Following the unveilings of the 2008 and 3008 last year, the lion brand has now applied a series of updates to its smallest model, the 208, more specifically, the sportiest model in the comparatively tiny line-up, the 208 GT-Line.
Between the barriers
Given the reputation of small, fast Peugeots established by the iconic 205 GTI, it was therefore also somewhat natural that the unveiling took place at the Zwartkops International Raceway where a small media contingent were given carte blanche to take it around the track in anger.
A feisty looking cub
Although refreshed back in 2015, differentiating the revised GT-Line from its predecessor takes a keen eye, but on closer inspection, you will notice a redesigned front bumper, a wider gloss black grille with red detailing, new headlamps sporting integrated daytime running LEDs, repositioned fog lights and at the rear, new LED lights with a distinctive claw design motif derived from the 3008.
While indeed minor, the GT-Line still rates as a very sporty looking thing thanks to its compact dimensions, a smattering of GT-Line badges, racy 17-inch Caesium alloy wheels, chrome-tipped exhaust and subtle boot spoiler.
Sporty and full of tech inside
Inside, the GT-Line now features the latest iteration of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit layout, but in setting it apart from lesser variants, also adds model specific sport seats finished in black with contrasting red stitching, leather-trimmed steering wheel, alloy pedals, red stitching on the seatbelts, aluminium door sills and red-and-black inserts on the doors.
As for standard equipment, Peugeot has not skimped with items such as a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system featuring Bluetooth, USB, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, electric windows all around, auto on/off headlights, dual-zone climate control, rain sense wipers, electric mirrors and on the safety front, six airbags, ABS with EBD and EBA, traction control and ESP.
Engine still punchy
Where the GT-Line has remained unchanged though is underneath the bonnet where the 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine continues to produce 81kW/205Nm, but this time mated solely to a five-speed manual gearbox as the previous six-speed automatic has been dropped.
Despite the seemingly underwhelming figures on paper, as well as a claimed 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 190km/h, the GT-Line’s kerb weight of 1090kg showed on the track where it handled the tight confines of the Zwartkops layout with composure and with just enough grunt to exploit its underpinnings.
A real surprise was the steering which responded quickly to inputs in spite of the somewhat small steering wheel, while the ratios of the gearbox where spaced adequately so as to avoid it needing a sixth cog.
Admittedly, the brakes took a pounding in bringing the GT-Line to a stop lap after lap, in some cases, resulting in the rear becoming light and creating an oversteer sensation when really slammed upon. Out of the slower corners, a hint of turbo-lag was also noticeable, but this tended to fade as the revs climbed.
Through all of this, the cabin remained a pleasant place to be with just the correct amount of side bolstering from those seats, while the height-adjustable steering wheel made finding the ideal driving position a doddle.
In a segment where so-called warm hatches have been increasingly popular such as the Renault Clio GT-Line and more recently the Honda Jazz Sport, the Peugeot 208 GT-Line makes a compelling case for itself with a combination of good looks, decent performance and a very competitive R259 900 sticker price, which also includes a three year / 100 000km and three year / 45 000km service plan.
It, however, remains to be seen whether brand loyal South Africans will be tempted into considering the French lion’s smallest cub, that arguably deserves more notice than currently being given.