The entry-level model in Peugeot's 208 range is equipped with a turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Also on offer is two more powerful iterations of the 1.2-litre petrol, two 1.6-litre petrols, and frugal 1.6-litre diesels. Topping the range is the GTi model, which features a 205bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine.
If the Peugeot's advertised weight reduction for the 208 has led you to hope for big strides in its performance, this won’t make easy reading. At best, the mid-range 1.2-litre petrol’s performance is ordinary – mediocre, even. At worst, in some ways it’s downright sub-standard compared with most other superminis of the same capacity and price.
That it takes a full 1.5sec longer than a 1.2-litre Suzuki Swift to crack a standing quarter mile, isn’t a massive condemnation, the Suzuki being one of the class’s dynamic over-performers. Owners of the 208 may not seem the type to be concerned by flat-out acceleration, but when the motive force on offer is as limited as in this car, they should be.
More serious is the lack of refinement and flexibility displayed by the engine, which is electronically restrained from a standstill when you open the throttle wide and delivers its torque in an uneven and fairly raucous way through much of the rev range.
Worse still, whether you’re bumbling along in traffic or out on your own between the hedges, the Peugeot 208 isn’t a particularly easy or pleasant car to interact with. Our test car had a troublesome clutch pedal with too much dead travel and a baggy manual gearchange; similar issues have dogged diesel models we've tested, Add a small but detectable dose of driveline shunt and the impression is of a car that feels imprecise and underdeveloped.
As for fuel efficiency, we’ve tested several petrol-powered hatches of the same size as the 208, some with bigger engines, that have returned better than its 40.9mpg as an average, but this is still a decent result. In the more gentle driving that owners are likely to give it, you should expect to see the good side of 45mpg.
In urban driving of the far more congenial 99bhp 1.6-litre e-HDI, we achieved more than 55mpg. Having said this, that version commands a substantial premium, which is a lot to pay for a 10mpg improvement. Similarly, the 118bhp version of the motor, mated to a far superior six-speed manual gearbox, is arguably the pick of the range, but is also only available at its apex.