Johannesburg - Peugeot has given the flagship 1.2T GT Line model of its mini hatch an ever-so-slight styling touch-up and a technical tweak before the all-new 208 gets unveiled in Europe later this year.
For a car launched back in 2012 the French hatchback’s styling has aged very well, and it’s full of cheeky charm that includes tail lights shaped like a claw (or a waving hand if you use your imagination). The minor facelift involves slight changes to the lights and bumper, while the black grille gets red detailing.
Inside, the GT Line treatment lays on a sporty vibe with a black and red theme throughout the cabin, including on the sports seats and the doors. Aluminium door sill finishers and aluminium pedals are another unique GT Line feature.
The infotainment has been updated with a new feature called Mirror Screen, which uses MirrorLink for Android phones and Apple CarPlay for iPhones to display compatible apps on the 18cm touchscreen and manage them using the vehicle controls.
You can mirror an iPhone’s screen and all its apps onto the infotainment system, but with Android it only works with specific apps that you have to download (you can’t just use Google Maps, for instance, but have to install a separate navigation app).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Mirror Screen to work at all with my Samsung Galaxy S7 - hopefully iPhone users will have more luck.
At least I still had hands-free telephony via Bluetooth connection, and the ability to stream my phone’s music through the car’s speakers via Bluetooth or USB. I had difficulty with the sensitivity of the touchscreen, and sometimes had to jab an icon several times to change a radio station.
Infotainment issues aside, the range-topping Peugeot 208 is an appealing little car with a peppy nature and zippy handling.
The little 81kW/205Nm 1.2 three-cylinder petrol turbo is a perky engine that doesn’t feel underpowered, with a quoted top speed of 190km/h and 0-100km/h in 9.6 seconds.
At Gauteng altitude there’s a bit of lag that catches you out sometimes and necessitates some quick downshifting, but this isn’t a problem as that five-speed manual moves with slickness. A stop-start system helps save fuel and our test car sipped a frugal 6.4 litres per 100km.
It’s a fairly refined package and the 208 doesn’t blare any unwanted noises. You can distinctly hear the three-cylinder thrum of the engine at higher revs, which is more of a charm than an annoyance.
The ride is rather choppy in this short-wheelbase car, even though the 17” tyres aren’t particularly low profile. It’s a lightfooted cornering machine though, tucking into turns with an eager nature and nicely-weighted steering.
I never quite got used to the position of the steering, however, which is a Peugeot ergonomic gimmick that sees the wheel mounted below the instrument panel. This so-called i-Cockpit seems better resolved in newer Peugeots like the 2008 and 3008, but in the 208 I felt the little steering wheel was sitting nearly in my lap yet still blocked a small portion of the instruments.
Passenger space is tighter than some B-segment hatchback rivals and the 208 has only kiddie-spec legroom in the back seat, but the 311 to 1152 litre boot is quite decently sized and there’s a full sized spare wheel in the floor.
Priced at the premium end of the small-car segment at R269 900, the 208 GT Line comes with an appropriately bountiful spec sheet that includes cornering fog lights and LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers and dual zone climate control, along with all the expected button-operated conveniences.
The safety fare is also very generous with six airbags, ABS brakes, and stability control.
The price includes a three-year/100 000km warranty and three-year/45 000km service plan.
Though it’s soon to be replaced the current Peugeot 208 has mostly aged well. If you can live with its tight rear seat and odd steering position, the 1.2 GT Line lays on funky style with peppy performance, class-leading safety, and competitive pricing in its market segment. An appealing package - especially if you own an iPhone.