Peugeot 208 hatchback
Price: £9,995 - £18,495
- Stylish looks
- Cheap to run
- Uncomfortable ride
- Clumsy gearbox
- Fiesta is more fun to drive
"The Peugeot 208 is an excellent supermini offering stylish looks, decent levels of kit and low running costs."
The Peugeot 208 is one of the best small cars the French brand has produced in years. It's a supermini, and designed to rival the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It's a high quality car, stylish, modern and well-equipped, and comes as either a five-door or a three-door. It's also cheap to run. There's a range of engines to choose from and all of them offer decent efficiency, plus there is the faster Peugeot 208 GTI model for those who like their superminis with a bit more power. In fact, the only major problem with buying a Peugeot 208 is that you’re not buying a Ford Fiesta, which is much better to drive. But the Peugeot is still a great car, and given that the Ford Fiesta is the biggest selling car in the UK – and therefore by far the most common – many supermini buyers will be looking for a stylish alternative that offers something a bit different. And, for those buyers, the Peugeot 208 is well worth a look.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Fuel economy and emissions are among the best in class
There's an extensive range of engines in the 208 range and all of them offer impressive fuel efficiency. Incredibly, every single diesel engine in the range offers economy of considerably more than 60mpg and emissions under the 100g/km CO2 mark – meaning they are all exempt from road tax. The e-HDi diesels are the most efficient as they come with stop-start technology. The 1.4-litre e-HDi will do 83.1mpg and 87g/km CO2, but even the standard 1.4-litre diesel does 74.3mpg and 98g/km CO2.
Some of the petrol engines are efficient enough to keep your hard-earned cash out of the taxman's grasp too. The 1.0-litre VTi will do 65.7mpg and emits 99g/km CO2. Our favourite is the 1.2-litre VTi petrol engine, though. It offers much better performance and will still return 62.7 mpg and emit just 104g/km CO2 – putting it in road tax band B (meaning it's free for the first year and £20 per year thereafter).
Interior & comfort
Rivals offer a better level of comfort
The ride on the Peugeot 208 is a little on the firm side. This won’t be a problem most of the time, but you’ll get a pretty noticeable jolt when driving over potholes and larger bumps in the road – which is not only uncomfortable for driver and passenger but makes the car feel a bit jittery on poorly maintained surfaces. The five-speed manual gearbox isn’t great either, as it feels a awkward when slotting into gear and as soon as you get up to motorway speed you’ll really feel the lack of a sixth gear – the engine has to work too hard in fifth which makes it noisy, and that gets tiring on longer journeys. If you do cover a lot of miles, the Volkswagen Polo is probably a better choice, as it's a lot easier to live with and a lot more relaxing on motorways. The 208 GTi sits lower to the ground and also has a stiffer suspension set-up to improve its handling, which makes it more uncomfortable than the standard 208.
Practicality & boot space
Practicality is on a par with the Ford Fiesta
It's hard to fault the practicality on offer in the Peugeot 208. Especially when you consider that despite being smaller than the 207 on which it is based, it offers a more roomy interior and a bigger boot – a fairly neat packaging trick from the designers at Peugeot. The five-door version obviously offers better practicality than the three-door, as it is easier to get in and out of, but both have plenty of room in the back - two large adults will be able to sit in the rear seats in comfort, at any rate.
The boot is a decent 285 litres, which is roughly the same as the boot in the Ford Fiesta and a little bit larger than the Volkswagen Polo's. If you fold the rear seats flat it expands to a very impressive 1,152 litres of capacity. The design of the dashboard is a little odd because the speedometer and rev counter sit above the steering wheel. It means that it will block the lower section of the dials from some drivers – so just make sure that isn’t the case for you by thoroughly test driving the car before buying.
Reliability & safety
Reliability unlikely to be best in class but safety levels are above criticism
Peugeot doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability – and if its recent performances in the Driver Power satisfaction survey is anything to go by, it's struggling to change this. It only just avoided being the worst ranked manufacturer in the 2013 table, coming 31 out of 32. The 208 was still too new to figure in the Top 100 cars, but we’re cautiously optimistic that it will perform fairly well in the 2014 survey. It feels of decent quality and it uses parts that have been tried and tested in the Peugeot 207. Still, there have been some reports of electrical problems in the 208 and it is unlikely to match the reliability of a Volkswagen Polo or a Hyundai i20. Its safety credentials are top-notch, though, as it got the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It comes with plenty of safety equipment as standard, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, and seatbelt reminders.
Engines, drive & performance
Diesels are very impressive but the five-speed gearbox isn’t great
The 208 is lightweight, has responsive steering, decent amounts of grip and handles well. The smooth and powerful diesel engines are excellent, offering superb levels of economy. If you do a lot of miles and regularly make trips on the motorway, then we’d recommend opting for a diesel. If you mainly drive around town and do less than 12,000 miles a year, then you’ll be better of with a petrol engine. The best of the bunch is the 82bhp 1.2-litre VTi three-cylinder turbo – it offers enough power for town driving and it's pretty fuel efficient. The bigger petrol engines aren’t so good, though. The 120bhp 1.6-litre VTi petrol is just too noisy, while the 155bhp turbo 1.6-litre engine offers decent performance but is just too expensive to run. The version in the 208 GTI is better – it's been tuned to 197bhp and offers seriously impressive performance. The five-speed gearbox that comes in most versions of the 208 leaves a lot be desired because it's loose and awkward, and desperately misses a sixth gear for motorway journeys. The 1.6-litre turbo petrol comes with a six-speed gearbox and is much better.
Price, value for money & options
Equipment levels are good but used values aren’t likely to be too impressive
The 208 offers good value for money. It's competitively priced and equipment levels are generous, even on the entry-level models. Access+ is the most basic spec, but it comes with air-con, hill-start assist and cruise control as standard. Opt for Active and you also get Bluetooth connectivity and a touchscreen from which you can download a range of car and driving-related apps. The next spec up is Allure, which has LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and a leather steering wheel. Feline is the highest spec model, and it comes with 17-inch alloys and a sporty-looking rear spoiler. Top-of-the-range GTI models get a sporty body kit, part-leather sports seats, 17-inch alloys, and chrome wing mirrors. Just be aware of the fact that, traditionally, the used prices for Peugeots are fairly weak – so the 208 is likely to lose a lot of its value in the first three to four years of ownership.
What the others say
The tiny steering wheel adds to the sporty feeling. At 3cm less in diameter than the 207's and the smallest in the class, it makes the car feel alert, with quick reactions once away from dead-ahead. A further benefit is that you view the dials over the top rather than through it, giving a head-up feel.
There are characterful 1.0- and 1.2-litre three-cylinder units at one end of the range, and two 1.6s at the other, with the more powerful one sporting a turbocharger. Between these is the 1.4 that's expected to be the biggest seller.
The Peugeot 208 hatchback has every chance of becoming a firm favourite with small hatchback buyers. It's smart, efficient and practical. With three- and five-door bodystyles it also offers variety. It does, however, have a ghost of the past to compete with. The 205, a product of the Eighties, is remembered fondly and as a result it has become benchmark to which all other small hatchbacks are measured. Few make the grade – even the 206 and the 207 that followed the 205 didn’t match up. So the 208 has great expectations heaped upon it and, at first glance, it looks like a worthy successor to the great 205.
It's not perfect, but taken as a whole it represents a really fresh package that is likely to appeal to a wide range of buyers - and for good reason. Peugeot really does seem to have started with that blank piece of paper designer types are always going on about.
Last updated: 7 Mar 2014