Peugeot 208 GT-Line 2020 review – new generation supermini moves the game forward

A Peugeot supermini in 2020 is a very different beast to those that came before; it’s clever, stylish and hides a sweet chassis that’s clawing to get out

Evo rating
  • Eager, composed and agile chassis, fantastic interior (if you fit in it properly)
  • Lethargic three-cylinder powertrain, expensive

The modern supermini is a very different car to the ones that existed 20 years ago. The Peugeot 206, for instance, had a steering column that would rub between your feet as they sat on the pedals, which were hilariously off-set to one side – polish was certainly off the agenda. But step into the new 208, some three generations the 206’s senior, and things are very different.

This all-new 208 really is all-new; it’s built on a new platform built by PSA that is also found under the new Corsa, and one destined to spread right across the wide reaches of its own brands, and those within its new FCA partnership.

> New Ford Fiesta ST-Line review - has the nation's favourite supermini still got it?

It’s bigger, more refined, more technologically advanced, and now available with a fully electric powertrain, but it’s the petrol model that is still likely to find more homes in the UK, for now anyway.

So we’ve opted to drive the 208 GT-Line PureTech, powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 98bhp. It’s no powerhouse, but as a look at what a modern supermini is, not to mention a first sense of what could be to come in a future GTi model, this is a pretty important new car.

Engine, performance and 0-60 time

We’re driving a 208 fitted with a 98bhp 1.2-litre ‘PureTech’ three-cylinder engine, which by all accounts is not particularly special on paper, but fights back as an energetic unit that pulls surprisingly hard for something with so little on-paper shove. For that, we can thank the turbo’s willingness to spin up promptly due to its compactness, making for a powertrain that feels far more punchy than its 96bhp and 151lb ft of torque would suggest.

When paired with the eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission fitted here, its 0-62mph time is a class competitive 10.8sec, 0.9sec slower than when fitted with the standard six-speed manual. The torque-converter’s slight power sappage isn’t quite offset by the manual’s longer gearing, and despite the longer final drive is also a few MPG less efficient. The 208’s top speed is 117mph.

If there is one surprise, it’s that the 208’s Aisin-sourced transmission is actually excellent when up and running. Changes are swift, smooth and very well calibrated to make the most of the engine’s weedy figures. It can be a tad jerky at the point of take off, but this seems to be something associated with most three-cylinder cars fitted with an automatic, or indeed dual-clutch transmissions.

Technical highlights

From a technical perspective, PSA’s new CMP modular platform that this new 208 is built on doesn’t have any real technical highlights, but the fact this new 208 is both bigger, more refined and loaded with kit, yet lighter than its dainty predecessor is highlight enough. Weighing in at just 1090kg for our GT-Line automatic, it’s an impressive feat considering how refined and substantial the 208 feels.

The interior also proves to be a big step forward in the supermini conversation, with a complex and ornate interior that’s interesting, well constructed, and even a little glamorous. A highlight is the 3D-effect i-Cockpit set-up, which takes Peugeot’s controversial small steering wheel, high-mounted dials combination one step further by squaring off the steering wheel into a sort of octagonal shape, while the now completely digital dial set is three-dimensional, thanks to some trick reflection-based projection similar to what you’ll find on a head-up display.

Lots of big-car tech has made its way into the 208, with a panoramic sunroof, massaging leather seats, adaptive LED headlights, active cruise control and a 10.1-inch high-set infotainment system all able to be specified.

What’s it like to drive?

In addition to a downsized steering wheel and high-set dials there’s also a new steering ratio that is far more direct than those of most of the 208’s rivals. In the previous 208 GTi and 308 GTi it meant fantastically direct turn-in, underpinned by performance-oriented rubber and wider front tyres. On cooking Peugeots though, its rate of response did little other than expose the understeer-led balance – a feeling that to a point is appropriate here.

