The new 208 marks Peugeot embarking on a strategy of offering petrol, diesel and electric in the same car. So does the electric e-208 bode well?
On the road
On the road
This is the beginning of Peugeot’s electrification of its model range, and the new principle of offering the same models with petrol, diesel and some form of plug-in powertrain, with the 208 arriving in the UK with electric power as well as petrol and diesel.
It hit these shores just ahead of its 2008 small crossover sibling which also includes an EV in the line-up, while the 508 and 3008 get plug-in hybrid powertrains alongside their petrol and diesel power.
1. The keyless system is an excellent one, unlocking the car on approach. It rivals Renault's as the best.
2. Using the voice activation to tell the driver the remaining time or distance, or the arrival time via the sat-nav, rather than using the screen, is a handy adoption of the tech.
3. There's a big difference to the throttle response on Sport Mode, and this on a car that's already got a habit of wanting to spin it's front wheels on demand.
The 208 has a choice of three petrol engines – 75hp, 99hp and 129hp versions of the 1.2-litre unit, the middle of which comes as manual or auto and the top one auto only, plus a 101hp 1.5-litre diesel, as well as the EV. Thanks to the 1.5 being RDE2-compliant, it is the most tax-efficient of the internal combustion engine offerings.
But then there’s the electric one. Fitted with a 50kWh battery, the e-208 has an official range figure of 217 miles, well into the territory of being practical for the majority of drivers. It is powered by a 100kw motor and is capable of an 8.1-second 0-62mph time. From empty, which is an unlikely state of charge, the e-208 can be fully charged in 7.5 hours from a 7kWh wallbox at home, or will take an 80% charge in half an hour from a 100kWh public rapid-charge point.
The new 208 is a more striking car than its predecessor, and the brand has used the lighting to add purposeful character, with Peugeot ‘claws’ designed into the light clusters. The high bonnet and larger wheels also give it the look of a bigger car than the dimensions tell.
That feeling of having taken a large and stylish step from the previous 208 carries over into the cabin where, in this top-spec GT model at least, there are plenty of nice materials that are laid out in a stylish fashion. The design itself also lends character to the cabin, with the depth and gradient to the panel running around the centre of the cockpit sweeping neatly into the door panels.
However, Peugeot parent company PSA’s choice of climate control is a regular source of complaint, and so it is here, at least partially. Although better than previous touchscreen menu-only iterations, a simple switch or dial to change the temperature would be infinitely preferable to running it through the screen.
PSA’s software also leaves the sat-nav map with a column either side for the temperature rather than sitting fully across the 10.0-inch screen on the GT model. A 7.0-inch affair is standard on the rest of the range.
A divisive factor is Peugeot’s tiny steering wheel. Designed to allow the driver to see an unblocked view of the dashboard over the wheel, it’s fair to say that at low speeds, the smaller circumference makes for faster twirling for manoeuvres, but isn’t as nice to hang on to at higher speeds. It does allow an undeniably better view of Peugeot’s large 3D i-Cockpit dashboard though.
The 311-litre boot is claimed to be the same size as that in the petrol or diesel 208s, and is a decent depth. There are two bag hooks but nothing clever, such as a movable floor or anywhere to stash the charging cable. The rear seats offer slightly above average passenger space for the class, and are mounted higher than the front seats for an enhanced view ahead and around.
The electric model is available in all four trim levels, which is a refreshing move to not keep the more expensive trims for the EV; although the top GT driven here is only offered in electric, making the battery car the undisputed range-topper. However, it’s worth noting that the spec for the EV does slightly deviate from that of the internal combustion-engined models. For example, on the entry Active spec the EV gets steel wheels to the petrol and diesel models’ alloys, but it has climate control rather than air-conditioning. Other differences include the pair of rear USB charging points, which the petrol and diesel models don’t get until you go up a trim level. Sat-nav is also only standard on the EV-only top GT spec; it’s a £650 option on the other trims, along with an upgrade to the 10-inch touchscreen, rather than the standard seven inches. Equally worthy of note is the sparse options list, with the need to move to the higher trim levels for more luxury items such as panoramic roof, parking sensors, keyless entry or adaptive cruise control.
Predictably, the e-208 really is at the top of the range for price, with a P11D of £9445 more than the 100hp diesel and an additional £100 more than the 101hp petrol on Active spec, although the Government’s £3000 plug-in car grant comes off the list price, if not the P11D value. Not that P11D matters for this year at least, with the zero-rate company car Benefit-in-Kind level for EVs in 2020/21, rising to £11 per month for a higher-rate taxpayer next year, and £22 for the three years after that. The figure over three years won’t even cover the first month’s BiK on a top-spec Mercedes-Benz A220d, wherein lies the appeal of electric company cars. Even with the high purchase or leasing price, the whole-life cost stacks up once BiK and company National Insurance (which is also zero this year and then minimal until at least April 2025) are taken into account.
