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First drive: Peugeot 208 PureTech. Image by Peugeot.

First drive: Peugeot 208 PureTech
Superstar looks and a top-quality cabin are the hallmarks of the impressive new Peugeot supermini.

   



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Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure

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Peugeot continues its styling revolution with the beautiful 208, a B-segment contender that's bound to win plenty of fans simply on the basis of the way it looks - both inside and out. But does it drive to a high enough standard to satisfy those of us who are well aware that, sometimes, beauty is only skin deep?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual
Pricing: 208 range from 16,250; 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual from 18,850 as tested
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 123g/km (VED Band 111-130: 170 first 12 months, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 52.3mpg
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: 102hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 1,750rpm
Boot space: 311-1,106 litres

What's this?

Lordy, lordy, lordy! What this is, is clearly the best-looking car in its class right now. Hard to believe that this Gallic company was, not so long ago, perhaps turning more stomachs than heads with its bizarre automotive aesthetics, as seen on disproportionate things like the 307, the ungainly 407 Coupe, the gigantic 308 CC and the practical yet challenging 5008 Mk1. Crikey, even this very supermini has the bloated 207 in its direct lineage.

But this new 208 carries on the good work of the splendid current range, such as the 3008, 5008 and 508. And - if anything - the 208 suits this design language better than all its big brothers. Sure, lower-spec models (choose from Active, Allure and GT-Line on the 208s with conventional combustion engines) have smaller wheels, do without the black cladding over the wheel arches and even, in some instances, don't have the triple 'Lion's claw' light signatures that you can see front and rear.

All models do, though, get the 'Tooth' LED daytime running lamp strakes in the front and all models, no matter how highly specified they are or otherwise, look magnificent on the outside. Truly magnificent. There is nothing in this class to touch the 208 for visual appeal and, wonderfully, the wrapping paper doesn't hide a rather drab gift within, because the Peugeot's cockpit is also class-leading. It has as good fit and finish as anything in the class (yes, even the Volkswagen Polo), it sports a really nice dash sculpture with a two-tier effect and, on all models from Allure upwards, you get the new 3D i-Cockpit digital instrument cluster. This looks fantastic and is an evolution of what has already gone before in the most recent Peugeot models. About the only black mark on the 208's interior is slightly-too-tight rear-seat space for passengers, but otherwise this is a cracking cabin.

Just to touch on the UK line-up, we've already specified the trims (Active from 16,250, Allure from 18,850 and GT-Line from 20,700), but in terms of motive power there are five choices. Three petrol derivatives all spur off from the same 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder motor: have it without a turbo and it delivers 75hp/111Nm, and is only available at Active grade with a five-speed manual; otherwise, it comes with a turbocharger and churns out either 102hp/205Nm in the model badged '100', which we've tested here, or enough to have it quantified as a sort of warm hatch with 130hp/230Nm in the, yup, 130. The 100 employs a six-speed manual 'box as standard with the EAT8 auto as a 1,400 option, while the 130 is fitted with the EAT8 only.

Elsewhere, the big news is the e-208 fully electric model and we'll be bringing you a full review on that elsewhere on this site, so we'll leave it be for now. That leaves the 100hp/250Nm 1.5-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel, which starts at 18,850 for an Active, and this also comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. Finally, all 208s are five-door models and front-wheel drive. And from of all this lot above, the best-selling specification combination is a 1.2-litre PureTech 100 Allure with the manual gearbox. So that's precisely what we're driving here, as it's most representative of what 208 Mk2 ownership will entail.

How does it drive?

Rather nicely, truth be told. There's a grown-up feeling to everything the 208 does, so you get a sensation that you're in a bigger, grander car than a 'mere' supermini. This is something the Polo has been doing for yonks to convince everyone it's a premium product, so kudos to Peugeot for attempting much the same trick. Visibility out in all directions is excellent, because if you look at the 208's glasshouse then you'll see it doesn't have any narrow windows at the back nor massive C-pillars either. If you get on with i-Cockpit - and we do, despite the fact that taller drivers are supposed to have the dials obscured by the steering wheel; we never experienced such an issue - and that tiny button steering wheel, then you'll get on famously with the 208.

It's a cinch to thread it about the place, thanks to a well-calibrated set of major controls, and the l1.2 PureTech triple engine is a little gem. It's not massively quick, as its 0-62mph time might suggest, but it stays smooth and vibration-free right up to the redline, while it is happy to venture to high revs - not something you can say of every 1.0-, 1.2- and 1.5-litre three-pot petrol turbo on the marketplace. There's enough torque to surf about with traffic flow, so eliciting pace from the 208 100 isn't a busy enterprise, and the noise suppression is nothing short of excellent; wind buffeting about the cabin and tyre roar are only intermittently present to any significant degree, either when you venture up to higher speeds or if the road surface is particularly poor.