Of course, this 98bhp version was never going to feel as agile or enthusiastic as the previous 208 GTi, but there is certainly an impressive level of ability within the new 208’s chassis, which feels happy to move around on its suspension without losing composure over bumps or undulations through a corner. The damping is well judged, and avoids being needlessly firm, and wheel control feels excellent.

The steering is still mostly devoid of feel though, and while the short-geared automatic transmission does its best to keep the engine in its sweet spot, the comfortable, balanced set-up clearly favours comfort over entertainment.

At cruising speeds, town speeds, and on the motorway, the 208 is a very accomplished supermini though. Refinement is impressive (although the three-cylinder does struggle to contain vibrations at idle oddly), and all the controls feel more finely calibrated than in many a supermini rival.

Prices, specs and rivals

Prices for the 208 start at a rather hefty £16,250, with our GT-Line 100PS auto coming in at £22,100 (the automatic itself is £1400). The range-topping e-208 is priced at £31,600 in the same GT-Line specification, making it model-for-model a £9500 premium on our 98bhp 1-litre.

To balance the GT-Line’s high price point, it’s loaded with standard features such as 17-inch alloys, ambient lighting, automated parking assistance, climate control, satnav, those funky LED lights, front and rear sensors, and a rear camera.

Rivals in the supermini class are extensive, the equally fresh Renault Clio being its most obvious rival. Spec for spec, an R-Line model fitted with a 98bhp 1-litre turbocharged triple and automatic gearbox (a CVT on this occasion) is quite substantially cheaper at £19,395 without any real compromises in standard equipment. The new Clio’s interior has less flair, but is equally well built.

The Ford Fiesta ST-Line X Edition, fitted with a 98bhp 1-litre three-cylinder and automatic transmission, costs £22,395, has less standard equipment and a rather dull cabin, but is a sweeter drive at the extreme. The Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Fabia, SEAT Ibiza and its kind are all extremely dull, if competent and competitively priced.

Despite its mainstream origins the new 208, more than most in the class, has found a way of making a supermini feel, well, super. It’s just that bit less agile and oily-slick than a Fiesta, so if ultimate driving thrills are your biggest priority, the Fiesta might still be preferred, but taken as a package, the 208 has certainly moved the game on.

More on 208

All-new Peugeot 208 revealed – a striking base for the next 208 GTi
Peugeot 208 live - front quarter
Peugeot 208 hatchback

All-new Peugeot 208 revealed – a striking base for the next 208 GTi

Supermini to launch with petrol, diesel and full-electric drivetrains in 2019, GTi to come
5 Mar 2019
2019 Peugeot 208 spied - the Ford Fiesta’s gallic nightmare
Peugeot 208 spied - rear
Peugeot 208 hatchback

2019 Peugeot 208 spied - the Ford Fiesta’s gallic nightmare

All-new next-gen supermini spied before its reveal at Geneva this year
9 Jan 2019
Peugeot 208 review - a supermini for keen drivers?
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 review - a supermini for keen drivers?

Not the best-driving car in the class, but GTi models prove there's a good chassis underneath Peugeot's supermini
9 May 2016
Sébastien Loeb teams up with Peugeot for 2016 Dakar
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Sébastien Loeb teams up with Peugeot for 2016 Dakar

Nine-time World Rally Champion to drive 2008 DKR in 'world's toughest rally'
29 Sep 2015
Peugeot and Loeb smash Pikes Peak record: video and details
Peugoet 208 T16 video at Pikes Peak Sebastien Loeb
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot and Loeb smash Pikes Peak record: video and details

Sebastien Loeb and the Peugeot 208 T16 tear up the Pikes Peak Hill Climb record books. Video and details here
15 Aug 2014
Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014 review
Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014 review

The 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed saw strong attempts on hill climb records - with some painful results
30 Jun 2014
Peugeot 208 GTI
Peugeot 208 GTI
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 GTI

