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New supermini turns on the style, but how much substance lies behind that?

Our Verdict

Peugeot 208

Peugeot has shown dynamic promise of late. Will the Peugeot 208 be a hit?

2 October 2019
Peugeot 208 1.2 100 Allure 2019

What is it?

What’s the difference between a small hatchback built by Peugeot and one built by Volkswagen?

One unappreciated distinction is that the Volkswagen will retain its name when a new generation is introduced whereas the Peugeot won’t. The first Polo arrived in 1975 and you can still buy ‘a Polo’ today. Peugeot gave us the tiny 104 hatch in 1976 but, since then, the same basic recipe has variously gone by the numbers 205, 206, 207 and, most recently, 208. For the casual observer, that’s a bit confusing, and if you’re Peugeot, it’s not great for brand building.

That’s why we now have another 208. Peugeot thinks continuity and familiarity might help its supermini better challenge the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Polo, so the 208 moniker gets an encore, even though the car itself is almost entirely new, or at least heavily refreshed.

There’s a lot to get stuck into. The design is radically different from that of the outgoing model, which now looks meek by comparison. The new car is fractionally longer and wider but lower than before. It also gets aggressive-looking lighting cues and the windscreen has been slid back to create a longer snout and better-defined proportions. Higher-trim levels are then fitted with sleek, gloss-black wheel-arch extensions that tie in with a tail-light graphic stretching the entire width of the bootlid.

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From the front, you might argue there’s a touch of Audi A1 going on but, from behind, the 208 looks like a masked superhero come to vanquish boring design in the B-segment. In the metal, it’s a very good-looking car, even though there’s no three-door option.

The engine line-up is less exciting but arguably more interesting. The overhauled 208 is the first supermini to offer petrol, diesel and pure-electric powertrain options all under one bodyshell – something enabled by the PSA Group’s new modular CMP platform for small cars.

Peugeot’s 1.2-litre Puretech three-cylinder petrol engine is offered in a trio of tunes ranging from 75bhp to 128bhp and you can also get an economical 99bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel or the 134bhp all-electric e-208 with its 211 miles of WLTP-certified range.

The platform is clever because whichever the engine or motor, it slots into the same structural nook, so all three versions can be built on the same production line. That matters because while only one in 20 buyers will go for diesel, Peugeot expects as many as one in five UK buyers to pick the electric e-208.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the e-208 that costs the most. The most basic 208, Active trim with the 74bhp engine, costs £16,250 while our test car, a 99bhp model in well-equipped mid-ranking Allure guise, costs just under £19,000. Even after a £3500 government grant, the least you’ll pay for the e-208 is £25,050. The best option for those who undertake longer drives is the diesel, rated at up to 71.4mpg combined compared with around 50mpg for the petrols.

What's it like?

Whichever 208 you’re driving, it’ll play its trump card early. The interior is very strong. In fact, this is arguably the most attractive driving environment in the segment and sits near the top for comfort and certainly in the top half for perceived quality.

At its extremities, the new two-tier dashboard curls around the edges of the cabin, and at its centre, the digital display (7.0in as standard, 10.0in optionally or with GT trim) tilts towards the driver with a row of toggle switches nestled below. The division of labour between the physical controls and those on the touchscreen display still isn’t perfect and VW Group products are generally more intuitive, but there’s little else to frustrate and the layout is very neat and feels mature.

Peugeot’s i-Cockpit (where you view the dials over the top of the wheel, remember, rather than through it) is also reprised, this time with a steering wheel fit for a concept car and a 3D digital instrument panel that did in fact originate from Peugeot’s Quartz concept. Although it seems like a gimmick, the idea is that information is split between two panels, one of which sits a few centimetres closer to the driver and displays more urgent information, such as speed and various alerts.

Like the new Clio, the 208 is now generously equipped with electronic safety systems, although you’ll still pay extra for adaptive cruise control. Elsewhere, the 208 is competitive for cabin and boot space, but avoid the panoramic roof if you don’t want rear passengers to feel too enclosed.