Better still, it's a pretty decent car to drive across the board. While we had the most fun in the 100hp model throughout the day, that was because we drove it on the best roads; but there's a lot to be said for the 75hp variant. One look at that car's torque figure would possibly make you think it was going to be awful to drive, but it really isn't. Like its turbocharged siblings, it's turbine-like in terms of smoothness around the rev counter and it actually makes a decent little noise. Throw in its light overall car weight (1,023kg) and it proves to be a fun thing to thrap along in; even its interior, with analogue dials in the cluster, still feels good, with splashes of carbon-effect trim and colour fillets to look at. The 130hp model, meanwhile, is a nicely rounded machine and, although it isn't pitched as such in GT-line spec, if you were to call it a warm hatch then we probably wouldn't complain with that summation. As for the diesel, it isn't quick and it has some odd ride/handling manners, perhaps because it has the heaviest reciprocating engine of all up front and the suspension has been tweaked to accommodate it, but with 250Nm of torque it has the mid-range muscle to make it easy to drive.

However. While the Peugeot drives pleasantly in the main, we nevertheless have reservations. The first is the price: at a starting figure of 16,250, it kicks off as more money than all of the Ford Fiesta (15,995), SEAT Ibiza (15,600) and the aforementioned Polo (15,045), and it looks properly rich compared to its Gallic nemesis, the Renault Clio (14,295). Admittedly, there needs to be close scrutiny of engine and equipment specs here to ensure it's a like-for-like comparison across the brands, but whatever the Lion's generosity in terms of value-for-money there's no escaping the fact the 208 gets very pricey, very quickly. A mid-ranking 100hp Allure like our test car is almost 19 grand, which makes it look somewhat boldly priced against a Ford Fiesta ST (which is a pukka hot hatch, remember), while if you go for a 130hp GT-Line model for the full warm hatch experience, you'll be looking at 23,350 - which raises the worrying notion of any impending 208 GTi being 26,000 and more. Yikes.

The second issue is the steering - in all 208 models, it's too light in Normal mode and too falsely hefty in the cars with an optional Sport setting, so you never quite get the connection you're hoping for from a Peugeot supermini (yes, the unspoken subtext here is the numbers 'two-oh-five'...). This is exacerbated by not much in the way of feel through the seat, either, the car feeling impressively refined on the one hand and possibly a touch numb on the other.

But by far the biggest determinant in whether the 208 is going to be a roaring success or not is the ride quality. Across the whole range of cars - the petrols, the diesel and the EV - the ride comfort never got above a level of 'very good'. All of its four key rivals, in the form of the Fiesta, the Ibiza, the Polo and the Clio, have superior ride quality in various specifications and there are models among the 208's family which have suspension which is starting to descend to the levels of 'overly firm' - the diesel and EV being the most obvious culprits. Funnily enough, the sportiest car in the range, the 130hp GT-Line, actually had pretty decent comportment, with a tautly controlled set-up that never seemed too crashy and uncomfortable, but to have the Peugeot offering the smoothest possible conduct on all road surfaces, you're going to need to stick to lowlier Access and Allure models with the smaller (16-inch) wheels.

Nevertheless, returning to our specific test car and moving away from the broad-stroke impressions of the 208 range, with a slick-shifting six-speed manual - which is, however, controlled by a gearlever-top that's huge and not massively tactile to hold - and plenty of front-end grip, the PureTech 100 can be hustled along at a fair old rate. There's a good level of body control, despite some roll and pitch to inform you of the weight transfer, there's even a bit of (whisper it) lift-off oversteer if you pound into a corner hot and then come off the throttle at just the right time, and there's a general sensation of a well-sorted chassis here; just one that has its messages blunted by a lack of seat-of-the-pants feel and the inert steering. Overall, we'd say the 208 was very easy to drive in cities, refined to cruise along in on flowing, open roads, and a fair amount of fun on the right twisty routes to make it dynamically competent.

Verdict

The new Peugeot 208's key strengths are its show-stopping looks, its top-notch interior and a good level of refinement. You need to spec it carefully to get the best from it, however, as the ride can be mediocre on cars with certain engines and with the bigger wheels, and the pricing of the 208 looks robust, to say the very least. But, if you like what you see (and we cannot fathom for a second why you wouldn't), then this French motor is immediately among the front-runners in the supermini class.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 14 Oct 2019



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2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.

2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.2019 Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure manual. Image by Peugeot.








 

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