ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Peugeot 208
The weather may not have been the best, but a great new car from Peugeot brightened the day in Portugal. DAVID HOOPER, editor of wheelworldreviews.co.uk, drives the new 208 range.
PEUGEOT’S executives are the first to admit the French carmaker’s outgoing 207 model didn’t do as well for the company was they would have liked, but with the imminent launch of the new 208, they have big ambitions and are aiming to re-engage with some of their lost customers.
The all-new 208 features less aggressive styling than its predecessor which Peugeot hopes will attract back to the brand some of the female customers it lost due to the more aggressive styling of the 207, but crucially, the 208 will be cheaper, with prices expected to start from £9,995 which will make it more attractive to those looking for a second family car.
The 207’s prospects were hurt when Ford launched its latest Fiesta, which considerably undercut the 207 on price, which, combined with the fact that the 206 was still being sold in some markets, meant the sales figures for the 207 never achieved the heights Peugeot had hoped it would.
The B segment of the car market in Europe accounts for 30% of all sales and is fiercely fought over by 27 different models. Production of the new 208, the latest in the 200 series of cars which began with the 205 back in 1983, started in January (2012) in Poissy, France. It will be joined by other factories in the coming year or so, with a second French plant in Mullhouses and others in Slovakia and Brazil, which together will produce 2,500 vehicles a day between them with the aim of eventually reaching 550,000 sales around the world, with 420,000 of those being achieved in Europe.
To this end, the designers had to make sure the car would attract as wide an audience as possible, and have tried to give the 208 a “love at first sight” appeal combined with a “sensual” interior. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not they have achieved that heady goal, but personally, I do like the way the car looks. Of course, it is lighter than its predecessor by 110kg and is 7cm shorter. There are some nice design touches which include the company’s latest “floating grille”, front headlight units with an “eyebrow” effect, and a feline look to the rear lights, all garnished with chrome trimmings on the higher-end models. There’s a good mix of specifications with plenty of trim choices, all finished off with some new colours and smart alloy wheels.
The biggest news though, is to be found inside the car, where the designers have taken a quite different approach to the interior ergonomics, an area in which some of Peugeot’s previous models have had “issues”, most notably the 206 with its less than ideal driving position.
With aircraft-style head-up displays becoming increasingly popular, Peugeot has taken the concept one stage further, and positioned the instrument binnacle on top of the dashboard, directly ahead of the driver’s eye-line. This means the steering wheel is now much smaller than before, and is attached to a steering column which can be adjusted for reach and rake.
Slightly unconventional it may be, but it works, and I liked it.
A separate display for the car’s infotainment systems is similarly mounted in a high position at the top of the dashboard, which means the driver doesn’t have to look down and away from the road to see the key information they need while driving the car.
Inside, the materials employed in the cabin have a quality look and feel, with nice combinations of cloth, leather, glossy black trim and panoramic glass sunroofs available on various models, depending on which of the five trim levels you choose. Buyers can pick from Access, Access+, Active, Allure and Feline.
I travelled to the picturesque Sintra area of Portugal, not far from Lisbon, to drive the new model for the first time, and have to say I was impressed with car, if not the weather, which was decidedly foul on the day we arrived, with low cloud which spoilt the views, or actually hid them altogether!
Among the engines to test were a brand new 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit with 82bhp. Peugeot only had three examples available to drive, but I did manage to grab one for a brief drive and found it to be a willing performer. It will make a nippy town car with good economy and low C02 104g/km, but on the hilly route we drove it on, it needed a few gear changes to find the power.
I also drove the 120hp 1.6-litre VTI engine, which is carried over from the existing 207. It was a disappointment, to be honest. The gearing felt wrong, with little low-end torque which meant it had to be revved to find the power, while on the motorway, it needed a sixth gear to bring the revs down from 3,500rpm to a more sensible level. This engine is a low volume seller and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is phased out in the next year or two. Probably just as well.
The 1.6-litre HDI diesel powered car provided a nice blend of performance and economy, again with low C02 emissions of 98g/km. It cruised quietly on the motorway and did everything well, but for me, the pick of the range, and the car expected to be one of the biggest sellers, was the 1.4-litre petrol engine. There seemed to be little difference in performance between this car and the 1.6, but this version was far more responsive to drive, and accelerated willingly when asked.
All the cars seemed to handle well in the mixed conditions we encountered, and there is enough room in the back of the 208 for six-footers to sit comfortably – just, thanks to an extra 5cm of space.
For those who like a bit more get-up-and-go, there is a 156bhp turbo-charged engine available at launch which has already been seen in other Peugeot and BMW models, including the Mini, and although Peugeot wouldn’t officially confirm the arrival of a GTI, expect to see one in a showroom near you fairly soon. Also in the pipeline are Start/Stop versions of the new three-cylinder engine, as well as a turbo-charged version and e-HDi hybrid models.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Peugeot 208 range.
BODY STYLES: 3 or 5-door hatchback
ENGINES: Diesel range: 1.4 HDi, 68bhp, 1.4 e-HDi 68bhp, 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp, 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp Stop&Start and 1.6 e-HDi 115bhp. Petrol range: 1.0 Vi 68bhp, 1.2 VTi 82bhp, 1.4 95bhp, 1.6 VTi 120bhp and 1.6 THP 156bhp.
TRIM GRADES: Access, Access+, Active, Allure, Feline.
PRICES: From £9,995
IN THE SHOWROOM: June
All data correct at time of publishing.
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