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First Drive

First Drive: Peugeot 208

Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 130 Allure EAT8
The story: A Peugeot supermini that shares a name with its predecessor but not a huge amount else...
Key rival:Ford Fiesta
Efficiency:46.0-51.9 mpg
On sale:January 2020

The Peugeot 208 has had a total reinvention, with the latest model designed to be able to offer an electric and a conventional model, right from the start.

Beyond the powertrains, though, the changes are many, with a radical new style and an interior that will win over many potential buyers on its look and feel.

The small steering wheel and high instrument panel set-up that is common to many modern Peugeots is present, and it will continue to appeal to many but not all. It takes a bit more fiddling to get comfortable in the 208 than it does in more conventional rivals, but it is easier to do so than it was in the first cars that had this arrangement. Unfortunately, even after plenty of tweaking of the driving position, the gearlever will feel as though it is positioned awkwardly far back.

First Drive- November 2019- Peugeot 208 - Image 4One notable new addition to the instrument cluster is the 3D effect of the display. It looks a little odd to start off with, with elements such as the speed appearing closer than other less commonly needed figures, but it rapidly becomes entirely natural. Peugeot claims the display helps improve reaction times, but it’s difficult to see it as anything other than a stylish touch.

The quality of the dash and cabin is wonderful, with the swish looks backed up by some materials that feel very well screwed together. The touchscreen is swift to respond, but still frustrating to use – hiding the climate controls away in a separate menu on a touchscreen is infuriating. It takes far too much of the driver’s concentration to change it on the move. Having the ability to link up the latest smart phones as standard is a great bonus, though.

First Drive- November 2019- Peugeot 208 - Image 3Space in the back is about par for the class – two average sized adults will fit in ok while those six footor more will feel a bit cramped for legroom. The middle seat is pleasingly flat so it should be possible to squeeze a third person in for a short trip at least. There is little that is exciting to report in the boot – at 311 litres it is bigger than that in the likes of the Fiesta but falls well short of the new Clio’s huge offering.

On the road, the 208 takes an impressive step forward, too. The engine range consists of a 1.5-litre diesel and a trio of 1.2-litre petrols, with 75hp, 100hp and 130hp power outputs. The latter of the three is only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that is smooth on almost all occasions, although it can feel a little too hesitant if you really floor the throttle.

The 208’s nimbleness means it provides a fairly spirited and entertaining driving experience, and the 130hp engine is quick enough to provide some amusement and overtaking ability. However, this model’s hefty price – it starts at mid-level Allure, with a £21,295 P11D – means it will be relatively costly to buy, although the fact that it is the highest-emitting model in the range at only 103g/km means that BIK costs won’t spiral out of control.

Tom Webster

The verdict

A smart supermini that will win buyers with its looks and grown up drive.