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Peugeot 208 GT-Line

Long-Term Test (Introduction)

Peugeot revamped its 208 range late last year, ditching naturally-aspirated engines in favour of the 1.2-litre PureTech turbocharged three-cylinder. At the same time, the company filled out the range with a flash new variant, the 208 GT-Line, which runs the same drivetrain as the other models. Only the 1.6-litre GTI, at the very peak of the line-up, is more expensive. What the GT-Line brings to the party is better equipment and quasi-GTI looks.

It’s been over three years since I last reviewed the Peugeot 208 and in one sense little has changed. The driving position remains a take-it-or-leave-it proposition (I admit to liking it), and the folding centre armrest is still in the way when releasing the handbrake.

If the 208’s looks have changed, it’s beyond me to pick the differences. But there has been one major advance – the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. This new engine powers the entire 208 range, other than the 1.6-litre 208 GTI. It’s a jack of all trades in all variants of 208 – this one being our long-term test vehicle, a 208 GT-Line.

photo2>A previous 208 with naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine was not an especially easy car to drive – particularly with its manual gearbox. By being turbocharged, the new engine produces torque in the right place, and that combined with the automatic transmission makes this 208 largely effortless to drive.

The engine may sound like a whole bunch of worn bearings and shot exhaust baffles, but it’s an intriguing characteristic that levels out for a soundtrack that’s closer to mainstream at higher revs and under load. In lower gears the engine revs out quickly and cleanly, and is an enjoyable powerplant for the way it performs. Turbocharged or not, it can be responsive to throttle and will slot easily into traffic at short notice when a gap appears.

Compared with the Skoda Fabia that took part in a recent comparison, the 208’s idle-stop system was slow to restart the engine. Nor was it possible to actuate the system and restart the engine manually without lifting the foot off the brake pedal altogether. At least you could disable the idle-stop system if you happened to foresee a need for immediate step-off. Fuel consumption for the week was respectable at least, settling down at 8.0L/100km posted by the trip computer.

photo3>The 208 is a quiet car, other than the engine, which vibrates at low revs in the typical three-cylinder manner. There’s little wind noise or tyre noise at freeway speeds or over coarse-chip bitumen. Accelerating up to speed the engine is noisy in a spirited way, without being anything like as harsh as the naturally-aspirated three-cylinder in the Mitsubishi Mirage. At higher road speeds the 208’s engine fades into the background.

The automatic transmission is generally smooth and narrows the gap between ratios quite well to keep the engine’s turbocharger on the boil. On a couple of occasions it did deliver a thump as it shifted down at low speeds.

Steering is a little odd at the straight-ahead, as mentioned in the recent light-hatch comparison in which the Peugeot took part. But it is direct and responsive off-centre. Roadholding is very safe, and the handling traits for the 208 reveal a mild propensity to tuck in tight on a trailing throttle. It’s fun, without making the transition into full-blown lift-off oversteer.

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Ride was firm three years ago, and it’s still firm today – albeit not to anything like the same extent as the Skoda Fabia in our comparison. The compensation there is the Peugeot’s body control over unsettling country bitumen.

The brakes provide good pedal feel and the automatic transmission shifts down readily to complement the braking action.

On dark country roads the headlights were unexceptional on low beam. The Peugeot came equipped with Parking Assistant, which wasn’t tried, since it only works in a parallel parking scenario. But with reversing parking sensors and an (optional) camera, the 208 was far from difficult to park in the time-honoured way.

Instruments are easy to read and the calibrations in the speedometer are mostly appropriate for the Aussie driving environment, unlike one or two other French cars I could name. While the Peugeot’s big brother, the 308, has a crazy tacho needle swinging the wrong way around the dial the 208’s instrument layout is comparatively conventional. The controls on the steering wheel are sparse, for a neater, simpler boss.

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Cruise control switchgear is located on a stubby stalk at the 8 o’clock position behind the wheel. It means you have to set and readjust the speed by feel, which sort of makes design sense, but isn’t to my liking. I would prefer to have the cruise control switchgear on the spokes of the wheel, easily operated by the thumbs, without lifting a hand off the wheel.

The infotainment system presented a nice looking display, and reacted promptly to even a light touch of the screen for new menus or settings.

Seats are comfortable and supportive, although some may not like being ‘perched’ so high – even though that does help with packaging and interior space in the 208. That high mounting, combined with the low-set steering wheel and the band of instruments in the upper section of the dash means the driver has a clear view of instruments and the road. The steering wheel is quite a small diameter too, making the 208 pretty wieldy at any speed. Most drivers of average height should be able to find a comfortable position behind the wheel, but it does take some time to get used to it – and if the driver falls outside the 85 percentile of height and physique, the 208 just may not suit.

photo6>The interior is warm and inviting, with nice upholstery (including leather) and a blend of gloss piano black trim, contrast (red) stitching and satin-finish brightwork. Flowing lines and the soft-touch material lend the 208 a sense of occasion, for such a relatively affordable car. Everything about the 208 seemed put together well, and the doors were particularly impressive for the quiet solidity with which they closed.

Rear-seat accommodation was sufficient for adults, even on longer journeys, although the lack of adjustable vents for kids back there could be a cause for concern on hot days.

But the question then arising is whether many buyers of the 208 in this level of trim will be transporting kids in the back seat anyway. Priced from over $27,490 before options, and equipped as it is, the 208 GT-Line misses the boat for young families, who are often budget-constrained. It will appeal more to cashed-up older couples who live in the inner city, where parking can be a contest of skill and daring.

There’s enough in the 208 – like the unexpected charisma of the engine, for instance, and the nice interior – to draw in buyers looking for something more than A-to-B transport… but in a compact package.

2016 Peugeot 208 GT-Line pricing and specifications:

Price: $28,990 (as tested, plus on-road costs)

Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol

Output: 81kW/205Nm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel: 4.5L/100km (ADR combined)

CO2: 104g/km (ADR combined)

Safety Rating: Five-star (ANCAP, 2013)

Source : http://www.motoring.com.au/peugeot-208-gt-line-2016-review-103518/


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