With fuel prices reluctant to budge and roads becoming ever more congested, the UK has developed an infatuation with pocket-sized, economical superminis. In 2012 the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa were the two most popular cars in the UK, selling 109,265 and 89,434 units respectively. Other popular choices included the VW Polo, Fiat 500 and the Mini. But with that lies a problem. Such is the abundance that is the small inexpensive and efficient supermini, how do you stand out in such a congested marketplace?
Peugeot is hoping that its fresh faced and bold looking 208 will tempt those city dwellers away from Ford and Fiat forecourts.
Opinion is still very much divided on the way the 208 looks, it’s pug-faced front-end is considered by some to be too cluttered and awkward but such is the number of competitors in this sector a bold design is required to really capture people’s attention and money. My test car was fitted with 16in grey alloy wheels, which offset by the metallic silver paint (£495 option) gave the 208 even more physical presence. Combined with the exterior styling the 208 certainly demands your attention. There are noticeable design cues from the SR1 Concept Car too, with the chrome bordered grille and raked back headlights. It may not be the most exotic piece of metal but I often caught the burning glare of other motorists in traffic. Whether it was one of admiration or scorn I can’t exactly be sure but overall reaction was positive. Win for Peugeot.
On the road
There are eight engines available on the 208, five petrol and three diesel variants. The 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine fitted to this particular model proved to be a real treat. Delivering 82bhp it’ll be good for a 0-62mph time of 12.2sec and will run out of puff at 109mph. For a city car it’s as powerful as it needs to be, quick enough around town and enough oomph to get past those dawdlers on the motorway. Its sounds surprisingly fruity throughout the rev-range too and the good news doesn’t end there. Across the three days I had the 208 it averaged almost 50mpg – 62.8mpg is claimed for a combined cycle – which is still good going for a small petrol powered engine. Emitting only 104 g/km of CO2, you don’t have to worry about a hefty road tax bill; £20 will cover the car for the year.
Out on the bendy bits, the 208 feels sharp and nimble. The sub-tonne kerb weight (975kg) plays a role and the steering is well weighted. Body roll, while there, is minimal but the hip-hugging sports seats fitted as standard to Allure models keep you firmly in place when you start to press on. Yet they do prove to be of a slight hindrance when rifling through the gears, often intruding on elbow space. The gearbox, although not bad, could be better, changes are long and clunky but the 208 feels planted on the road and rides with relative comfort. Over rougher ground it can become a little bumpy but the 208 feels solid and isn’t unnerved which instils confidence in the driver.
Around town the 208 is as impressive, light steering and great visibility all round. However, in stop/start traffic the clutch may be light is does lack a real bite and while the steering wheel is great to hold and perfectly proportioned it can sometimes obstruct the view of the dials.
While the exterior styling may not be to everyone’s taste, nobody can fault Peugeot when it comes to the interior. In Allure spec, the 208 comes with leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, sports seats, LED daytime running lights, chrome exhaust, 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, 7in multifunction touchscreen, dual zone air conditioning, iPod compatibility, tinted windows and cruise control as standard. The test car I had was fitted with a whopping £2,000 worth of extras which included metallic paint (£495), rear parking sensors (£270), alarm (£210), touchscreen Sat Nav upgrade and 2nd USB socket (£400), electric rear windows and mirrors (£160) and a panoramic glass roof (£400). By large, the majority of them are unnecessary. Such is the size of the 208 and the all-round visibility, rear parking sensors are an unnecessary expense so too is the Sat Nav. Peugeot has accept the death of the CD and simply offers a USB socket in its place, in which you simply plug in your smartphone or iPod, most of which already have integrated Sat Nav and if they don’t it will cost you a lot less than £400 to acquire it. The one thing I would opt for is the full length panoramic roof. It may be steeply priced at £400 but it makes the 208 feel a lot bigger inside and brightens up the whole interior.
Overall the quality of the materials used are very high, nothing looks or feels cheap. The 7in multifunction touchscreen is a great addition to the 208. It replaces a whole host of buttons and makes the interior look neat and clutter free, much more attractive than the Ford Fiesta’s famously disorderly dash. The touchscreen does take some getting used to, however, and requires a firm prod for it to obey your commands, but overall the interior is a mightily impressive piece of design and execution by Peugeot.
This particular combination of engine and trim will set you back £13,695 for the 3 door version and £14,095 for the 5 door. It’s what you’d expect to pay for the equivalent big hitters in the Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio. Yet, including the optional extras, the 208 comes in at a substantial £16,030 for the car I tested. If you stump up another £950 you can get yourself the all new Fiesta ST which has twice the power and a lot more tech. However, if you’re careful when selecting those optional extras you can get yourself a great little package in the Peugeot 208. Fun to drive, cheap to run and brings something that little bit different to the ever increasing supermini sector.