What is it?
Three cylinder engines, so long an oddball configuration, seem soon to become the norm. Vauxhall, VW and Ford have them and we can now add Peugeot. And you’ll not need more than a minute in the Peugeot 208 1.2VTI to see why.
Here is a cracking little engine, as full of fizz at its redline as its four pot brethren are of protestation. It’s smooth, easy on the ear and capable of conferring performance quite beyond its apparently modest output.
What's it like?
And this is illusory only in part. Of course its infectious enthusiasm helps create the mere perception of speed, but its nature also means you’re egged on into actually using its power while the less smooth fours always tempt you to change up. But here’s the killer: the 1.2-litre three cylinder 208 is so much lighter than the 1.4-litre four, their power to weight ratios are a meaningless 3bhp/tonne apart. But while the 1.4 does 50.4mpg, the 1.2 does 62.7mpg.
Given the price advantage too, the case for three over four would already be unanswerable. But it doesn’t stop there: the three lightens the car by an astounding 95kg – almost 10 per cent of its entire weight - and every gramme of it off the front end. In a light car like this, the effect on handling is transformative. It has balance and poise unknown to other 208s, and steering of a different order.
Should I buy one?
Forget all the figures and instead hear this: for decades we’ve been searching for the small Peugeot hatch that’s actively fun to drive, like once they all were. And at last it’s here. It’s not a GTI and it doesn’t need to be. It is said that less is often more, but rarely more so than in the brave new world of the Peugeot 208.
Peugeot 208 1.2 VTi Active 5dr
Price: £11,600 approx; 0-62mph: 12.2sec; Top speed: 108mph; Economy: 62.7mpg; Co2: 104g/km; Kerbweight: 975kg; Engine type: front, transverse, 3cyls, 1199cc; Power: 82bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 87lb ft at 2750rpm; Gearbox: 5-speed manual