Peugeot 208 review
The Peugeot 208 is affordable, stylish and good to drive but it's still beaten by the Ford Fiesta overall
The Peugeot 208 is a leading rival for superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It is a stylish and well-equipped small car, and while it has an upmarket quality to its interior, Peugeot has its sights set firmly on the youth market with a variety of personalisation options to choose from. Young drivers will also appreciate the range of efficient engines which will deliver low running costs.
Whichever model you go for, you’ll get the same well-built and stylish interior, plus enough room to accommodate five adults at a squeeze. The Peugeot 208 also rivals the best in the class for boot space, plus there’s plenty of useful storage in the cabin. All models get the scaled down steering wheel and raised dials – also seen in the 2008 crossover and 308 hatchback.
Petrol engines range from the basic three-cylinder 1.0 and 1.2-litre, to the range-topping 1.6-litre GTi. In 2015, Peugeot added a 108bhp turbocharged 1.2 PureTech petrol engine to the range, offering buyers increased performance, without the high running costs. However, if you want to watch your wallet, the range of 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesels are your best bet. The most economical 74bhp version will return a claimed economy figure of 94.2mpg.
Along with the new petrol engine, Peugeot has also slimmed down its range of trims for 2015. Gone is the basic Access trim – in favour of an air-con equipped Access A/C – joining the range alongside mid-spec Active and plusher Allure models. The previously top-spec XY and Feline cars have been replaced by the sporty GT Line, which sits below the GTi and GTi by Peugeot Sport.
All cars now come with LED rear lights, cruise control and air-conditioning, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, six airbags and remote central locking. Active cars add alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, as well as the all-important touchscreen and a DAB radio. Allure adds bigger wheels and auto lights and wipers, while the GT Line gets sporty details and dual-zone climate control.
Our choice: 208 1.2 PureTech 110 S&S Allure 5dr
Engines, performance and drive
The Peugeot 208 is loosely based on the same underpinnings as the old 207, which means it’s a composed and capable performer on the road.
While it doesn’t feature the most sophisticated suspension set-up, the Peugeot 208 benefits from strong grip and decent body control. The electrically assisted steering is a little lifeless and the standard stability control is too eager to cut in, but the Peugeot feels more agile than rivals such as the Renault Clio and Kia Rio.
Traditionally, Peugeot models have been famed for their soft and quiet ride – and overall the 208 does a good job of upholding this reputation. It feels a little firm at low speed and can crash into potholes, but once up to speed the Peugeot soaks up bigger lumps and bumps well. On the motorway the 208 tends to fidget, though, while noise isn’t as well isolated as some rivals.
Petrol powered models use a line-up of three-cylinder engines. The entry-level 68bhp 1.0-litre VTi unit is smooth and keen to rev, but it feels a little sluggish, so most buyers will be better off with the livelier 82bhp 1.2-litre VTi, or better still the turbocharged 108bhp PureTech. The latter feels like a much bigger engine and is much more at home on the motorway.
Diesel fans can choose between a range of 1.6-litre BlueHDi units. The basic 74bhp version is ridiculously economical, but it takes 13.3 seconds to hit 62mph – so if performance is key we’d recommend the punchier 99bhp or 118bhp versions. The latter does 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds and can rival the turbo petrols for in-gear shove.
All versions get Peugeot’s slightly vague five-speed manual, while the 1.2-litre PureTech can be fitted with the firm’s EAT6 automatic gearbox. It’s much better than the old slow-witted, clunky automated manual, and suits the car quite nicely. A precise six-speed manual is reserved for the higher-powered 1.6-litre HDI and all 1.6-litre petrol models, and we'd recommend this over the five-speed - in the 1.6 BlueHDi, the fiev-speed box suffers from a long throw and widely spaced ratios.
Sitting at the top of the range is the fiery 208 GTi hot hatch. The 2015 update introduced the chassis upgrades and 205bhp power output of the limited edition 30th anniversary model to the standard car. The top-spec GTi by Peugeot Sport is the sportiest Peugeot 208 ever. It can’t quire match the Ford Fiesta ST for thrills, but the refined GTi’s grown-up driving dynamics and muscular performance gives it the feel of a junior VW Golf GTI.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
On paper, the Peugeot 208 makes good financial sense thanks to its wide range of petrol and diesel engines.
If you do a lot of town driving, the petrol models impress, with all cars (except the flagship GTi) emitting less than 105g/km of CO2. The stop-start equipped 82bhp 1.2-litre engine is tax-free thanks to emissions of 95g/km.
The diesels are even more economical – with the most frugal 74bhp BlueHDi emitting a tax-busting 79g/km for 94mpg. It’s the most economical non-hybrid on sale in the UK, and should cost mere pennies to run as a result. All the other diesels are sub-100g/km, so all are free from road tax. Diesel models feature stop/start as standard, although in our experience the system doesn’t cut in as frequently as its does on some rivals.