Peugeot would like us to think that its new 208 GTI possesses the same hot hatch magic as its iconic ’80s forebear, the 205 GTI. But does it? Here’s w…
11 Jul 2013
Peugoet 208 T16 video at Pikes Peak
Peugoet 208 T16 video at Pikes Peak
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugoet 208 T16 video at Pikes Peak

Video footage as Sebastien Loeb practises on the Pikes Peak hillclimb for the first time in his Peugeot 208 T16
14 Jun 2013
Group B rally cars: picture gallery
Peugeot 205 T16
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Group B rally cars: picture gallery

Group B rally cars were some of the most wild and exciting cars ever produced. Here's a gallery of some of the best, in both road and fire-spitting ra…
30 May 2013
Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak video
Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak video Red Bull livery
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak video

Video of Sebastien Loeb climbing Mont Ventoux in his Pikes Peak ready Peugeot 208 T16
29 May 2013
Peugeot 208 T16 livery revealed
Peugeot 208 T16 livery revealed
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 T16 livery revealed

Peugeot has revealed the final livery for this year's 208 T16 Pikes Peak rally car, wearing the Peugeot Sport stripes and Red Bull sponsorship.
14 May 2013
Pikes Peak Peugeot: new video
Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16 Sebastien Loeb
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Pikes Peak Peugeot: new video

Video of Sebastien Loeb driving his Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16 for the first time
10 May 2013
Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak specs
Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak front view
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak specs

Peugeot's 208 T16 Pikes Peak competitor has 875bhp plus Le Mans racing car running gear
23 Apr 2013
Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16 revealed
Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16 revealed

Official pictures as Sebastien Loeb's Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16 is revealed in full
15 Apr 2013
Peugeot at Pikes Peak 2013
Peugeot 208 T16 at Pikes Peak 2013 rear view
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot at Pikes Peak 2013

Peugeot makes a Pikes Peak hillclimb return, with nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb piloting a new 208 T16
28 Mar 2013
Peugeot 208 T16 rally car
Peugeot 208 T16 rally car
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 T16 rally car

As the legendary 205 turns 30, the T16 badge comes back for the Peugeot 208 rally car
21 Feb 2013
BBR Mazda MX-5 Turbo vs PUG1OFF Peugeot 205 GTI 195 review
BBR Mazda MX-5 Turbo vs PUG1OFF Peugeot 205 GTI 195
Peugeot 208 hatchback

BBR Mazda MX-5 Turbo vs PUG1OFF Peugeot 205 GTI 195 review

They were great in the early ’90s, and now, with some choice upgrades, this Peugeot 205 GTI and mk1 Mazda MX-5 offer thrills to rival modern performan…
21 Feb 2013
Peugeot 205 30th anniversary picture gallery
Peugeot 205 GTI 1.6
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 205 30th anniversary picture gallery

The Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the best-loved and successful hatchbacks of all time - here's why it's still so fondly remembered after 30 years
21 Feb 2013
Peugeot announces 208 GTI prices
Peugeot 208 GTI prices
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot announces 208 GTI prices

Peugeot has set prices for its latest hot hatch at £18,895 - on sale later this year.
28 Jan 2013
Peugeot 208 THP 156 review - specifications, price and 0-60 time
Peugeot 208 Feline THP 156 front
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 THP 156 review - specifications, price and 0-60 time

The Peugeot 208 THP 156 is a warmed-up preview of the 208 GTI. What can we look forward to?
3 Jan 2013
Peugeot 208 GTI Limited Edition
Peugeot 208 GTI Limited edition
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 GTI Limited Edition

Peugeot has announced a limited edition version of the 208 GTI, with just 29 destined for the UK.
26 Sep 2012
Peugeot 208 GTI unveiled
Peugeot 208 GTI unveiled
Peugeot 208 hatchback

Peugeot 208 GTI unveiled

Peugeot has unveiled images of the 208 GTI, the company's return to the hot-hatch market - to be unveiled at the Paris motor show.
3 Sep 2012