Dynamically, the outlook is mixed. This revised three-cylinder petrol is polite, burbling gently at idle, pulling cleanly and operating in barely audible fashion at cruising speeds, despite the fact that wind noise isn’t something from which the 208 obviously suffers. For all this, Ford’s equivalent Ecoboost unit has it licked for character and feels livelier, even if the Peugeot is quicker on paper.

On smoother roads, the new chassis, with its torsion beam rear and passive suspension, rides mainly with impressive ease, although some of the rougher Portuguese surfaces on our test route raise concerns about its UK B-road credentials. At times, the damping can seem brittle, as if the car is sitting on overly short springs and very low-profile tyres. This is an odd discovery because body control is generally, if anything, on the loose side. Further testing, on UK roads, is needed before we can make any conclusive assessment.

Elsewhere, there are times when the new-found weight in the direct steering (still slightly elastic off centre and still light) and the free-moving rear axle can make for entertaining progress. Again, the Fiesta is better balanced and more linear in its controls, and a Seat Ibiza more alert in its handling, but the benign Peugeot never springs any unpleasant surprises and grips well.

Should I buy one?

Ultimately, Peugeot has picked its battles and invested accordingly: the 208’s appeal continues to lie mainly in its design. The big difference is that perceived quality now lives up to the ambitious interior styling and it all sits inside a tremendously attractive body.

With strong residuals forecast, it’s a likeable package, if not the most engaging in the close-fought supermini class.

Peugeot 208 1.2 100 Allure specification

Where Lisbon, Portugal Price £18,850 On sale now Engine 3 cyls, 1199cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 99bhp at 5500rpm Torque 151lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1090kg Top speed 117mph 0-62mph 9.9sec Fuel economy 46.6-53.0mpg CO2 96-102g/km Rivals Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio

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2 October 2019

A simply great looking car, one that will compete with the Kuga and I suspect will win in the show rooms with that interior. For me the only weak link in their range is the 308 and I suspect that the electric 308 will sell rather better than Peugeots expectations.

2 October 2019

The Ford Kuga is a large SUV the Peugeot 208 is a small supermini. These cars do not compete directly with each other they are not even the same type of car or in the same class or same size. The Ford Fiesta is its competitor from Ford not the Kuga.  Me I would have the 208 or the Clio but I think it would be 208 first Clio 2nd the interior in the Puegeots are just great. They are classy, well built and really stylish too. 

2 October 2019

Why does Autocar persist in quoting prices for old models which have nothing in common with the car on test? 

And can this all new Peugeot, in either its 1.2 petrol or EV guises, really be so average, only worthy of 3.5 stars? 

Maybe the "British Vauxhall version will fare better- and I suspect that the French publications think it's wonderful. 

2 October 2019

 No, not really, if you like light steering, an up market looking interior and the overall shape of the Car then you'll buy one, but, for me, I'd be waiting for the GTi.....?

2 October 2019

Great car. The (ongoing and silly) comparison with a (extremely dull) Fiesta is sensleess. Of course Brits favor that German little Ford or the German (utterly boring) Polo. But at the end of the day, both will struggle to keep up with the (classy & athletic) Clio and 208 in the EU salescharts.

2 October 2019

another review of a French car full of faint praise and nitpicking. Do you really need to start the review of a Peugeot talking about Volkswagen?

And "so the 208 moniker gets an encore, even though the car itself is almost entirely new, or at least heavily refreshed"... really? It's an entirely new platform!

8 October 2019

Spot on, Flippouy!

2 October 2019

it looks really good on the outside.  Then you look inside and see that they have done that stupid fascia above the steering wheel thing again.  Such a great idea that every car manufacturer is doing it.  Not.

8 October 2019

PSA sold 5 mio units with the current dash layout. Seems quite some folks have a different opinion. Just as in real life. PS: After Toyota (8,9%), PSA has the higest margin in the volume carmaking business (8,7%). Well above Benz, Bimmer, Audi and VW. 

2 October 2019

It really is a good looking car, really pleased that Peugeot have their Mojo back!


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