The new Peugeot 208 is an excellent all-rounder, combining the fun of a small sporty car with the refinement of a larger car.
The Peugeot 205 was seen as a small car that was big fun to drive. However over subsequent generations the brand’s supermini became less exciting. So has the new 208 regained its mojo?
The new Peugeot 208 looks great, especially in GT Line form as tested. We review at least one of the very latest cars every week, and some of them are pretty expensive. However the Peugeot 208 was the first car since the BMW i8 – in September 2018 – where a group of lads came over and said “nice car mate”. We take this anecdotal evidence as confirmation that the visual appearance of the new 208 is liked by at least some of the car buying public.
The interior party trick is the very small steering wheel and the new ‘3D’ instrument display. The 208 is a supermini, so you need to manage your expectations of interior space based on this, ie. don’t be too surprised by the limited rear legroom and the relatively small boot, because that’s what you get with cars in this class.
The new 208 comes with petrol, diesel and electric powertrains. We were actually supposed to be testing the all-electric e-208 but it wasn’t quite ready in time, so the petrol model was sent instead, with a 101hp, 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre turbo engine and 8-speed automatic transmission.
The main thing that you’re aware of when you sit in the 208’s driving seat is the very, very small steering wheel. Because the wheel is so tiny, to see the instruments you have to look over it rather than through it as you do in virtually all other cars. The result of the miniature wheel, the decent steering weight, the compact size, the light kerbweight (1090kg) and front-wheel drive chassis, is that the 208 is fun to steer around corners, helping it to challenge MINI for the ‘go kart handling’ soundbyte that its PR department loves to use. But the fact is, the new 208 does feel as fun to drive as a MINI Cooper. And it also feels as quiet and refined as the latest MINI products in everyday use, including on motorway journeys, when the 208 feels like a car from at least a class above, although there is some road noise. As well as the handling being agile, the ride quality is good, which, along with the automatic transmission, also makes the 208 a great car in urban areas.
The 101hp, 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre turbo engine generally provides sufficient performance, and unlike many rivals, it doesn’t have huge turbo lag, but it starts to strain when overtaking at motorway speeds. The 8-speed automatic transmission also works well; there’s a button to select manual, when you can change gear using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but we imagine it would be rare for people to do this frequently.
So living with the 208’s chassis and powertrain is fine, but what about the interior? We’ve already established that the small steering wheel is fun, however another highlight of the ‘i-Cockpit’ is the ‘3D’ instrument display. There’s the standard information, then other data which is displayed closer to the driver such as satnav instructions and warning symbols. This works well and we’re sure it will be something that will be adopted more widely.
On the day that the 208 arrived we jumped in it to drive to an event in the evening, having put a drinks container with water in the cup holder. We’re used to driving different cars every week, and we’ve driven lots of the latest Peugeots, but even so, trying to quickly find all the controls for satnav, cabin temperature etc when driving at night was a challenge.
Under the touchscreen are two rows of buttons, which point upwards rather than outwards, despite the fact that drivers generally view dashboard controls from the driver’s seat rather than from above the dashboard. And the buttons that are furthest away, which control items on the touchscreen (which would be better grouped around the touchscreen, with a button for a home screen, or on an iDrive-like controller), don’t click when you press them so it’s difficult to know if you’ve pressed them hard enough to activate them; the buttons at the front do click, which is much better, but these aren’t used as much. So these buttons appear to be a case of style over substance.
And if you press the temperature button on the touchscreen you can’t change the source of the ventilation; you have to press the temperature button on the dashboard to get this option.
It’s also not that easy to zoom in or out on the satnav map. There’s one small plus sign at the bottom of the screen; if you press this plus sign then a minus sign also appears, which then allows you to zoom out. However you can’t zoom out of the map very far, ie. on a motorway you won’t be able to see all the crashes/traffic jams ahead.
Because we had a drinks flask in the cupholder when we first drove the 208, it completely hid the drive mode switch, which is on the passenger side of the cupholder. This is a strange place for the drive mode switch, especially for right-hand drive cars, and it would be better if it was positioned somewhere more convenient. However having discovered it, we can confirm that Sport mode is the most fun (there’s also Normal and Eco settings).
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2L PureTech 100 EAT8 S&S Automatic is 44.3-50.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 99g/km (NEDC-based estimate).
So what did we achieve in the real-world? At 70mph on the motorway we managed 57.0mpg. At 50mph we managed 67.1mpg. Overall after a week of mixed driving we averaged 47.8mpg, which is exactly in the middle of the official combined WLTP figures.
The 208 had a useful driving range of 450 miles.
The Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2L PureTech 100 EAT8 S&S Automatic costs £22,100. Our test car had the options of special/pearlescent paint (£695), Drive Assist Pack Plus (£300), 10” capacitive colour touchscreen with Connected 3D Navigation (£650) and panoramic glass roof (£500), taking the total price of the car to £24,245.
You can opt for electric, petrol or diesel powertrains and trim levels are Active, Allure, GT Line or GT.
The new Peugeot 208 is an excellent all-round car. It’s fun and sporty on country roads, it’s easy to live with in the city, and it feels like a refined car from a class above on the motorway. It also looks good on the outside and the interior has an interesting modern dashboard. There are very few weak points, aside from the fact that it could be easier to access some information on the infomedia system.
The Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2L PureTech 100 EAT8 S&S Automatic is therefore awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10 – and of course we’re still waiting for the delivery of the e-208 for review. However we have reviewed the electric DS3 Crossback e-tense, which is based on the same platform as the e-208 and so is likely to drive in a similar way, however the DS3 is just a bit more high riding and is therefore likely to have a slightly softer ride.
The 208 has also won the 2020 European Car of the Year Award, which we would say is well deserved – and that’s something we certainly haven’t said about the winners of this award every year.