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In-depth reviews

Peugeot 208 review - Engines, performance and drive (2012 - 2019)

The 208 boasts a range of peppy engines and is easy to drive, but other rivals are more fun on the road

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.

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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.

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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.

Engines

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.

Diesel fans saw a change from 1.6 BlueHDi units to 1.5 BlueHDi motors towards the end of the 208's production run. For the 1.6 engines, the basic 74bhp version is 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. Go for the sole 1.5 BlueHDi and you get 99bhp, and a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds.

Peugeot 208 sets fuel economy record with 141mpg

A five-speed manual gearbox is used with the PureTech 82 petrol, while the 1.2-litre PureTech 110 gets a six-speed manual, or 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 was offered with the 1.2 PureTech 82 model.

A precise six-speed manual came with the 1.6 BlueHDi and all 1.6-litre petrol models, while the later 1.5 BlueHDi had either a five or six-speed manual, with no auto option.

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