In the run up to the launch of the 208, Peugeot made every effort to liken the new model to the 205. In the 1980's the 205 saved Peugeot from going under and changed perceptions of the brand. Peugeot has now admitted that it got the 206 and 207 wrong and is keen to evoke the spirit of the legendary 80's hatch to turn its fortunes around once more.
So the 208 is important. Peugeot has lacked a real contender in the most lucrative sector of the UK market for too long. The 208 is a step change in direction, it’s smaller than the 207, more driver-focussed and significantly lighter, so there is more than just PR speak at work here, Peugeot really has been inspired by the history books.
The result of this is that the 208 has an entirely different character to the previous model. The first thing that you notice is a very small steering wheel which is also set lower, giving rise to ergonomic issues for some people as they try and look over the rim of the wheel at the dials. However the small wheel instantly gives the 208 a more direct feel and when combined with the low kerb weight and small overhangs it feels much more alert and far more rewarding to drive.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine enters into the spirit of things with an equally light and zingy character that suits the 208. With less than 1,000 kg to move and a sensible 68 bhp available it is surprising that the 208 is slightly off the class pace, taking just under 16 seconds to hit 62 mph. Thankfully the capable chassis does at least mean that some speed can be carried through corners.
The Peugeot 208 is a big step in the right direction. It could be a touch quicker but it offers good interior and boot space in a smaller footprint than the 207, it's one of the better superminis to drive, and is certainly one of the most interesting to look at both inside and out. When you take into consideration the asking price you would have to say that it is a desirable proposition.