In the hotly-contested small car class, being pretty good is nowhere near good enough.

With a collection of strong contenders and some aggressive pricing, any car aiming to carve a slice out of this lucrative market needs to be at the top of its game.

With lots of drivers downsizing but unwilling to accept a drop in quality, the Peugeot 208 has successfully made its mark with one of the most upmarket cabins in the compact hatchback class.

It also comes with a generous helping of equipment – both serious safety systems and fun stuff – and a range of clean, fuel-efficient engines.

Lining up against the likes of the Skoda Fabia, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, no model in the 208 range demonstrates that classy blend better than the distinctively-styled GT Line.

With neat, tidy handling, this is a practical, economical car with echoes of the full-blown performance flagship, the GTi, and the ability to catch the eye thanks to a black and chrome grille, black door mirror shells, chrome window surrounds and a chrome exhaust finisher.

GT Line badges are dotted around the car on the grille, front wings and tailgate with red Peugeot lettering front and rear.

The sporty feel extends into the cabin which is fitted with black sports seats with red stitching that extends to the door panels and handbrake. It is topped off with body-colour door handles, a compact, flat-base, leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, aluminium door sill finishers and aluminium pedal trims.

The piano black and carbon effect dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch touchscreen that gives access to systems including audio, navigation, telephone, vehicle information and Internet. On-board connectivity using Bluetooth, USB and mobile applications lets you use apps created for driving such as navigation or infotainment.

The 208 also offers the option of a number of systems designed to make life around town much easier.

One is Park Assist, an active system allowing the vehicle to park in and leave a parallel parking space automatically, along with Active City Brake and a reversing camera.

Active City Brake makes it possible to avoid an accident or reduce its seriousness if you fail to react quickly enough. It works in urban conditions at less than 20mph. A short range sensor is fitted at the top of the windscreen and can detect other vehicles driving in the same direction or stationary.

The reversing camera, available as an option from Active trim level, uses the large colour screen to help parking manoeuvres. This driving aid displays the outline of the vehicle and its trajectory by means of coloured lines, making manoeuvres safer and easier.

The GT Line model looks and feels very glamorous and while the 17-inch alloy wheels add to the glitzy appearance, they do little for the 208’s ride.

The GT Line is available with a choice of engines with the one driven here, the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol mated to a quick-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox, delivering a healthy 110 horsepower that is more than enough to cope with both round-town and long-distance work.

The 208 has been a stalwart of the Peugeot range since 2012 and a new model, on a new platform and including an all-electric version, is expected to make its debut later this year.

Auto facts

Model: Peugeot 208 GT Line PureTech 110

Price: £18,464

Insurance group: 15E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 62.8mpg

Top speed: 118mph

Length: 397.3cm/156in

Width: 173.9cm/68.3in

Luggage capacity: 10 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 116g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles