Peugeot 208: A design angle

  • What makes the 208 interesting to look at?
  • We indulge in a spot of design analysis
  • Dimensions and light design play a part

The 208 is an interesting car from a design point of view. It’s an important car for Peugeot and although there are elements of the 207 in its appearance, it’s clear that the designers have aimed to distance the car visually from its predecessor.

It’s one of the more eye-catching protagonists in the small hatchback market today and its appearance is one of the car’s main talking points. So what makes the 208 a successful bit of design?

Most cars’ headlights and grilles give them some form of facial expression and the 208’s grille is no exception, giving it a friendly, smiling countenance. As with many other new cars, it features LED daytime running lights and these have been given a downward-slanting diagonal angle, resembling ‘eyebrows’ over the headlamps to give the car a bit more attitude.

There’s a need for cars in general to become smaller on the outside and a demand for them to become bigger on the inside, and the 208 is no exception. It’s shorter, narrower and lower than the 207 (although as is the way with modern cars it’s still pretty big compared with older models) but also bigger on the inside, with 50mm more rear knee-room and luggage space than its predecessor.

It doesn’t have much in the way of overhangs  (the amount of bodywork that extends past the front and rear wheels) which gives the car a shorter bonnet line and emphasises the size of its wheels – especially the large, shiny ones on our long-term car.

The carved sections along the car’s side (most obvious on the three-door version) are taken from the Peugeot SR1 concept car (pictured below).

As we spotted in our recent back-to-back drive, the three-door 208 is a more dynamic-looking car than the five-door version. Its side window has a more interesting shape, along with a chrome sealing strip along its base ending in a tab intended to resemble the trim markings on the old 205 GTI.

The rear lamps, with their horseshoe shape, are a new shape for Peugeot and have since been repeated on the 2008 4x4 hatchback. At the front, the Peugeot lion badge sits inside a ’U’-shaped space, which continues like a spine right the way along the car’s roof to the high-mounted brake light on the tailgate.

The 208 is a pretty interesting car on the inside too. Its interior was designed by a small team led by Italian design manager Anna Costamagna, who says the interior has been designed to appeal equally to both male and female buyers.

Simplification is the order of the day inside, with the central touch screen reducing the number of buttons and switches on the centre console. The theory behind the controversial small steering wheel and raised instrument panel, previously mentioned in another update, is that the driver has to spend less time glancing between the road and the display.

Whether or not the smaller wheel idea will appear on other Peugeots is yet to be seen. Since the introduction of the 208, a similar arrangement has made an appearance in the Peugeot Onyx concept car but the jury’s out over whether it will be a fixture in large Peugeots.

Ambient lighting is another unusual touch. A pair of blue light strips along the panoramic glass roof (standard on our Feline trim test car, but not on lower spec derivatives) are intended to look like ‘comets’, for example.

Ultimately it seems that the designers’ efforts have done the trick. Friends and family members have commented that the 208 is a smart looking car both inside and out, and current sales figures suggest the 208 is turning into a greater sales success than the humdrum-looking 207 it replaced.

Current mileage: 9,486 miles

Average mpg: 47.0

Carved sections along the 208's flanks influenced by the SR1 concept