theory the Peugeot 208 GT-Line is a great concept, a halfway-house between mundane light hatchback and aggressive hot hatchback. In practice that rings true, too – this Frenchie is zippy yet frugal, and showy yet surprisingly dynamic.
It loses out with its value equation, however, because the 208 isn’t impressive enough to demand extra over its Fiesta S, Fabia Monte Carlo and Polo 81TSI rivals.
It also uncomfortably pushes the GT-Line into Fiesta ST and Polo GTI hot hatchback territory, yet it doesn’t offer enough to justify doing so.
Meanwhile, Peugeot has worked hard to improve the value of its 308 small hatchback range, which can be had for the same price as this GT-Line minus only a couple of features. Hopefully similar revisions can occur in the otherwise highly competitive 208 light hatch lineup.
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