But the savings are only worth having if the car itself is up to the job. And the e-208 very much is. A 200-mile real-world range is very achievable, and the driving experience is decent. The e-208’s instant surge of electric torque is frequently too much for the front wheels to cope with on take-off on anything other than bone-dry roads, but the chassis feels capable and there’s very little body roll. The fast steering through that small steering wheel isn’t the most conducive for accurately placing the car on fast smaller roads, but there’s otherwise little to complain about. The ride quality is generally good, although bumps aren’t completely soaked up, and the change in throttle response if the Sport mode is engaged is rather pronounced. The ‘B’ function to allow extra regenerative braking is an effective tool that provides a nice level of deceleration when the accelerator pedal is lifted; once you’re used to it, the system allows for largely one-pedal driving and you only need to use the brakes to bring the car to a complete halt.
The marketplace for small electric cars has suddenly sparked into life, and so the Renault Zoe (recently revised with a much-improved range) no longer has things all its own way.
In the past few weeks the Vauxhall Corsa-e, which is the sister car to the e-208, and the Honda e and Mini E have all arrived on the scene, in two distinct camps. On the one hand, the more fashionable Honda and Mini offer that style at the same sort of price as a top-spec e-208, but with a battery that’s capable of significantly less than 150 miles. On the other hand are the Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall, which may be less trendy (this may be a bit unfair on the e-208) but offer the benefits of mainstream brands as well as a range of more than 200 miles between charges for the same money.
Choice then comes down to the individual’s usage patterns and what the car is required to do. But over 200 miles of range removes battery capability as an issue for large swathes of drivers, and the e-208 is a good-looking, nice-driving and cost-efficient way to make the move to electric power.
Peugeot has a long history in the supermini sector, with varying degrees of success, dating back to the 104 of the 1970s, through the legendary 205 and on to the 206, 207 and 208 of the late 1990s and 2000s.
This is the first time a new generation of car has retained the same name, in line with Peugeot’s current numbering policy, with the previous 208 having run from 2012-2019.
The company started to give its superminis names beginning with a two in 1983. The 205 was an instant success, picking up the 1984 What Car? Car of the Year award. It ran for 13 years in the UK, and spawned the GTi model (pictured), which is still lauded as one of the very best hot hatches of all time.
Peugeot briefly ran without a supermini in the late 1990s, hoping buyers would either upsize to the 306 or downsize to the 106. When that didn’t happen, the 206 was the belated result in 1998, a car that was to become, by the end of its life cycle, the brand’s single biggest-selling model. It spawned folding metal hard-top CC and baby estate SW models, as well as the three-and five-door versions, and lived on past the 2008 introduction of the 207, which ran until the 2012 arrival of the first 208.
What they said
What They Said
“The e-208 is Peugeot’s first new-generation battery electric vehicle, and has been internationally praised for its cutting-edge design, premium materials and advanced interior technology.
“It was voted European Car of the Year 2020, alongside its petrol and diesel counterparts, and is the first Peugeot to fulfill its promise of ‘choose your Peugeot, choose your powertrain’.
“With 0% BIK, low running costs, strong residual values and a 217-mile (WLTP) range, the e-208 gives fleet users a solution that is currently exempt from all congestion charges.”
Martin Gurney, director of fleet and used vehicles, Peugeot, Citroen and DS.
Need to know
Three things we like...
The charging point being at the rear of the car is good for parking
The row of central toggle switches looks smart in gloss black
There’s no mistaking the 208 from the striking front daytime running lights
...And one we don't
Having to hold the stop-start button rather than just press it is an unnecessary chore
The e-208 handles nicely and doesn’t really feel the weight of the batteries. Good level of regenerative braking.
A range of more than 200 miles solves the majority of mileage issues for drivers, but it is beaten by the Zoe’s 245 miles.
Pretty good boot space, and decent amount of rear legroom on a bench set higher than the front seat for better visibility.
There’s a marked difference between trim levels and beware of subtle sec changes for the EV next to petrol and diesel 208s.
The new 208 is a distinctive hatch that appears bigger from the outside than it feels to drive.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
Although the ride quality is generally good, it does have a tendency to transmit road bumps to the driver. This is presumably a consequence of the hefty weight of the batteries.
There’s a nice degree of flair to the cabin, and a decent amount of stowage space. A button for the temperature rather than using the screen would be good though.
Easy enough to navigate around, but it’s a touch odd that the nav map doesn’t fill the screen.
Whole life costs 9/10
Impressive residuals and low fuel and tax costs make up for a top-spec Peugeot 208 costing more than £33,000.
CCT opinion 9/10
An excellent, stylish and efficient electric hatchback addition giving fleets another great alternative.
Peugeot’s first in a new generation of EVs is a great start for the next wave of tech; smart, practical, efficient and with limited drawback, apart from price.