Peugeot 208 review
The Peugeot 208 is affordable, stylish and good to drive but it's still beaten by the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo overall
Peugeot’s 208 sits firmly in the mainstream of the ultra-competitive supermini class. It goes head-to-head with top sellers like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo, but offers its own unique blend of style and customisation.
In its favour, it offers plenty of practicality for passengers and luggage, and has a pleasing-looking interior. It’s easy to drive, too, with some very strong engines (as long as you avoid entry-level models) and safe, secure handling. The latest facelift brings new levels of infotainment and safety to the 208, too.
However, the Peugeot 208 isn’t quite as mature or as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta. The interior layout won’t suit some people, either, with its awkward-to-see instrumentation. But overall, this is a good value, easy-to-live-with supermini choice.
The Peugeot 208 is the French company's entrant into the crowded supermini sector, and rivals cars like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio and Mazda 2. It's a smart and stylish small car, with plenty of equipment as standard. The interior is grown-up and upmarket, but the personalisation on offer shows that Peugeot has its sights set on the youth market. All drivers will appreciate the range of efficient engines, which should 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 Peugeot’s controversial scaled-down steering wheel and raised dials – also seen in the 2008 crossover and 308 hatchback.
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Petrol engines range from the basic three-cylinder 1.0 and 1.2-litre, to the range-topping 1.6-litre GTi (which we've covered in a seperate review). 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, one of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesels is your best bet. The most economical 74bhp version has a claimed fuel economy figure of 94.2mpg.
The 208 was facelfited three years into its life-cycle, in September 2015. A more aggressively styled front end has a wider grille, and the rear end features restyled LED lights. There are fresh wheel designs and new colours, too, plus personalisation option packs in some very striking colours. There’s also extra safety equipment, including Active City Brake.
Peugeot also slimmed down its range of trims as of 2015. Gone is the basic Access trim, in favour of an air-con equipped Access A/C which joins mid-spec Active and plusher Allure models. The previous top-spec XY and Feline cars have been replaced by a sporty new GT Line, which sits below the hot hatch GTi (which is also available in GTi Prestige and GTi by Peugeot Sport forms).
All 208s now come with 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.
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, if perhaps a little dated.
While it doesn’t have the world’s most sophisticated suspension set-up, the Peugeot 208 benefits from strong grip and decent body control, although we found that the standard stability control is too eager to cut in. The 208’s electrically assisted steering wheel is very small by class standards; while that means it’s fast in action, it can make the car feel nervous on the motorway. Overall the Peugeot isn’t as much fun to pilot as a Ford Fiesta, but it 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 it soaks up bigger lumps and bumps well. On the motorway, background noise isn’t as well suppressed as in some rivals.
Sitting at the top of the range is the fiery 208 GTi hot hatch, which in post-2015 guise features the chassis upgrades and 205bhp power output of the limited edition 30th anniversary model. The top-spec GTi by Peugeot Sport is the sportiest Peugeot 208 ever. It can’t quite match the Ford Fiesta ST for thrills, but the refined GTi’s grown-up driving dynamics and muscular performance give it the feel of a junior VW Golf GTI.
Petrol-powered models use a line-up of (mostly) 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 far bigger engine and is much better for motorway use. The 208 GTi hot hatch’s power output is a very healthy 205bhp from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, which provides very fast acceleration indeed.
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Diesel fans can choose from 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. The 1.6 diesel can be a little noisy when you rev it hard, but it’s never too intrusive.
Most models get Peugeot’s five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.2-litre PureTech 110 can be fitted with the firm’s EAT6 automatic gearbox. This suits the car well, and is much better than the slow-witted, clunky ETG automated manual that’s still offered with the 1.2 PureTech 82 model.
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, which suffers from a long throw, vague feel and widely spaced ratios. Disappointingly, there’s no automatic option for diesel engines at present.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
If you do a lot of town driving, it’s probably the petrol models that will suit you best. They’re cheaper and fairly economical in the urban environment. All petrol cars (except the flagship GTi) emit less than 105g/km of CO2, so tax is low. It’s even free in the case of the stop-start equipped 82bhp 1.2-litre engine, thanks to low emissions of 95g/km.
The diesels do cost more money to buy new than the petrols but could make sense if you do a lot of miles, because they’re even more economical. Indeed, the most frugal 208 – the 74bhp BlueHDi – has class-leading CO2 emissions of just 79g/km and has an amazing official average fuel economy figure of 94.2mpg. That makes it the most economical non-hybrid car on sale in the UK, and should cost mere pennies to run as a result.
All the other diesels in the 208 range are sub-100g/km, so all are free from road tax under current rules. All diesel models are available with stop/start technology, although in our experience the system doesn’t cut in as readily as its does on some rivals.
Petrol-powered 208s are a little cheaper to insure than their equivalent diesels. The base 1.0 model is in a very low group 7E, moving up to group 11E for the 1.2 PureTech 82 and group 15E for the 1.2 PureTech 110. Meanwhile, the hot GTi by Peugeot Sport is in a sports car-like group 33E.
