From £18,6558
Eye-catching supermini arrives in the UK in range-topping form. Can it compete with Audi and Mini?

What is it?

There’s a clear family link between this new Peugeot 208 supermini – driven here in the UK for the very first time – and the larger Peugeot 508 executive car.

It’s most obvious in the exterior styling, which could fairly be described as radical for the supermini segment. With the same ‘lion claw’ daytime running lights, conspicous three-digit badge on the nose, chunky wheelarch claddings and gloss-black bar connecting its LED tail-lights, it really stands out from its contemporaries, which include the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.

Slightly cartoonish proportions and mustard-yellow paint heighten the effect to the extent that, with the two cars side by side, you would guess far that more than two decades seperate the 208 from its turn-of-the-century 206 ancestor.

The ‘trickle-down effect’ continues inside. Whereas the previous 208 looked as normal as you like inside, the new model really is something else. The first thing you notice is how tiny the oblong steering wheel is. It sits below a new 3D version of Peugeot’s digital instrument display, whereon certain features  – most notably speed and the arrow representing your position on the sat-nav map – often seem closer to your own nose than the background. This is the kind of thing that feels more expensive – premium, if we must – than it was to develop.

To the left is a 10.0in infotainment touchscreen (7.0in on Active and Allure trims) that sits atop a helpful row of piano-key-style shortcut buttons. Well, one row of buttons in front of a row of flat touch-sensitive icons, which seems a very odd decision, because it means you can learn to operate by rote where only half the things are.

The display itself is clear and crisp, and its software reacts to your inputs with little delay, although it must be said that the menu structure is confusing. You also have to adjust the air conditioning via the touchscreen, which proves an endless source of frustration.

Most positively, however, the quality of the interior is very impressive. So fancy do the materials feel on all of the areas you touch regularly, whether plastic or faux leather, that perhaps the only fair comparison in the class is the Mini 5dr.

3 Peugeot 208 gt line 2020 uk fd hero rear

What's it like?

Once you’ve got comfortable with having the odd little wheel in an unnaturally low position (this may take more than a few hours of driving), you can think more about the steering, and then another clear link to the 508 presents itself.

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The 208 steers in a much similar manner to the more expensive Peugeot, feeling direct but also numb. While you wouldn’t call it vague, it doesn’t gather weight progressively or bite like that of the Fiesta or Seat Ibiza. This makes the 208 easy to manoeuvre around town, where admittedly most owners will spend the majority of their time, but it means you can forget any echoes of the famous 205 GTi.

On a country road, you simply don’t get the confidence that you would in a Fiesta to swing through corners. Sure, you can get going at a decent pace, and the strong grip available will prevent any unexpected wide-eyed moments, but this sort of jaunt won’t be something you chase. Indeed, at times, it can feel as if you’re playing an arcade game with a wheel that lacks force feedback.

Loose body control in corners contributes to your backing off. However, the predictable flipside to this softer chassis set-up is that ride quality is fantastic. Whether or not some additional fine-tuning has taken place since we first drove the 208 abroad, our fears of brittle damping appear not to have materialised in the UK.

On its passive suspension and torsion-beam rear, the 208 smooths over potholes and ridges in urban settings with surprising finesse. It’s equally impressive on the motorway, cruising sublimely while dealing nonchalantly with undulations; it’s softer than the Fiesta and even the new Renault Clio, exhibiting a kind of controlled floatiness. In fact, it’s also more comfortable overall than the Polo – until now the benchmark for comfort in this class.

Many a supermini is undermined by a lack of aural refinement, but here again the 208 shines, subjecting you to very little engine or road noise and only a gentle bluster of wind even at a sustained 70mph. Indeed, this car’s refinement is superb in general.

Also coming in for praise is, once again, the PSA Group’s turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine. Although the Ecoboost units employed by Ford feel more characterful still, the Puretech 130 version, with 129bhp, makes the 208 surprisingly pacey off the line and flexible enough for easy overtakes.

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So much so, in fact, that you probably wouldn’t be left wanting for power too much with the Puretech 100, with 99bhp. An added benefit on this would be the option of a six-speed manual gearbox. With the Puretech 130, you’re limited to an eight-speed automatic, and while the two make quite a cute couple, they do have the occasional misunderstanding. It’s fairly economical, too, getting up to 51.9mpg for our test car; we saw nearly 45mpg in mostly motorway driving.

5 Peugeot 208 gt line 2020 uk fd dashboard

Should I buy one?

With the most powerful engine option and in range-topping GT-Line trim, which you need if you want a sportier look (it gives you those arches and various other gloss black accoutrements) plus the larger touchscreen inside, the 208 comes in at £23,350. That's considerably above its base of £16,250 and, more pertinently, equates to around £267 per month on a typical PCP finance deal.

That’s easily A1 and Mini money, and the Parisian Lion will fall down in some buyers’ eyes for that fact alone. But it really shouldn’t, for this is a refined, comfortable and pleasant-to-drive supermini with eye-catching looks and a fantastically appealing – if not particularly spacious – interior.

The conclusion, then, must be that Peugeot’s run of impressive form, stretching back a fair few years at this point, continues.

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Peugeot 208 Puretech 130 GT-Line EAT8 specification

Where Sussex, UK Price £23,350 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls in line, 1199cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 129bhp at 5500rpm Torque 170lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1090kg Top speed 129mph 0-62mph 8.7sec Fuel economy 46.0-51.9mpg (WLTP combined) CO2 103g/km (NEDC Correlated) Rivals Audi A1, Ford Fiesta, Mini 5dr2 Peugeot 208 gt line 2020 uk fd hero side

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Zeddy 29 January 2020

I can't see what Chris finds

I can't see what Chris finds so radically different ot the older version inside.

Apart from the digital binnacle, it's pretty much the same including the steering wheel.

If it drives anything like the last one then meh.

typos1 29 January 2020

shame about the steering, but

shame about the steering, but I like it, its just really annoying that they dont paint the arches, door mirrors and rear spoiler - it looks like a base model with them black, its like theyve done it purposely so they can paint them on the facelift.

zippy2 28 January 2020

Looks nice

but that interior is ridiculous. The steering wheel obscures the instruments. All Peugeots suffer from this. Id take a nicely specced new Seat Lon for this kind of money or a Volvo XC40 T2 for a few more quid. 

typos1 29 January 2020

zippy2 wrote:

zippy2 wrote:

but that interior is ridiculous. The steering wheel obscures the instruments. All Peugeots suffer from this. Id take a nicely specced new Seat Lon for this kind of money or a Volvo XC40 T2 for a few more quid. 

The Leon is soo boring it would kill you - youd fall asleep behind the wheel and crash.