The glory days of Peugeot’s “2-oh” series of small hatchbacks were most certainly with the 205 of the 1980s, but nostalgia for the 205 is so powerful that Peugeot’s small cars are still where you look for stylish, affordable fun and great engines.
I should know. I learnt to drive in one: a 1.8-litre diesel 205 van with four gears, a heavy clutch and no power steering. I remember it feeling light, and of course what I thought was devilishly fast. It wasn’t so much the freedom of the open road, as the freedom of the open field, and the day I swung the 205 into fourth gear I felt like I had landed in motoring nirvana for the first time, aged 16, even though I was probably doing no more than 40mph.
The 208 continues the tradition of small Peugeot hatchbacks with the “2-oh” designation and the range has been revamped to keep it fresh and competitive in its class – tweaked styling, new personalisation options and the addition of the latest Peugeot engine technology.
The little Peugeot’s curvy bumpers, swept back, headlamps and aggressive nose might just be enough to win the stylish young things over even before they explore the new colour and personalisation options that have arrived with the latest 208. A new vibrant orange body colour ‘Orange Power’ is billboard-ready, and two textured paint options are available for the first time for a cool, matt look.
My test car (pictured) is finished in Ice Silver, which looks like the car is wrapped in matt grey. The Lime Green personalisation pack adds lovely green bits to the grille, green boomerangs to the front bumpers, and a green strip to black door mirrors. It’s rad.
Inside the 208 is well-finished, with lots of glossy black surfaces and curves keeping it easy on the eye. I’m a fan of the small steering wheel that you look over rather than through to see the instrument dials, but check the driving position out for yourself to see if it works for you. Passenger space is good for a small car and the boot is about average at 285 litres but a full size spare wheel is included.
Access, Active and Allure trim have been joined by a sporty new GT Line but standard equipment is still generous including the aforementioned spare wheel, front electric windows, cruise control and speed limiter, driver’s seat height adjustment, remote central locking, Bluetooth, and steering wheel mounted audio controls. Active models add touchscreen, 15″ alloys, fog lamps, air con, rear parking sensors, leather trimmed steering wheel and electric mirrors while the Allure upgrade includes LED daytime running lights, automatic lights and wipers, electrochrome rear view mirror, tinted rear and side windows, dual zone air con and 16″ alloy wheels.
The 208 has a great line-up of engines, petrol and diesel, ranging from 68bhp to 110bhp. Petrol power comes from a choice of 1.0-litre (68bhp), 1.2-litre (82bhp) or the new, award winning 1.2-litre turbocharged Puretech engine with 110bhp. The new engine has emissions of just 103g CO2/km and pocket-friendly annual motor tax of €190.
The 208 has two new diesel options: the new 1.6 BlueHDi diesel with 75bhp or 100bhp. Both boast sub-100g CO2 emissions, with the higher powered version returning up to 83mpg.
My test car had the new 1.2-litre 110bhp petrol and it’s a turbocharged petrol wonder. It’s lively and will reach 100km/h from a standstill in 9.6 seconds, while returning up to 63mpg depending on how well-behaved you are behind the wheel. A sporting little growl accompanies hard acceleration and settles to a lovely background hum. There’s enough power for comfortable overtaking with hot hatch-like nippiness around town that will leave others scratching their heads at the traffic lights and checking for the GTi badges when they catch up.
It’s the most powerful engine in the standard 208 range but the little car is well able for the extra power: there’s reassuring grip in the corners and the steering is natural and intuitive so you can guide the car confidently around corners at speed. Comfort and refinement are generally very good by small car standards, but there is wind noise from around the windscreen at high speeds and much like rivals, driving over broken and uneven surfaces can be felt in the cabin.
Pricing starts at €14,845 for the 3-door range and €15,650 for the 5-door. Diesels start at €17,730. My 5-door test car with 1.2-litre Puretech turbo petrol in high spec Allure trim has a list price of €20,410 so it is at the more premium end of the small car market, but competitively priced against rivals of similar high spec.
The textured paint comes in at an extra €610 and the Lime Green personalisation pack is €270 but worth it I think for the wow factor and the textured paint is meant to be more hard-wearing, more resistant to micro-scratching and doesn’t suffer through frequent car washing.
So there are now more options for 208 buyers and the range is opened up to a buyer looking for something with a more individual look and more power, but who isn’t interested in a full-on GTi experience.
Yet beneath all the fancy colours and personalisation packs, there is still a very charming small car – the 208 range is still a very good place to look for stylish small car fun at any budget!
Model Tested: Peugeot 208 5-door 1.2 Puretech 110bhp
Price: €20,410 (208 range starts at €14,845)
Engine: 1.2-litre, three cylinder turbo petrol
0-100km/h: 9.6 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 103g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year