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Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
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Performance

4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • PureTech petrol is great in 110hp form
  • Diesels are impressively economical
  • Suitably rapid performance for the GTi

Courtesy of its relative lightness, performance and efficiency figures for the Peugeot 208 are surprisingly good, even with modest power outputs at the range’s entry point.

Diesels are more economical on paper, but few supermini buyers cover high enough mileages to recoup the price premium.

Peppy Peugeot 208 petrols

Mainstay of the 208 range is a three-cylinder 1.2-litre motor.

In its most simple form, the non-turbo 1.2 PureTech 68 has, you guessed it, 68hp and just 106Nm of torque available, peaking at 2,750rpm. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard here.

This will require the engine to be worked hard – and consequently become less efficient – as you strive to achieve a 0-62mph time of 13.8 seconds or a top speed of 103mph.

A better choice is the 1.2 PureTech 82 version of the same engine and transmission combination. That slight elevation in power to 82hp, with a similar rise in torque to 118Nm makes it a little easier to keep up with traffic.

Top speed here is 109mph, while the 0-62mph time has been shaved down to 12.2 seconds.

Fitting a five-speed automated manual gearbox to this engine – ETG5 in Peugeotspeak – makes for the least appealing 208. The transmission itself is jerky, unable to hold a candle to a conventional automatic gearbox in smoothness terms, and it’s also slow.

While the top speed nudges up to 111mph, the 0-62mph time is stretched-out to 14.5 seconds.

Pick of the range is the turbocharged 1.2 PureTech 110 S&S (that’s how Peugeot identifies its models with stop/start fuel-saving technology). A five-speed manual’s again standard, but a conventional six-speed automatic is also available.

More important than the power increase to 110hp is the richer seam of torque, with 205Nm available from just 1,500rpm making it a flexible, easier to drive engine.

Both transmissions will take the 208 up to 118mph, while at 9.6 seconds the manual’s 0-62mph time is two-tenths of a second swifter than the auto’s.

Fulfilling the warm – rather than hot – hatch brief is the four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.6 THP 165 engine.

A six-speed manual transmission is the conduit for 165hp and 240Nm of torque at 1,700rpm being delivered to the front wheels, resulting in a 0-62mph quote of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 135mph.

Fuel-miserly Peugeot 208 diesels

Choosing a 208 diesel will essentially mean a choice of four versions based around a four-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbo unit.

First up is the 1.6 BlueHDi 75 S&S: it only musters 75hp but 230Nm of torque at 1,750rpm makes it a more appealing engine than the entry-level petrol.

Still, it’s not quick with a top speed of 106mph and a 13.3-second 0-62mph time. A five-speed manual’s standard here.

More appealing is the zippier 1.6 BlueHDi 100 with and without S&S stop/start functionality, still with the same gearbox.

Performance figures are identical for both versions as the 99hp and 254Nm of torque at 1,750rpm outputs are shared with both, meaning a 10.7-second 0-62mph time and a 116mph, but stop/start improves the claimed fuel efficiency from 80.4mpg to 94.2mpg.

Topping the diesel range – but still sipping fuel at a slow rate – is the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 S&S. It has a six-speed manual to access the 120hp and 300Nm of torque at 1,750pm.

The result is a 118mph top speed and a 9.4-second 0-62mph time.

Rapid Peugeot 208 GTi performance

For the range-topper, the 1.6-litre THP 208 S&S has been cranked up to 208hp, with 300Nm of torque from 1,700rpm.

This makes for flexible real-world performance, and from the off the GTi feels eager and responsive with little in the way of turbo lag. The result is that no matter which one of the six gears you are in, overtaking is both quick and safe.

And those key figures: a 143mph top speed and a 6.5-second 0-62mh time should win you a few rounds of hot hatch Top Trumps.

Handling

4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Nimble handling is a common 208 trait
  • But numbness doesn’t inspire confidence
  • Exceptional cornering ability for GTi

While the Peugeot 208 absolutely eclipses its 207 predecessor for on-road abilities, it still isn’t anywhere near class-leading in terms of handling.

What’s lacking is the degree of traction in corners required to inspire confidence when you’re driving with vigour – the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2 and Suzuki Swift are all better at controlling body roll in this regard.

However, most of the time, a 208’s more likely to be found pottering around town, something it does easily with a lightness to the controls amplified by the small wheel, making urban manoeuvres feel easy.

The steering feels quick, but there’s an absence of much feel which again limits the confidence you’ll have when driving on B-roads.

