Peugeot 208: Hello

  • Parkers Staff Writer takes on diesel Peugeot 208
  • Read his initial thoughts on the tiny French hatch
  • Can the £17,445 price tag really be justifiable?

The 208 is an important car for Peugeot. Times have been hard for the French manufacturer of late, and the market segment the 208 is battling for sales in is one of the hardest-fought in the automotive world.

To see if the 208 has what it takes as a day-to-day driver, Parkers has adopted a 1.6-litre e-HDI 115bhp diesel three-door long-termer in high-end Feline trim. First impressions are good. To my eyes at least, it’s a good looking car, certainly far easier on the eye than the wide-mouthed Peugeots of recent history.

The theme of reinvention continues inside with an interior that looks upmarket and modern, with some interesting touches. The unusual display layout, where the driver looks over, rather than through, a small-scale steering wheel at the instruments, met with a mixed response on the car’s launch and I was intrigued to try it for myself.

I have a fairly short sitting height, and when first setting the seat and wheel to a naturally comfortable position I did find initially that the top of the wheel obscured the bottom of the instruments ever so slightly. However, dropping the wheel a touch more than normal hasn’t made my driving position unbearable – over the course of several long trips since first climbing into the 208, I honestly haven’t given it a second thought.

The wheel’s small-diameter and quick steering setup does help to give the 208 a sporty feel and handling-wise I’ve no complaints so far. It feels reassuring at national speed limits and while admittedly it's not as dynamically polished as a Suzuki Swift or Ford's Fiesta, it’s pleasantly composed over twisty B-roads.

The only obvious gripes so far are the slightly upright pedals and a clunky feeling gearshift. There’s not all that much wrong with the shift action itself, but there's an audible thunking sensation made by the trim around the lever when slotting a gear home, however gently.

Overall though, the 208’s interior is a nice place to be. Our test car is fitted with faux-leather and cloth sports seats (standard on Allure and Feline trim models), which are comfy, supportive and, apart from some slightly wonky stitching on the front passenger seat, look the part as well. The 17-inch alloy wheels look smart too, although their broad, flat spokes look worryingly susceptible to kerbing. With this in mind I found myself parking the 208 well away from the kerb when I took it into town.

It’s worth mentioning that although the 208 range starts from under £10,000, our test car is worth a cool £17,445 with another £495 worth of metallic paint. In Feline specification it sits second from top in the six-strong 208 trim list, with only the limited-edition Ice Velvet derivative above.

It’s clear that the 208 is a sizeable step forward, both better looking and a more entertaining drive than the 207. Over the coming weeks we’ll find out if it can compete with the class’s best and become the success story that Peugeot wants and needs it to be.