Steve Cropley
12 March 2012

What is it?

It is no exaggeration to call this the most important Peugeot in 20 years. This Peugeot 208 is the company's new supermini, heir to the legendary 205 that literally saved the company in the 1980s. The B-segment accounts for 40 per cent of Peugeot's car-building business and this new model - which introduces new standards of materials and manufacturing quality, plus completely new design style - has the weighty task of recovering the best-selling position attained by both the 205 and 206, but lost by the comparatively unsuccessful 207 during the 2000s. Peugeot has built 15 million superminis since it launched the 205 in 1983, but only 2.4 million of them were 207s.

The job is a tough one. The supermini class, which accounts for 30 per cent of sales in Europe, is smaller than it was in 2001 (4.1 million cars against 4.8 million) and whereas the 206 had 16 competitors in 2001, the 208 has 27 now. Even so, Peugeot confidently expects to be making 550,000 cars annually by next year, for sale mostly in Europe and South America. They will be almost exactly split between petrol and diesel models.

What’s it like?

The 208 is rather like Fiat's new Panda in consisting of an all new body and interior on a familiar but thoroughly revised platform and suspension. There are four trim levels (Access, Active, Allure and Feline) and three diesel and five petrol engine alternatives, ranging from the 68bhp, non-turbo 1.4 diesel to the 156bhp 1.6 turbo petrol unit. All engines except the punchiest 115bhp 1.6 turbodiesel, which has six speeds, come with five-speed manual gearboxes as standard.

Available in three- or five-door guise, the Peugeot 208 sits on the same wheelbase as the 207, with a developed MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a twist-beam system behind. Remarkably, the car is 70mm shorter than it predecessor (most of that length removed from the front overhang) and is 110kg lighter. The entry-level 1.0-litre Access three-door, powered by the smaller of two new three-cylinder engines - believed likely to cost from £9995 when prices are announced next month - weighs just 975kg, undercutting the lowest-powered 207 by a mighty 170kg, at great benefit to fuel consumption and CO2 output. Our test car was the top-end 115bhp turbodiesel, for the time being the only 208 to be equipped with stop-start, and with a standard six-speed gearbox, both oversights from the rest of the range in our opinion.

From outside, the 208 looks modern and pretty, and more of a ‘retail’ car than most thanks to its brightwork and svelte design. It is still easily recognisable as a Peugeot, though it has an all-new and much neater floating grille, new concave flanks and an aura of lightness and agility that always eluded the porky 207. The all-new interior design brings much higher standards of materials and manufacturing quality for a Peugeot, and introduces three intriguing new features, a smaller-diameter steering wheel, a fascia layout that requires you to look over the wheel at the instrument pack not through it as with most rivals, and a new touch screen (in 80 per cent of models) that is located high and within easy reach. It is an entirely different layout from previous Peugeots and all rivals.

It is obvious in your first few hundred metres of driving what impressive efforts Peugeot has put into matching the 208 with the best-driving cars in the market. The 115bhp diesel feels refined, long-legged and strong in the mid-ranges, and is especially good at fast motorway cruising. The ride is on the firm side and a shade noisy by Fiesta/Polo standards over the worst bumps, but our tests on the bad roads of Portugal seemed to show that the car will work well on the bad roads of Britain. The steering feels deliberate and accurate, though perhaps not quite as intuitive as the leading pair. Cornering grip levels are high; the 208 feels very stable and postpones final understeer until it is cornering extremely hard. The ESP, standard on every model, rarely intrudes. This an enjoyable, easy-driving car whose more petite dimensions are instantly obvious from the way it goes.

Faults? The new driving position, which forces everyone to look over the wheel, not through it, is likely to prove controversial. It doesn't suit everyone. The 115bhp engine seems a shade short on oomph at the top end. The five-door styling doesn't quite have the three-door's panache. Rear passengers may find headroom a little restricted, though knee-room is close to class-best. But in sum, the new 208 seems a good enough weapon for Peugeot to begin its quest to win back class domination.

Should I buy one?

Yes, probably. If you've liked Peugeot's superminis in the past, this one keeps the faith. If you loved the 205, but feel (as some Peugeot insiders admit on the quiet) that post-205 superminis lost their edge, this one is worth your attention because the edge is arguably back - accompanied by hitherto un-Gallic levels of quality. And even if you've always bought other superminis than Peugeots, you'll do well to consider this new 208 when it hits the UK market in June. In an immensely hard-fought sector, it most definitely competes hard.

Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDI Allure

Price: £13,000 (est); Top speed: 118 mph; 0-62 mph: 10.8sec; Economy: 74.3 mpg; CO2: 99g/km; Kerb weight: 1090 kg; Engine, type: 4cyl in-line turbodiesel, 1560cc; Installation: Transverse front-wheel drive; Power: 115bhp at 3600rpm; Torque: 199lb ft at 1750 rpm; Gearbox: Six-speed manual; Fuel tank: 50 litres; Wheels: 16-inch, alloy; Tyres: 195/55 R16

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Comments
44

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

Considering I was one who said I didn't like the looks when the first studio pics were shown, I have to say I might have changed my mind as that looks very nice indeed.

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

Looks a lot better than what came before, and the weight saving is impressive. The dash does look fussy, and the dial positions do seem odd. Reserving judgement on it until I see it in real life.

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

A lot better looking ,lighter and better driving is a great step up from the bloated 207.The dash design is a bit fussy.If the engine tested is short of top end power i fear the base 68bhp diesel wont move at all.

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

I can't remember the last time I drove a vehicle where I didn't look at the dials through the steering wheel, so I'm wondering how this dash design will work. I wonder if the wheel will be really low down? Have to wait and see.

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

I hired for a long weekend the previous model and suffered for every kilometer and had to do 1000 of them. I was never so grateful at returning a so called modern car!! The biggest annoyance was something which they seem to have very kindly carried over to this model "The ride is on the firm side and a shade noisy by Fiesta/Polo standards over the worst bumps" Maybe this one is slightly less noisy - but on Russian roads - it was a great discomfort and hugely tiring. No thanks - I dont want this one either. Plus the fact they have clearly been under pressure from the bean counters and will ask heavy increase in purchase prices for 6 speed manual or even bigger price for auto (which is the biggest seller these days).

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

"If you loved the 205, but feel (as some Peugeot insiders admit on the quiet) that post-205 superminis lost their edge, this one is worth your attention because the edge is arguably back - accompanied by hitherto un-Gallic levels of quality."

Despite the sales success of the 206, I find it hard to believe that Peugeot insiders only admit 'on the quiet' that the post-205 superminis lost their edge! Surely they admit so openly. The 205 saved the company and dominated the supermini market in the '80s (pace Fiat Uno) & early '90s in a way Peugeot cannot have dreamed of at launch.

All subsequent models were disappointments.

As a former 1.1 litre 205 XL owner (i.e. it had the 3 door 'GTI' body and a mighty 55 hp), it would be nice to see the 208 as competitive, fingers crossed... That was such a fun car, 20 years ago now. 145 tyres...

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

Definitely an improvement over everthing since the 205 but thats not very difficult is it .

Not entirely convinced by this which is a shame . Being an ex 205 owner I can remember they led the field in ride and handling but this looks mediocre at best .

Im beginning to think the Koreans make better small cars than the French thesedays plus the Korean models are less likely to break down .

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
There are four trim levels (Access, Active, Allure and Feline)

Allure and Feline!? Gawd. Still 95% girl's car then...

Quote:
Faults? The new driving position, which forces everyone to look over the wheel, not through it, is likely to prove controversial.

What in the? Doesn't everyone look over their steering wheel at the road outside? Who, apart from my two year old, peers through the middle of the wheel at the needles on the gauges? Has old age made Cropley shrink and/or lose his marbles? Could someone ask him if the 208 also required him to sit ON the seats and PUSH the pedals? Because I'm pretty sure those are normal too.

(Joking aside, if the driving position really does suck, lest we all forget it was what made the 207 so bloody irksome - thus I wonder why this new car is any more likely to fare better in sales charts.)

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

Impressive weight saving, but isn't that more a reflection of just how corpulent the 207 and its ilk have become? Surely any good car should also be an efficient one, and it's disappointing that the industry is only just now reacting to the need for cars with better fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

And is it me, but have all modern cars including this one not become grotesquely overstyled? What's wrong with simple, elegant shapes like those of the earlier 205, Fiat Uno and others? With its curvy flowing headlights and ornate interior, the 208 may look very fashionable to some, but just think how outdated it will look in five years time?

Re: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

2 years 37 weeks ago

ThwartedEfforts wrote:
Who, apart from my two year old, peers through the middle of the wheel at the needles on the gauges? Has old age made Cropley shrink and/or lose his marbles? Could someone ask him if the 208 also required him to sit ON the seats and PUSH the pedals? Because I'm pretty sure those are normal too.

I'm in my forties, 177cm tall and look though the steering wheel at the gauges, If you look over the top of the wheel then you must be over several metres tall or have lost your marbles which is it?

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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