PEUGEOT 208 REVIEW
Model: 208 Active 1.2 three-cylinder ($18,490 plus on-roads - manual)
Fuel consumption listed: 4.7 l/100km | tested: 7.6 l/100km
Model: 208 Allure 1.6 four-cylinder ($21,990 plus on-roads - manual)
Fuel consumption listed: 5.8 l/100km | tested: 7.6 l/100km
It's less, but it's more. Smaller outside, bigger inside: Peugeot's new 208.
It's also lighter than the 207 it replaces. And, yes, it's spunkier: Peugeot's new styling direction sits very comfortably on its pert, fresh-faced newcomer.
The changes below the skin are even more dramatic. There is extensive use of high tensile steels and aluminium for platform, suspension and mechanical components, and new structural techniques to both lighten and strengthen the compact body.
The result is that the entry-level Active is 173kg lighter than the outgoing 207, tipping the scales at a featherweight 975 kg.
There is also, for the first time in any Peugeot in its history in Australia, a three-cylinder 1.2 litre to kick off the range.
A little surprisingly, there's no diesel here, and, due to short-term shipping problems, no auto for the moment. Also surprisingly, the 207 CC and Tourer (wagon) are to get the chop, and won't be replaced by a 208 equivalent.
Peugeot calls it "regeneration"; we'd call its new 208 "quite a bit improved". And in nearly, mostly, all the right places. The last 207 was pretty good; the new 208 is better.
And it's got a nice sporty feel at the wheel.
That's why it's doing well in Europe. It has clambered up the sales charts in very short order to now be Europe's third best-selling car, behind the Golf and likely to soon overtake the Polo for second place.
We drove all three key models, the $18,490 1.2 litre Active, the $21,990 Allure and $26,490 Allure Sport. If you think it might be about time to treat yourself to a European car, these are cars you should have a look at.
Yes, an individual and appealing interior. Despite the shorter dimensions, there's more room inside - with a surprising amount of rear legroom - and, in the four-door models, nice wide-opening rear doors that will make buckling in young kids easier.
Seat trims, across all grades, are higher than equivalent Korean and Japanese competitors, and better also than the recently released Euro-competitor, Opel's Corsa.
The front buckets are well-shaped and well-bolstered, with a sportscar feel once you're settled in, and with very good underthigh support (which makes long-distance travel a lot less wearing).
But it's the styling that really catches the eye. The popped-up instrument binnacle on the dash looks terrific, with really appealing and beautifully-clear dials.
And the tablet-style screen and centre stack is also a really nice styling touch.
The piano black and brushed alloy highlights throughout give things an upmarket air - it varies a little from model to model, but not greatly - and the dash and door trims also have a high-quality look and feel.
The touchscreen itself is clear and modern and easily navigated, and the switchgear also has a solid well-crafted feel.
The multi-function steering wheel though might divide opinion. It's the smallest you'll find.
It feels tiny at first, like it was purloined from a go-kart. And the rack is really direct - like you're driving a go-kart.
It gives the 208 a fun feel at the wheel that appealed a lot to me (but some might find it a bit twitchy and over-sensitive).
A debit to the styling is the dished dashboard top. In the Queensland sun it was uncomfortably reflective for the passenger (not such an issue for the driver).
The logic of the interior's execution is also not so good.
To have the instruments visible above the tiny wheel, the driving position has the reach and rake-adjustable wheel tucked down at its lowest setting - almost between the knees (like driving an old Lancia Beta or Maserati BiTurbo).
Each of us has a different preference when it comes to driving position, but if you like a high or mid-set wheel, you'll be flying blind as far as the speedo is concerned.
And the relationship between the steering wheel, pedals and gear-shift is also wrong. I'm on the short side of short; getting the gearshift right at hand had me too close to the pedals; getting the pedals right had me leaning forward with each gear change.
Peugeot has always had a problem getting the ergonomics right in its smaller cars.
Might be better if they sacked Horace the octopus they use to test the seating ergonomics and employed a human-type species - with something approximating human arms and leg-lengths.
You can get used to it - in the end, I decided on a compromise - but it's odd.
No complaints at all though with the feature list. Each in the 208 range comes well-equipped at the price (more like what we've come to expect from Korean competitors).
Standard equipment for the Active 1.2 litre includes a seven-inch touch screen display, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity, power windows, six-speaker audio, multi-function wheel, aux-in jack, heated folding side-mirrors, and trip computer.
For safety features, standard is six airbags, stability and traction control, emergency brake assist, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, pre-tensioning front seat belts and automatic hazard lights ativation in an accident.
The auto won't arrive for another four or so weeks, and is only a four-speed across the range.
