Sector: Supermini Price: £TBC Fuel: 48.7-83.0mpg CO2: 87-135g/km
Since the 205 of 1983, Peugeot’s 200 Series has become a backbone of its range, with their mix of chic French styling, brawny hot hatches and affordability drawing in a huge spectrum of buyers. Such is the success of the carmaker’s B-segment offering that at 7.8m sales not only is the 206 the biggest selling Peugeot ever made, but it’s one of the ten best-selling cars in the world.
The 207 lost a little of that momentum, chubbier, not as pretty as its predecessor, and without the GTI halo. But its replacement, the 208, looks well positioned to breathe some energy back into the series – with production set to be ramped back up to 206 levels. It has big boots to fill.
But it sounds promising. It’s shorter than the old car and an average of 110kg lighter, good for reclaiming some 205-esque agility and adding to a range where all diesels and, once the start/stop system is introduced next year, two petrols come under 100g/km.
It’s also far better styled than the 207. There’s a little of the previous generations’ DNA carried forward into its silhouette, but the short bonnet and upright nose give it cute, compact proportions. Ultimately it’ll come down to individual taste but, against less adventurous rivals, the neatly creased body lines and sculpted ”spine” over the bonnet and roof give it a real sense of identity.
This extends inside, where the cabin is spacious and now close to the 508 with a huge glovebox and new touch-screen infotainment system. More intuitive than the 508’s, it will gain useful app downloads during 2013,
similar to the system offered in the new Yaris.
It’s the driving position that really impresses though. The dials are perched on the top of the dashboard, just below eye height, which allows the thick-rimmed small oval steering wheel to sit low without obscuring the view of the dials. It’s a layout which makes the 208 feel sporty from the off.
But for all that promise, the 208 doesn’t quite deliver when it comes to driving – it’s not as agile as a Fiesta and, despite sharp and direct steering responses from the small wheel, the car has a tendency to squeal its low rolling resistance tyres while cornering and often ends up pushing wide.
This isn’t helped by some of the engine options. The three-cylinder petrol engines won’t be available from launch in the UK, and the 120bhp 1.6-litre unit feels a generation behind the latest turbocharged downsized units found in rivals. It needs to be worked hard, lacks a sixth gear and sounds unrefined under load.
There’s better news elsewhere though. The 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol is great – ultimately slower but with a much punchier power delivery. With the start/stop system it’ll drop to 95g/km, this is the one to have.
The torquey 1.6-litre e-HDI diesel is fun too, and while it can’t sharpen the handling it does at least make the car entertainingly willing to chuck around. And even the 87g/km 1.4-litre e-HDI with its electronically controlled manual gearbox outclasses the big petrol – the ponderous gear changes could be overlooked for its 78.4mpg urban economy and convenience of losing the clutch pedal in congested areas.
So a 205 this isn’t – but then neither was the 206, and that sold in its millions despite a plasticky interior, wooly handling and offset pedals and steering wheel. The 208 builds on the 207’s improvements and packages them in a sharper bodyshell. With low running costs to complete the picture, ultimately it doesn’t really matter that it’s not the best drive in its segment.
Peugeot has injected some style and excitement back into its B-segment offering with the 208, and with female buyers targeted it’s become an affordable and stylish car. But drivers expecting the weight reduction to evoke memories of the nimble 205 will find the dri