Our experts predict the Peugeot 208 will retain 41.1 per cent of its value after three years – slightly more than the Ford Fiesta. Servicing, general maintenance and insurance costs should be very affordable, although Peugeot's fixed-price maintenance scheme is more expensive than most rival schemes. If you're buying on finance, then Peugeot’s Just Add Fuel scheme is worht investigating. It wraps up all your monthly costs in one easy payment: As the name suggests, the only cost outside of this payment is fuel.
Interior, design and technology
The Peugeot 208 still manages to stand out from the supermini crowd thanks to its daring styling, while both three and five-door models get the same crisp lines and neat detailing. The 2015 facelift added LED tail-lights, while up front there’s a revised grille with a squarer, more jutting opening than before, plus there are new alloy wheel designs across the range.
The Peugeot 208 Active gets extra visual appeal courtesy of its bright LED daytime running lights and 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside it gets a touchscreen infotainment system and a leather wrapped steering wheel – though it’s worth noting some of our testers found that the high-set dials were obscured by the small, thick-rimmed wheel.
Peugeot offers a variety of personalisation options on the 208. One highlight is the matt paint option. The textured finish isn’t a wrap; it’s applied on the 208 production line in Poissy, France, just like Peugeot’s standard colours. What’s more, it comes in light or dark grey and costs the same as pearlescent white.
The finish is rough to the touch, especially on the inside of the car, but it’s resilient and should be easier to maintain than a standard gloss paint. However, the colour looks out of place when paired with chrome window trim and door handles – a black finish for these might be more appealing.
The exterior of the 208 can be upgraded with £150 Lime Yellow or Menthol White personalisation packs, which adds a gloss black grille with accents and Peugeot lettering in yellow or white respectively. A similar kit is offered for the cabin for £350 which is slightly more effective, with subtle stiching on the seates and wheel, although the stripes on the door grab handles look a bit tacky.
Interior quality is good, but still trails the class-leading VW Polo thanks to a smattering of scratchy plastics lower down the dash. unfortunately, the 208's cabin layout is unchanged, and takes some getting used to due to the small steering wheel and high-set dials. The wheel needs to sit low so you can see the dials, yet the seat doesn’t adjust far enough to compensate.
As a result you end up with the wheel in your lap, while the top of the rim can obscure the central dash display. Whether you can live with this compromise on a daily basis is a personal decision. Add in a fiddly touchscreen, and the 208’s cabin isn’t as easy to get along with as those of its rivals. If you’ve got a bit more to spend, we’d go for the higher-spec Allure, which comes with bigger wheels, tinted rear windows and chrome details – as well as a load of extra kit.
The Peugeot 208 GT Line and full-fat GTi models are much bolder, and come fitted with sporty details such as 17-inch alloy wheels and beefier bumpers. The GTi and GTi by Peugeot Sport are the only ones that can match their sporty looks with racy performance, though.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Peugeot 208’s 285-litre boot is smaller than those found on the Ford Fiesta and the Toyota Yaris, plus, it’s hobbled by a high load lip and a small tailgate opening, too, making the luggage area a bit trickier to access. However, boot space increases to 1,076-litres when the rear-seats are lowered, offering decent practicality for a supermini.
Although the Peugeot 208 three-door’s rear seats offer as much room as the five-door’s, headroom is more limited. However, the cabin boasts plenty of useful storage, including a number of cup-holders, decent door bins and a deep cubby ahead of the gearlever. On the downside, the central armrest can tend to get in the way of your elbow when driving, but it flips up out of position and also contains extra stowage inside, while the large fusebox takes up more than half of the storage space in the glovebox.
Rear seat occupants in the Peugeot 208 should enjoy similar amounts of head and legroom as they do in the Ford Fiesta, but you’ll struggle to fit three adults across the narrow rear bench.
Reliability and Safety
Peugeot has long struggled to shake off its reputation for flaky quality and poor reliability, but it has made big strides in terms of reliability in recent years, and the company came 10th overall in our Driver Power 2015 manufacturer survey.
While the 208 certainly feels more solidly built than its predecessor, some owners have reported electrical glitches, particularly with the infotainment system, and we've experienced problems with the infotainment system on test cars rebooting for no apparent reason.
The 208 came 73rd out of 200 cars in the 2015 Driver Power Survey, with customers rating it highly for running costs and ride quality.
While the 208’s durability may be a concern, its safety credentials are top-notch as all cars get six airbags, a speed limiter, tyre pressure monitors and stability control, while Active City Brake is now available as a £250 option on Allure models and above. The 208 earned a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, although the test was conducted back in 2012, and the latest test regime is far tougher.