Allure models, starting from $21,990 for the five-speed manual, add an extra cylinder as well as dual-zone climate control air-con, 16-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, LED lights, auto lights and wipers, colour multi-function digital displays, sports seats and a leather steering wheel.
The three-door only turbo 1.6 Allure Sport we also drove (separate review following) is quality buying at $26,490 - slipping it well under the Mini Cooper and Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
Along with six-speed manual, it adds a sports interior treatment with half-leather sports seats, blue lit instrument panel, aluminium gear knob, drilled sports pedals, dual chrome tail pipes, rear spoiler and nice fat alloys.
There is also a reasonable boot. With the rear seats in place it offers 285 litres, expanding to 1076 litres with the rear seats folded. There are also ample cubby holes and cup and bottle-holders around the cabin.
On The Road
Every model in the range, even the 1.2 litre, feels nicely engaged on road.
It's that go-kart steering wheel and direct steering that's most responsible here. With a good suspension tune, with just the right balance between comfort and control, this is quite an enjoyable car to poke around.
The Sport is firmer, but theActive and Allure are tuned to provide some initial 'give' on bumps and hollows, before then firming. It's not soft, but neither is it too hard.
It's always a compromise getting this compliance right, but most will find the 208 just to their liking. The rebound damping - the way it retains control on rippled or broken tarmac - is also pretty right for Australian roads.
And it loves a corner. The direct steering and eager turn-in gives the 208 a sharp 'glued to the road' feel on a quick punt through a set of bends.
There are, however, two different tales to tell with the two engine grades.
The 1.6 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder we sampled in the Allure is a lively, eager and free-revving unit. With 88kW and 160Nm, it has more get-up-and-go than those raw figures would suggest. Coupled to the five speed manual, it feels a nimble and potent little unit.
Adding to the lively feel, it makes an appealing sporty burble when stretched.
With a 9.9 second 0-100km/h sprint, it's not in hot-hatch territory, but is 'just right' for a small car. It feels light on its feet (it is a lightweight afterall), and will pull sharply into holes in the traffic and when overtaking. Young drivers and young families will love its engaged and sporty feel.
The 1.2 litre Active is a different kettle-of-fish.
It's got long stroke three-cylinder nestled under the bonnet and makes that typical off-beat thrum expected of a 'trio' at work. But it's well short of the 1.6 litre in performance.
Not that it feels slow, it doesn't; on the open road it will happily sit on the legal limit like any modern light hatch, and you don't feel you're wringing its neck getting away from the line or when working through the hills.
But, with just 60kW and 118Nm to call on, and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 13.9 seconds, it's no fireball. Its most noticeable limitation however is the torque deficit; there is not much there for overtaking or for pulling quickly out of a corner.
To compensate, if you want to hustle things along, you've got to be prepared to row it through the five-speed box (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's got a nice shift action through a well-defined 'gate').
We'd need to give it a longer test in traffic, but slotting into holes in traffic might require a bit of planning, especially if there's a load on board.
We also found, on our test of mostly country roads, that there was no fuel consumption benefit from the smaller three-cylinder engine.
Because the 1.2 litre Active was working harder, both it and the 1.6 litre Allure recorded exactly the same 7.6 l/100km fuel consumption.
City driving would certainly provide consumption benefits for the smaller engine, but by how much? That's a question we'll answer soon.
First Drive Verdict
We like the new 208. We like most of all the 1.6 litre Allure, but the three cylinder 1.2 litre Active is not without its charms.
Its strong suit, and one that will win the new 208 lots of friends, is its sporty feel thanks to a really nice connected chassis and lively, direct steering.
Its pricing will also help. Starting at $18,490 for the 1.2 Active, and $21,990 for the five-speed manual Allure, the 208 packs a lot of features, Euro-style and a really good interior into those prices.
And the $26,490 Allure Sport is equally sharp value for a 'warm' hatch with fat alloys and a super chassis.
Add in capped price servicing of $270 for the three services for the first 60,000km ($810 over three years), and you've got a compelling offer from Peugeot with it's new 208.
It's not perfect, the ergonomics are still a bit ratty, but this is a car you will enjoy.
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The 208 range will be available in Australia from October 19, launching at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.
- 208 Active - 1.2 3cyl 5-manual - $18,490
- 208 Active - 1.6 4cyl 4-auto - $21,490
- 208 Allure 1.6 4cyl 5-manual - $21,990
- 208 Alure 1.6 4cyl 4-auto - $23,990
- 208 Allure Premium 1.6 4-auto - $26,490
- 208 Allure Sport 1.6 turbo 4cyl 6-manual - $26,490
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
- Interested in buying PEUGEOT 208? Visit our PEUGEOT 208 showroom for more information.