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THE Peugeot 208 has been a B-segment favourite of the CAR team since its introduction; it gained a positive review in our initial road test (August 2012) and won its category in the 2014 Top 12 Best Buys. It’s an affordable, refined hatchback with a dash of design flair that really only has one niggle – that controversial driving position.

As part of the recent facelift, this latest derivative has received the GT Line treatment, which, in Peugeot-speak,
means the installation of more premium trimming. It has also been given the PSA Group’s 1,2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, which does duty in the Citroën C4 Cactus, but in this application the motor is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.

A glance at the asking price of the 1,2 GT Line automatic raises the obvious question:
at R289 900, the model is R80 000 more expensive than the 1,2 Active, positioning the little French hatch among the priciest B-segment hatches. Is the GT Line trim worth it?

It certainly looks good and adds a sportier flavour to the 208’s ovoid wedge. A new front bumper and side skirts contribute to a more purposeful appearance, as does the gloss black grille with red markings. Unlike the 308 GT Line’s fake tailpiece trim, the 208’s is a genuine extension of the exhaust that’s normally a concealed downpipe on its lesser-endowed siblings. This, along with the double-spoke 17-inch alloys, completes the “hot hatch-lite” makeover.

The GT Line’s interior has a distinctly premium feel to it. It’s been upholstered with tasteful black leather and contrasting red stitching, while the dash has received a synthetic carbon-fibre finish. Detailing on the handbrake, gear shifter and pedals have also been revamped with leather and metal complementing the move upmarket. The seats are supportive as well as comfortable, which make them appropriate for both spirited and long-distance driving.

Besides this trim detailing, the basic layout of the 208’s interior remains the same, offering a surprising amount of space and a boot that is one of the largest in its class. The fairly high-profile tyres provide good road holding and an admirably smooth ride quality, the latter of which is complemented by the GT Line’s accurate electric power steering setup.

Although the GT Line shares styling queues with the GTi, its dynamic characteristics don’t quite match the 208’s exterior pretensions. With just 81 kW and 205 N.m of torque, it’s a warm hatch at best, but still gets off the line fairly briskly. The 1,2-litre turbo is a punchy little unit that is surprisingly quiet for a three-cylinder and there’s little in the way of turbo lag. The six-speed torque-converter automatic is also well calibrated to the engine and the throttle feels responsive throughout the gears.

Its gear shifts, though, are markedly slower than those of Ford’s dual-clutch transmission, but it works quite well nonetheless and changes smoothly.

Traction control does seem to intervene more often than you would want. You can’t switch it off completely and the system insists on turning itself back on if it feels the car losing traction during more aggressive driving. The GT Line feels much more comfortable tackling city driving and motorways where the engine and transmission layout performs very well … as long as the traffic is moving smoothly. It doesn’t like crawling (bumper-to-bumper stuff) and when coasting just below 1 000 r/min, the engine threatens to stall and issues an uncomfortable shudder.

Despite having an engine of such a small displacement, the GT-Line is surprisingly heavy on fuel. Its CAR fuel index is only 5,2 L/100 km,
but in practice we saw its economy hover around the 7,3 L/100 km mark during our fuel run. The punchy engine and responsive throttle mapping are likely to blame for this. The shuddering experienced during low-speed take-offs also means you have a tendency to accelerate a bit harder to overcome the vibrations.

TEST SUMMARY

The 208 remains an excellent B-segment hatch that's maintained (if not improved) its charm through the recent facelift and, in GT Line trim, looks particularly good and offers a blend of sportiness and French style.

However, at R289 900, the GT Line doesn't feel quite worth the premium and, while the 208 has benefited from PSA's enthusiastic three-cylinder turbo engine, it's unfortunate that its charms cannot be enjoyed in a slightly less ritzy model.

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