The diesel range starts at group 15E for the 74bhp model, rising to group 21D for the 99bhp model and up to group 23D for the 118bhp 1.6 HDi.
Our experts predict that the Peugeot 208 will retain a creditable 41.1 per cent of its value after three years – that’s slightly better than the Ford Fiesta. However, superminis like the 208 don’t do as well in terms of value retention as crossovers like the 208’s sister model, the 2008.
Interior, design and technology
The Peugeot 208 manages to stand out from the supermini crowd thanks to its daring styling, featuring crisp lines and neat detailing. The 2015 facelift has 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.
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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.
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 add a gloss black grille with accents and Peugeot lettering in yellow or white respectively. A similar kit is offered for the cabin for £350 and is slightly more effective. This adds subtle stitching on the seats 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 due to some scratchy plastics lower down the dash. Unfortunately, the 208's cabin layout has not been updated since its 2012 launch, and takes some getting used to. It’s the small steering wheel and high-set dials that are most awkward. The wheel needs to sit very low down for you to 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 instrument display. Whether you can live with this compromise on a daily basis is a personal decision. Add in the fiddly touchscreen control system, and the 208’s cabin is trickier to get along than those of its rivals.
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All 208s now come with manual air conditioning as standard. If you can afford it, 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. Park Assist and a reversing camera are available as a combined option from the Allure trim level.
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 is the only one that matches that sporty look with racy performance, though.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The entry-level Access model has a decent level of kit as standard, but lacks the mid-range Active’s touchscreen infotainment system (which includes USB connectivity, a DAB digital radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity).
The touchscreen infotainment system is clear but the scrolling sub-menus take some getting used to. The animation certainly takes its time, so navigating through the screens isn’t as slick as it is in many rivals.
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The touchscreen can be combined with the optional Peugeot Connect Apps USB key that connects via 3G, allowing you to access apps such as live traffic, parking and POI information. Sat nav is not available at all on Access models, and is optional on other models (from £300).
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Two Peugeot 208 bodystyles are offered: a three-door and a five-door. Both have decent practicality for a supermini, with plenty of passenger space both up front and in the rear, and a good-sized boot by class standards. It’s worth choosing an Allure model or above if you want your front seat passenger to be comfortable, as they come with a height-adjustable passenger seat.
The 208 is a usefully compact supermini, which certainly helps in urban traffic. At 3,973mm long, it’s almost exactly the same length as the Ford Fiesta, but it’s slightly wider and lower than the Ford, measuring 1,739mm wide and 1,460mm tall (versus the Fiesta’s 1,722mm and 1,495mm).
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Although the three-door’s rear seats offer as much room as the five-door’s, headroom is more limited. Rear seat occupants in the Peugeot 208 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.
The cabin boasts plenty of useful storage options, including a number of cup-holders, decent door bins and a deep cubby area ahead of the gearlever. On the downside, the central armrest can tend to get in the way of your elbow when driving (although you can flip up out of position), while the large fusebox takes up more than half the space in the glovebox.
The Peugeot 208’s 285-litre boot (with all seats raised) is pretty much the same size as the Ford Fiesta’s and the Volkswagen Polo’s. However, overall practicality is compromised by a high load lip and a small tailgate opening, making the luggage area a bit tricky to access. On the plus side, boot space increases to 1,076 litres when the rear seats are lowered, which is bigger than either than Fiesta or the Polo.
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We’re pleased to see that a proper spare wheel (either a space-saver or full-size spare) is standard across the 208 range, unlike most rivals which now make do with a puncture repair kit. The only exception is the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport: its 18-inch alloy wheel is too big for the boot so you only get a tyre inflation kit.
The Peugeot 208’s towing abilities are respectable for the class. The maximum braked towing weight is 1,150kg for our top choice model, the 1.2 PureTech 110.
Reliability and Safety
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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. 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, reducing the risk of crashes at speeds up to 20mph. 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.
Peugeot’s warranty applies for three years, which is the industry standard. Some rival brands do offer more generous warranty lengths, including Renault (four years), Toyota (five years), Hyundai (five years) and Kia (seven years). The fact that Peugeot applies no limit to the mileage covered makes it a definite cut above the norm, though. It’s possible to extend the warranty at extra cost.
Most models in the 208 range have service intervals of 12,500 miles, which is about average for this type of car, but you’ll still need to do a service at least once a year to keep the warranty intact. Servicing plans are available to spread the cost on a month-by-month basis (although Peugeot's fixed-price maintenance scheme is more expensive than many rival schemes).
If you’re financing your car through Peugeot, it offers a popular programme called ‘Just Add Fuel’ – a single monthly payment that covers all motoring costs such as routine servicing (but not wear parts), VED tax, breakdown cover and even comprehensive insurance (provided you’re over a certain age, have had a licence for at two years and already have two years’ no claims discount). This runs over three years, and means you don’t have to think about any of the above items.