French superminis like the Peugeot 208 have come a long way since the cheap and cheerful hatches of the seventies and eighties. While those cars were pretty basic, the latest 208 has the measure of rivals such as the VW Polo and Renault Clio for stylish cabin design.
Go for an Active model, with three or five doors, and you get a bit more kit than the entry level Access and Access+ trim. This includes a multifunction touchscreen, DAB radio, a USB connection for iPods and MP3 players, Bluetooth phone connection and a 60:40 split-folding rear bench. You pay around £1,000 extra over Access+ cars, although the extra kit means it’s well worth the extra.
From the outside, the Peugeot 208 Active gets front foglights and 15-inch alloy wheels instead of wheel trims, while the smart styling and neat detailing are in keeping with other 208 models.
Inside, it’s clear Peugeot’s designers have dared to be different, and the addition of the multifunction touchscreen on Active models is a stylish touch. However, navigating around the menus takes some getting used to, and it’s easy to be distracted from the road if you’re trying to find certain functions. Another quibble with the 208 in general are the high-set dials and small, thick-rimmed steering wheel, which take a bit of getting used to. Interior quality is excellent, though, and everything feels well built.
On the road the Peugeot 208 uses chassis technology recycled from the 207, so it’s not the most advanced car in its class. Active models get 1.0 VTi and 1.2-litre VTi three cylinder petrol engines or a 1.4 HDi diesel. Choose the tax-free 1.0 VTi petrol engine and it’s economical, with claimed combined consumption of 65mpg. Those after more power should choose 1.2 VTi, which does 62.7mpg and emits just 104g/km of CO2.
The HDi diesel promises low fuel consumption and emissions, but has a significant premium over the efficient 1.2-litre three cylinder VTi petrol. The latter is only worth buying if you do lots of motorway miles, and we’d recommend the 1.2 VTi for the best mix of performance and economy. Stop-start is offered with the 1.2 VTi mated to the EGC automated manual gearbox, although the clunky transmission is pretty poor and the stop-start system doesn’t cut in as frequently as similar systems found on rivals.
Peugeot has long struggled to shake off its reputation for flaky quality and poor reliability and while the 208 certainly feels more solidly built than its predecessor, some owners have reported electrical glitches, particularly with the infotainment system.On the plus side, most of the mechanicals are tried and tested. While the 208’s durability will be a concern, its safety credentials are top-notch as all cars get six airbags, a speed limiter, stability control and five star
The 285-litre boot is smaller than those found on the Ford Fiesta and the Toyota Yaris, and it’s hobbled by a high load lip. However, boot space increases to 1,076-litres when the rear-seats are lowered, while Active cars get a 60:40 split-folding bench as standard.
* Price: £12,795
* Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl, 82bhp
* 0-60mph: 12.8 seconds
* Test economy: 38.9mpg/8.6mpl
* CO2: 104g/km
* Annual road tax: £20