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The e-208 was once top of the small EV class. Can the facelift help it beat the Chinese competition?

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Anyone who has been to mainland Europe in the past few years will have seen a 208. They’re everywhere. Officially the best-selling car in Europe last year, in fact. This new Peugeot e-208 has an awful lot to live up to, then.

Electric cars have been gaining traction in other market niches over the past decade, but increasingly tough legislation and the rapid reduction in technology costs mean that electric power is no longer purely the preserve of bigger, faster and more expensive machines.

Closely related to the Vauxhall Corsa Electric, it goes toe to toe with the BYD Dolphin and MG 4. The e-208 offers rapid charging, a posh-ish interior, and the range and usability to convert those buyers who have thus far been EV sceptics. But is it good enough to be classed among the best small electric cars you can buy?

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DESIGN & STYLING

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 14 panning side

This facelifted model actually brings quite a lot of changes – if you look closely and pick the right version.

Visually, the big change is to the front end. The current-generation 208 was one of the first models to adopt the three-claw mark light signature that now features on a lot of Peugeots, but for this update it has actually been toned down a bit, with the LEDs moving down from the headlight and into the bumper.

I loved the light signature on the pre-facelift GT, with its round main light and distinctive claw marks and 'tusks'. It's a pity that has been toned down on the facelift, though the lower trims do look less poverty-spec.

There are a number of new alloy wheel designs and the grille – ornamental on this electric version, of course – has been redesigned with body-colour elements.

Overall, it’s a handsome and well-proportioned machine – arguably the French firm’s best small car effort for years.

The e-208’s CMP (Compact Modular Platform) underpinnings have been carefully conceived to accommodate an electric motor and substantial battery pack without significant re-engineering.

The car’s lithium ion battery pack is housed beneath the floor in what is effectively an ‘H’ pattern and comes in two varieties, 50kWh (47kWh usable) and 54kWh (50.8kWh usable). That’s not a huge difference, you might think, but the real benefit from the latter comes in the efficiency of the battery-motor combination.

You see, the 50kWh is the old set-up and comes with a 134bhp motor and a WLTP range of 225 miles. Despite having a more powerful, 154bhp motor, the 54kWh version can do 248 miles, according to the WLTP test. Annoyingly, you can only have the upgraded mechanicals when you opt for the range-topping GT trim. At least you get a heat pump as standard.

Overall, the battery packs adds an extra 300kg to the 208 compared with a typical piston-engined model, but efforts have been made to locate the extra mass as low as possible and to keep it within the wheelbase.

A further neat touch is that a heat pump for the air conditioning and heating system is standard, which should benefit the efficiency in winter.

INTERIOR

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 17 dash

Peugeot has been on a premium push over the past few years, challenging established upmarket brands for both finish and eye-catching design. With the 208, it has certainly succeeded with the latter, the slick dashboard design being a particular highlight.

Featuring the latest evolution of the now familiar i-Cockpit layout, the e-208 gets a high-set instrument cluster that sits above a small-diameter steering wheel. All cars on this platform have very limited front leg room, which can be problematic for taller drivers, but it’s made even more so by having to set the steering wheel as low as the i-Cockpit requires you to. As with many other Peugeots, it’s worth at least sitting in one before committing to purchase, because it suits some people but others find it a deal-breaker.

On higher trims, there's a 3D effect to the gauge cluster. It's neat and I like it, but I would have preferred some physical temperature controls. The voice activation is also completely unhelpful in that respect.

The 10.0in infotainment screen sits centrally and is angled towards the driver. Below this is a line of neatly arranged ‘piano’ keys that provide some shortcuts for climate controls (though not, frustratingly, the temperature adjustment), as well as a touch-sensitive home button and one for the driver assistance features. There used to be a whole row of shortcut buttons, but those were deleted with the facelift.

Yet while soft plastics are used for the major touch points and the switchgear features a pleasing mix of gloss black and brushed metal finishes, there are still too many low-rent materials in evidence around the cabin for the car to strike a consistently high impression of perceived quality.

Peugeot’s commitment to packaging the EV running gear as unobtrusively as possible has made the most of what’s available when it comes to space and practicality but, in some areas, that’s still not a great deal. Rear-seat space is very tight indeed, though the 309-litre boot is decent for the class. There’s no false floor to hide the charge cable underneath, however.

There are plenty of handy stowage spaces around the car, plus four USB ports (including USB-C).

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 22 performance

There is certainly something to be said for the refusal of Peugeot parent company Stellantis to engage in the arms race of EV outputs. There’s no real need for a normal electric hatchback to have more than 160bhp, so the e-208 doesn’t have it.

While the 134bhp version can feel a little mean in some of the bigger Stellantis models such as the Citroën C4X, it is able to give the little 208 plenty of zip. Confusingly, the 154bhp version is a tenth slower to 62mph on paper. We’ve not performance tested it, but it certainly felt more than quick enough for a car that’s not billed as a hot hatch.

The e-208’s motor emits quite a pronounced whine. I liked it initially because it’s a bit of character. However, I quickly grew tired of it since it’s not a very nice noise.

Drivability in practice is a more of a mixed bag, because when you first put your foot down, you might be very underwhelmed by the performance. That’s because in Normal mode, the last 30% or so of the power is reserved for when you push through the ‘kickdown switch’. In our view, this serves no purpose, although it is harmless enough. Sport mode unlocks full power, while Eco mode dulls the accelerator further and switches off various climate functions.

Peugeot keeps things very simple on the regen front, which might well be comforting to first-time EV drivers. In D mode on the drive selector, the car decelerates quite gently when you let off the accelerator. In B mode, it does so more strongly. However, both a coasting mode and a true one-pedal mode that brakes you to a stop are absent. Feel from the brake pedal is rather soft and synthetic, but it’s easy enough to modulate.

RIDE & HANDLING

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 23 rear cornering

When we road tested the original e-208 in 2020, our test car was a mid-spec Allure trim with smaller wheels and standard suspension. We were quite impressed with the level of comfort that the car offered. Sure, there was a fair amount of body roll, but it was well-controlled and driven briskly, there was a fluidity to the way the Peugeot went down the road that was reminiscent of French hatchbacks of a decade or so ago. At the same time, its 195-section tyres didn’t quite seem up to the task of convincing 1500kg to change direction.

The e-208 we tried in 2024, which had the larger battery and was specified as a GT Line, felt like the polar opposite. While its stiff suspension was just about up to the task of negotiating bumpy roads, it had a brittle edge that made it quite uncomfortable around town and on poorly surfaced roads. You couldn’t just feel the ruts and potholes: you could also hear them as the wheels clanked through them. On the flip side, it was fitted with 205-section Michelin Primacy 4 tyres, which gave it a real tenacity in the corners.

Despite that, the e-208 never came close to echoing GTi vibes, whether in Allure or GT spec. For that, its handling balance is just too safe. You can just about get the nose to tuck in on a trailing throttle but not much more. That said, the steering never inspires enough confidence to entice you to push the e-208 hard. There’s not much feedback, and the almost yoke-like steering wheel can make steering inputs rather snatchy.

The traction and stability control are well tuned – not always a given in front-wheel-drive EVs. The e-208 pulls away from junctions with no wheelspin, and just a bit of torque steer, even if you floor the accelerator.

On long distances, you will enjoy the e-208’s acoustic refinement. It is very quiet for a supermini. However, its suitability as a motorway car will depend on whether you find the seats comfortable. Most trims don’t include adjustable lumbar support, and even the top trim doesn’t allow you to tilt the cushion. In combination with the small steering wheel and shortage of leg room, this can make it a very tiring car for some drivers.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 13 cornering front

At £31,600 in entry-level Active trim, the 47kWh e-208 is around £10,000 more expensive than a petrol model. Of course, potentially much lower running costs will help to offset the higher purchase price and, for business users, there is currently just 2% benefit-in-kind taxation to pay. However, if you want the bigger battery, you’ll need to upgrade to the range-topping GT. This costs £35,450 with the small battery, or £36,250 for the big battery. Tick all the options, and you can end up with a £39,460 supermini.

Then again, list prices are not as relevant as they used to be. Peugeot tends to offer very favourable PCP terms and, as a result, it’s only slightly more expensive than an MG 4 on similar terms. That said, the MG is still a much larger and longer-range car.

We got only around 3.5mpkWh out of the 51kWh test car – 3.6mpkWh in very gentle motoring. That yields a real-world range of only 178 miles, and the 47kWh version would be slightly worse still. It’s strange that the e-208 is less efficient than the bigger but mechanically very similar e-308. That shows that in the electric era, aerodynamics are more important than weight.

Peugeot quotes a peak rapid-charging speed of 100kW, which is quite decent for this type of car and certainly better than the BYD Dolphin. We’ve not done a rapid-charging test with the e-208 to verify this figure, but we’ve tested several other Stellantis EVs with the same architecture. The results for the Jeep Avenger and Fiat 600e can be found on our quickest-charging electric cars page.

VERDICT

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peugeot e 208 review 2024 25 static

Judged purely as a supermini, the regular Peugeot 208 on which this car is based isn’t in the top echelons of the class: it looks great but we’d like it to be more practical and its chassis to have a little more sparkle.

As a small electric car, though, the e-208 has carved out more of a niche for itself, thanks to its blend of style, performance, drivability and that all-important range.

However, the Vauxhall Corsa Electric is largely the same car underneath, but has a more conventional driving position and is slightly cheaper. The MG 4 is cheaper, roomier, more comfortable and has a longer range, and left-field alternatives such as the BYD Dolphin and the GWM Ora 03 (which is far less objectionable since its latest revision) are worth considering too, if you can live with their tech quirks. And that’s before we get to the imminent Renault 5, Mini Cooper E and Volkswagen ID 2.

Murray Scullion

Murray Scullion
Title: Digital editor

Murray has been a journalist for more than a decade. During that time he’s written for magazines, newspapers and websites, but he now finds himself as Autocar’s digital editor.

He leads the output of the website and contributes to all other digital aspects, including the social media channels, podcasts and videos. During his time he has reviewed cars ranging from £50 - £500,000, including Austin Allegros and Ferrari 812 Superfasts. He has also interviewed F1 megastars, knows his PCPs from his HPs and has written, researched and experimented with behavioural surplus and driverless technology.

Murray graduated from the University of Derby with a BA in Journalism in 2014 and has previously written for Classic Car Weekly, Modern Classics Magazine, buyacar.co.uk, parkers.co.uk and CAR Magazine, as well as carmagazine.co.uk.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Peugeot e-208 First drives