2013 was a good year for Peugeot. The 208 supermini broke back into the year’s top-ten selling cars, an arena Peugeot had been absent from since 2010 with its 207 predecessor.
The best news is that the 208 isn’t just a strong-selling car – 23,294 units giving it 9th place in the UK sales charts last year – but a genuinely good one too. We’ve been impressed by the 208 on several previous occasions here at carwow, but how does a more humble model, like the 1.2 VTi Allure, fare?
In Allure trim, our test car neither tops the range nor sits at the bottom. As such, you get niceties like alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and glossy chrome trim, but those alloy wheels are relatively small in diameter and its accoutrements not quite as flashy as range-topping Felines.
It’s the first time we’ve driven a 208 in 5-door format, and there’s little to complain about there. Peugeot makes no effort to hide the rear doors as some manufacturers do, but the benefit of this is a set of proper doorhandles and decently-sized openings. It’s well-proportioned in this guise too, if not as sporty as the three-door models.
Detailing is need – you get thin LED daytime running lights at the front, brushed metal surrounds for the grille and foglamps, LED-enhanced rear lights with characteristic claw-inspired slashes and a nice two-tone effect to those alloys.
Perhaps white isn’t the best colour for it, but overall the 208 is another chic effort from the French manufacturer. To our eyes, it’s one of the better-looking vehicles in the class.
The first thing anyone notices when they step inside the 208 is the small steering wheel and high-set dials. Detractors will go on and on ad nauseum that they can’t see those dials as the wheel is in the way – the solution is simply to set the wheel lower than you might in a regular car.
Because the wheel is small it won’t interfere with your legs at a lower position, and you quickly get used to its diminutive diameter and lower positioning. And the dials, set closer to your line of sight through the windscreen, are a doddle to read at a glance. Visibility is good too – better than that of the 3-door cars.
It’s also a comfortable car. The sporty-looking cloth seats are well-bolstered and easily adjusted, the pedals well-set and the steering wheel good to hold.
We did find the long-throw gearlever a little far away when in first and third gears, but not obstructively so. More obstructive is Peugeot’s touchscreen infotainment system – it won’t let you enter postcodes and is disinclined to talk to iPods and iPhones.
Rear seat passengers will have little to complain about. If anything, legroom is better than in the larger 308, and headroom is more than adequate.
The 285-litre boot is well-sized too, here shown swallowing the author’s reflector telescope (around 1.1m in length) and assorted paraphernalia. And like most Peugeots these days, everything feels well-built – it’s one of the nicer cabins in which to spend timein the supermini classs.
The 208 does pretty much everything you’d ask of a supermini. If we’re to pick on particular area in which it majors, that would be ride quality – while not isolating you completely from bumps in the road, it always feels compliant, relatively unflustered and never at risk of shaking your fillings out.
That applies whether you’re nipping through the city, tackling a B-road or cruising down the motorway. Perhaps the biggest compliment is that you quickly forget about the ride quality altogether – the road never intrudes to any noticeable degree.
It isn’t even too much of a disappointment to discover that it doesn’t quite share the talents of the 208 GTI. The chassis never feels quite as balanced, there’s a little less feel and weight to the steering and it isn’t quite as adept at absorbing road ripples while you’re really driving hard.
But how many buyers will really expect a regular supermini to match a bona-fide hot hatchback? Few, we’d expect. For most, the 208’s ease of use, light pedals, direct steering, composed ride and adequate grip will be enough. A Fiesta is more fun too of course, but you probably won’t notice on the school run…
Fifteen years ago, a car like this might have had a 1.4 or 1.6-litre engine. It’d probably do mid-30s to the gallon and revving it would prove a noisy, fruitless exercise.
The 208 isn’t alone in offering three-cylinder units these days, but the 1.2 VTi is representative of the improvements such engines have made. Official economy is 62.8 mpg, just 104 grams of CO2 are emitted for every kilometre, yet you still get 82 horses on tap.
Our car didn’t have many miles on the clock so the engine felt a little tight, particularly towards the top of the rev range. That probably makes the 12.2-second 0-60 sprint a little harder to reach, but the 3-pot does its best work lower down the range anyway so that’s where we kept it.
There, it’s a pleasantly smooth engine. Not much of the three-cylinder thrum makes it through to the controls, there’s little noise at lower engine speeds and there’s enough torque that you don’t feel too short-changed. You’d get better economy from Peugeot’s diesels – we managed around 50 mpg on test – but the 1.2 VTi is around 1,300 cheaper than the slower 1.4 HDi.
Value for money
Our 1.2 VTi Allure test car costs 14,495 in five-door format. You can add another 400 to that for the satnav system fitted to our car. Its closest rival, the Ford Fiesta in 1.0 Titanium, 80-horsepower format (a little more economical but a great deal slower) costs 15,045 – a car with lower levels of equipment than the Peugeot.
There’s no real equivalent VW Polo either – similarly-equipped cars are less efficient and more expensive, while the frugal diesels are low on equipment and still high on price.
Closest is probably Renault’s Clio 0.9 TCe in Dynamique S MediaNav trip – similarly economical, similar performance and priced around 200 more once the Pug’s satnav upgrade is taken into account.
The Peugeot does represent pretty good value then, and running costs with the little petrol unit should be low. Tax will set you back 80 a year.
The 208 continues to impress us. We – and probably most buyers – are prepared to accept slight trade-offs in handling prowess for the well-designed, comfortable and high-quality cabin (among the best in its class). It’s also frugal in the real world, and with a few more miles that engine will loosen up for a little more performance.
We do wish Peugeot would sort out its iffy satnav though. The touchscreen is easy enough to use, but the software leaves a little to be desired. And we’d not complain if a little more of the GTI‘s flair made it to lower models. But those are just nit-picks. The 208 is well worth a look.