What is the Peugeot 208?
On this little chap much of Peugeot’s future depends. It’s no secret that, by Peugeot small-car standards, its 207 predecessor was a failure, or that the French brands have been hit hardest by the emerging brilliance of Korean rivals. In what is now the biggest car class of all, the 208 simply has to deliver. On paper it looks as if it may do: it’s smaller than the 207 but no less spacious, prettier and 170kg lighter.
As we now expect of French hatchbacks, the range is simply vast, spanning five petrol and three diesel engines and innumerable grade and option choices.
What you need to know is that the extra money charged for the diesels makes them an irrelevance to all but the highest-mileage users and the four-cylinder petrol engines are thirsty, soulless devices. The little 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, however, is a revelation. It’s so much lighter than the 1.4-litre four-cylinder that not only is performance almost as good, but fuel consumption is 12mpg better.
What you notice most is its peppy, enthusiastic nature, delightful three-cylinder yowl and swift gearchange. Those are not its only tricks, either: with so much less weight in the nose, the car is not only lighter than its brethren but better balanced too. The steering is more communicative, the chassis more inclined to hit its mark every time. For the first time in far too long, here is a Peugeot that’s fun to drive.
A shame, then, that this newfound élan could not come hand in hand with the world-class ride quality once also found in small Peugeots. The 208 sits firmly on its springs and, with needlessly short gearing bringing undue levels of cabin noise, the car is not as relaxed on long runs as it should be.
The 208’s interior is so much better than the 207’s that you’d think it was two rather than just one generation on. Even a Volkswagen driver would find much to envy.
However, this is a flawed environment. Rear legroom is tight even for a small car, and while that might not bother the driver too much, the fact that Peugeot has decided to put the instruments above the steering wheel almost certainly will. It’s a novel effect, but many drivers will find large chunks of information obscured. It is a bad and basic mistake.
What to look for when buying a used Peugeot 208
A couple of problems have been reported at the time of writing (April 4, 2014): a very small batch of vehicles were manufactured with a poorly-installed bonnet catch, which could result in the bonnet not being properly secured – affected vehicles were recalled; also, there are reports that the brake system may not have been bleed correctly so air may remain in the brake system, which can result in increased brake pedal travel and a possible reduction in braking efficiency. Check both these things when buying used.
The one to buy
Peugeot 208 1.2 VTi Active 5-door
- 1199cc, 3 cylinders
- 82bhp @ 5750rpm
- 87 lb ft @ 2750rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 14sec
- Top speed:
- 62.8mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 3962mm, W 1829mm, H 1460mm
Peugeot 208 rivals