Peugeot's improved 208 supermini feels great with a three cylinder petrol engine. Jonathan Crouch checks out the 1.0-litre PureTech 68 variant
Ten Second Review
Peugeot's much improved 208 is a supermini that now makes a convincing case for itself, even in its least expensive three cylinder 1.0-litre PureTech 68 petrol guise.
Beating up the rest in the supermini sector ought to be easy for Peugeot. It's a company with a brilliant track record in small cars and here in the UK, people like the brand. That's the sort of foundation for success that most car makers would give their eye teeth for but it's one that has seemed to hang like a millstone around Peugeot's neck in recent years. Many will remember the fantastic 205 of the 1980s, and a good many more will probably have had first-hand experience of the big-selling 206 that followed. As pretty as it was, the 206 was never a great car and its quality issues deterred a good many customers from shopping with Peugeot again. That made its successor's task a good deal trickier and while the 207, launched in 2006, was a much-improved model, it was always playing catch up. As a result, Peugeot canned it early and brought us this car, the 208, now improved with Euro6 compatibility, extra equipment and a smarter look. Let's see how it drives in basic 1.0-litre PureTech 68 petrol form.
I'm not going to make any apologies for singling out this three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine above the many others available in the 208 line-up because it's my favourite. That said, the rest of the powerplants certainly aren't bad but indulge me for a moment while I tell you about this three-pot PureTech unit which puts out 68bhp. If you really want more grunt, then it also comes in 1.2-litre 82bhp form. A 1.0-litre engine doesn't sound as if it would deliver much fun in a supermini. The 208 is a big car in supermini terms and with just 68bhp on tap, you might expect it to feel very under-powered. What saves the day is this powerplant's super-light weight. The three cylinder engine takes a massive 95 kilos out of the car's front end and that has an absolutely definitive effect on the way the car handles. The body control, the steering response and the tenacity of the 1.0-litre car's front end means you may find yourself dissolving into gales of laughter as you punt it down a twisty road. So while the 1.0-litre model's 0-62mph time of 14.0 seconds doesn't promise much on paper, get behind the wheel and you'll experience one of the most rewarding small cars you'll have driven in a very long time.
Design and Build
Peugeot has tried to make this 208's styling a bit more assertive and distinctive. The restyled front bumper creates a sharper and more precise line, with a wider grille and deeper chrome finisher that is now fully integrated. Plus most models get two-tone headlamps, with black and chrome masks and a hi-tech LED light signature. At the rear, the full LED light clusters have been redesigned to incorporate Peugeot's 3D 'claws' motif. Inside, not too much needed doing. Soft touch plastics, tactile switchgear, chrome highlights and almost faultless ergonomics show other supermini sellers how it should be done. As before, the two main talking points inside are the smallness of the steering wheel (over which you view the high-set instruments) and the colour touchscreen attached to the fascia that controls audio, trip computer and stereo functions and to which you can add a now wider range of clever downloadable apps. The wheel is now trimmed in full-grain leather from Active trim, while the soft-touch moulded dashboard strip - which is standard regardless of trim level - has smarter graining on higher specification models. Despite the slightly more compact outward dimensions, there's a little more room on the back seat than you might expect - and decent luggage space behind. Don't get us wrong: 285-litres isn't huge by supermini segment standards but it's a very usable space that can be extended to as much as 1,076-litres of you push forward the rear bench.
Market and Model
Expect to pay somewhere between just under £12,000 to around £12,500 for the 1.0 PureTech 68 petrol version of this 208 and within that span, there's a £500 premium for the five-door bodystyle. Think carefully about paying the £1,300 premium to go from this entry-level 1.0-litre petrol model to the 1.2: that's quite a lot extra to pay for an extra 14bhp. A range of personalisation packs are now available to match the current buying preference in this segment. And no matter which three or five-door 208 model you opt for, you'll find a competitive level of standard equipment included. Yes, you'd probably get more if you bought something from a budget brand but nevertheless, even the entry-level version of this car is decently kitted out with cruise control with a speed limiter to help you keep your licence in urban areas, a stereo with an AUX-in jack and wheel-mounted controls, remote central locking and electric front windows. Fresh technology includes a 'MirrorScreen' feature, which allows you to duplicate the functionality of your smartphone on a dashboard infotainment display that's standard from 'Active' trim upwards and is compatible with apps like Coyote, Parkopedia, Glympse, and Sygic. Safety-wise, buyers can now specify features like a reversing camera and the Active City Brake system that scans the road ahead as you drive for potential collision hazards.
Cost of Ownership
Peugeot has clearly thought long and hard about cost of ownership figures because they're amongst the best in the business. This 1.0-litre model returns 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and puts out just 102g/km of CO2. What's also clear is that this is a car that pays more than mere lip service to environmental concerns. With 25% of recycled or natural materials making up its mass of polymers, it walks the walk. The rear bumper and apron assembly are made entirely using these materials, saving around 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide in manufacturing alone per year. Anything else? Insurance is group 5 for this 1.0-litre variant on the 1-50 scale. And residual values have proved to be a step change from the disappointing 207, while servicing intervals are every 12,500 miles. Plus there's a three year/60,000 mile warranty with Peugeot roadside assistance.
The 208 has proved to be a landmark car for Peugeot and the most recent changes should further enable it to continue to reclaim lost market share for its brand in the supermini segment. Go for a three cylinder petrol model like the entry-level 1.0-litre PureTech 68 variant we've been looking at here if you want the most fun behind the wheel and the lowest overall running costs. The public at large seems to be catching on to what a good package this is. They bought the 206 in huge numbers and that wasn't a great car. Now that Peugeot has finally brought us the supermini we knew they were capable of, at a price that's right, sales are deservedly growing.