Superior 208 GTi dynamics

The 205 GTI was well known for its lively handling traits, but times and tastes have changed and the Peugeot 208 GTi is a much more widely accessible product than its ancestor.

There’s much less in the way of throttle adjustment and rear end movement on the limit in the GTi, Prestige, although it’s more obvious in the GTi by Peugeot Sport. Both can be resolutely neutral when cornering if you’re gentle with the accelerator.

Enthusiasts may lament this lack of adjustability, but in reality it makes the Peugeot a far more rounded package, and one that flatters the driver, regardless of ability.

There’s little in the way of understeer, and pitching the 208 GTi hard into a bend simply results in it tracking faithfully round without too much drama.

With its Torsen differential reducing wheelspin on the inside wheel of a corner, traction is much improved, particularly in tighter radii bends, allowing you to get back on the power sooner.

The suspension is 20% stiffer and the track 20mm wider at the front and 30mm wider at the rear compared with a regular 208. Thankfully the changes haven’t compromised comfort though, and despite the car’s considerable ability it’s not just a fast one-trick pony.

Behind the wheel

3.4 out of 5 3.4
  • Touchscreen is good idea, but execution isn’t great
  • Unusual driving position could be deal-breaker
  • Some of the GTi’s cabin mods are over-the-top

What a refreshingly simple-looking the Peugeot 208 has. The minimalist approach is dominated by a central touchscreen, standard on all 208s from 2015, from where the driver controls the multimedia package, sat-nav and a variety of other controls.

It should be a paragon of simplicity and logic but unfortunately the execution wasn’t as successful, especially in earlier models. It’s not uncommon to be required to prod the screen’s virtual buttons repeatedly in order for it to perform the desired functions.

Elsewhere, the majority of surfaces feel of good quality, with harder plastics tending to make an appearance in places where your fingers are likely to come into contact with them less frequently.

Much of the physical switchgear works well, with the dual-zone climate controls looking especially classy for the supermini sector.

The biggest change of approach is the smaller-than-normal steering wheel, which is set lower-down than usual, with the instrument binnacle set near the base of the windscreen. To see the dials you have to look over the wheel, not through it.

Interior changes for the 208 GTi

You sit 10mm lower in the GTi versus a regular Peugeot 208 amplifying the wheel-to-instrument ratio. Even more so here, some may find the bottom of the instruments obscured by the top of the wheel if they can’t get on with the tweaked driving positon.

That aside, it’s easy to get comfortable in the 208 GTi, the seats offering all of the adjustment and support you would expect. But despite the refreshingly simple and intuitively controlled touchscreen infotainment system the GTi’s cabin is a busy place to be, and the extra flashes of chrome and metal-look plastic are unnecessary.

While the leather-faced dashboard is a more welcome addition, it’s a shame the accountants won the battle on the decision to leave the door tops in plain plastic, which feels considerably lower rent.

Comfort

4 out of 5 4.0
  • Suppleness to the 208’s ride quality
  • But damping set-up can make it bouncy
  • GTi versions have a fine compromise

On less-than-smooth motorways and poorly-surfaced roads the Peugeot 208 feels unsettled and the ride can get rather bouncy, to the detriment of comfort.

There remains a degree of pliancy, and there’s little sharpness felt by passengers, but the damping seems to take a while to restore the 208’s equilibrium.

Given this, it’s pleasing that the seats themselves are comfortable, with plenty of lateral to support to hem you in when cornering briskly.

The driving position feels a little lofty and pedals are offset to the right, which might take a bit of getting used to, let alone having the wheel set lower than you might in almost every other supermini.

Wind, road and engine noise has been well silenced but the lower-powered petrols and the diesels do get a little vocal, particularly when you are pulling away or on start-up.

Comfort isn’t sacrified on 208 GTi

Hot hatches aren’t always known for their ride quality and long-legged ability, many being set up to excite and engage on track rather than rutted real-world roads, but the Peugeot 208 GTi is different. During the product briefng the firm’s engineers were keen to stress it is optimised for the road, not the circuit, and despite the stiffer suspension, Peugeot 208 GTi comfort levels are exemplary compared with its peers.

Across broken surfaces the 208 GTi soaks up the imperfections without fuss, the fluid and measured responses of its dampers making for a particularly comfortable ride. Even harsh ridges fail to send anything more than a murmur into a cabin that remains remarkably free of the expected bangs and crashes for a car of this type.

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