03:30PM, Friday 06 March 2020
Back when we were kids, adding go-faster stripes and badges with crossed Union Jacks and chequered flags became the norm after the launch of the Mini when people wanted to make their car look sporty.
Before that, young enthusiasts had frequently resorted to taking the body off decrepit cars and replacing it wholesale with some odd-looking fibreglass creation but these days the approach is generally more discreet.
VW and Peugeot made a great thing of the GTi badge, the latter with the 205 GTi that has become an icon of its genre and is keenly sought in the classic car world. Now it’s sufficient to give the car a badge that makes it sound like the original, so while Ford has the ST-Line on the Fiesta to mimic the earlier ST cars, Peugeot has GT Line on its latest 208, the spiritual successor to the 205.
Not that this makes the GT Line an imposter. After all, the original 1.6 litre GTi from the mid-80s, the one that many regard as the purest of the type, has an output of 105 PS, only four per cent more than the latest GT Line with its 1.2 litre engine, and achieved 0-62 mph in 9.5 seconds when the latest larger, heavier, more practical 208 GT Line five door can reach the same target in 10.8 seconds. At 118 mph, the original was only 1 mph faster than the new car.
What the latest car brings to the bunfight is 205 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm against the original’s 134 Nm at 4,000 rpm, making the modern car more relaxing to drive even though it’s 27 per cent heavier. Better still, the 208 GT Line manages a real world 43 mpg when the 80s car would struggle to get much above 30 mpg when used as its maker intended.
All this goes to show the progress that has been made with modern cars and, much as we like to hark back to the good old days, the modern kit is far less polluting and consumptive of oil than the older model which would have got nowhere near the new model’s 99 g/km of CO2 output even if such things were measured back then.
Back in the day of the first 205 GTi you would have struggled to find a small car that could handle being equipped with an automatic gearbox, although the Mini had been fitted with a four speed auto many years before, a rarity among the breed.
These days, small cars take an auto box more readily and the 208 is a good example of how it should be done. A few years back that would have been the last thing we said because the electronic shifting auto box in the PSA Group’s cars was horrible, with jerky ratio swaps making smooth changes almost impossible.
It was so bad we avoided driving them but now the opposite is the case. The latest 208 with the eight speed EAT8 auto box is exemplary, so much so that we would happily have kept it if our old bones could have lived with the lower entry height than we are used to and the manual seat adjusters.
Bearing in mind that this chunky little car only has 1.2 litres of cubic capacity to power it and its achievements are even more remarkable. It’s shared among only three cylinders so the engine has a muffled roar as a result which makes it sound powerful in a good old GTi sort of way.
While superminis like the 208 have grown physically, much of this is down to extra impact absorption so interior space is not generous for four adults, particularly if the front two are tall. However, a couple with two, or possibly three, children would find it sufficient, with a roofbox added for holidays.
Leg room for the driver is enhanced by Peugeot’s broad adoption of square steering wheels although as a device these are a mixed blessing. The drawback is that seeing the instruments in the low-mounted pod means having the top of the wheel rim even lower; accommodating the wheel involves driving with splayed knees or a high seat setting for tall drivers, neither of which is overly comfortable.
Car: Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2L PureTech 100 EAT8 S&S Automatic
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 10.8 secs
Top speed: 117 mph
PS: 102 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 205 Nm @ 1,750 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 44.3 – 50.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Best bits: generally great to drive