The Peugeot 208 has so much to live up to, thanks to Peugeot's successes with its 205 and 306.

With hits like that in its back catalogue, is it any wonder that its latest chart entries fail to scale the same giddy heights? Those heights aren’t necessarily defined by sales, but by lasting affection and identity. In other words, by what they mean to enthusiasts.

When was the last time that a Peugeot gave you ‘the drive of your life’, as one of the French car maker’s advertising tag lines once promised?

Our guess would be the late 1990s, when Peugeot seemingly handed Ford the right to make the most entertaining ‘normal’ cars in Europe and gave us instead the 1007, 206 and 307. The Peugeot 207, it’s fair to say, was even worse than the 206.

Recently, Peugeot has had better times. So here we are, with a replacement for the 207, on the back of some moderately entertaining, engaging family cars that show genuine promise.

The new 208 is based on an overhauled  ‘PF1’ platform inherited from the old 207, so although the skin, cabin and many of the engines are all-new, the mechanicals aren’t. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, which remains the supermini class standard.

Peugeot is to be congratulated, however, for having taken more than 100kg of kerb weight out of the 207, which should contribute to the 208's efficiency, performance and handling.

If the 208 can recapture a little of the original spirit, this could be Peugeot’s best small car for a generation. We’ll see.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper
    Its various improvements make the new Mini more desirable and practical than ever before

    Mini Cooper

    2
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo
    The Polo is a polished, mature-feeling, spacious supermini

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • The Honda Jazz is an expensive small car, especially the hybrid version

    Honda Jazz

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    2 September 2015
    Kia facelifts its Cee'd and drops its six-speed torque converter in favour of a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the process. We drive it for the first time
  • First Drive
    1 September 2015
    Kia has developed a better-mannered, more sophisticated Sportage for 2016
  • First Drive
    31 August 2015
    Thought the 3 Series was losing its edge? Well it's back, with a facelifted version that offers improved performance and dynamics. Does it reclaim its top spot after our drive on UK roads?
  • First Drive
    27 August 2015
    BMW gives its flagship 7 Series an extensive overhaul in a bid to tempt buyers of luxury cars away from the Mercedes S-Class, Audi's A8 and the Jaguar XJ
  • First Drive
    26 August 2015
    New Qashqai rival majors on practicality and usability and benefits from a long warranty, but lower-specification versions are the better bet