The Peugeot 208 is a rival to other top-selling superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. While it's not as much fun to drive as these cars, the 208 has a pleasant, comfortable interior and a generous amount of standard equipment. The 208 is available as either a three or five-door hatchback, with the five-door costing roughly £600 more. A recent facelift brought the styling up to date and added some new and even more economical engines to the range, while the options list grew as well.
If you’re after driving thrills, the Peugeot 208 GTi hot hatchback (which we’ve reviewed separately) is thoroughly entertaining. The standard 208 is, on the other hand, comfortable rather than engaging – partly thanks to its inert steering, which provides little ‘feedback’ through the wheel.
One area where the 208 does stand out is its interior. Step inside and you’re treated to a far more comfortable and sleek environment than found in Peugeots of old. The overall design is pleasing, and soft-touch plastics are abundant, particularly in higher-end models like the Allure and GTi Prestige. The 208 is a nicer place to sit than the Hyundai i20, though ultimately the Volkswagen Polo has a classier interior.
An aspect of the car that divides opinion is its steering wheel. Peugeot has tried something different here, fitting a small wheel with the intention that drivers look over rather than through it to see the dials. It's an interesting idea that works for some, but taller and shorter people may find it has an opposite effect to what was intended and obscures the gauges.
The 208 is available with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines. The entry-level engine is a 1.0-litre petrol with 67bhp and it's fun to drive, yet economical, managing 65.7mpg and costing just £20 a year in road tax. Regular motorway drivers may bemoan the lack of power available with this engine, though – something demonstrated by its 0-62mph time of 14 seconds. The other petrol engine is a 1.2-litre, available with 81 or 108bhp. Both manage 62.8mpg and the 81bhp model costs £20 a year to tax. We recommend the 108bhp version, though, which has superior performance and is also exempt from road tax thanks to its low CO2 emissions.
The diesel engines are all 1.6-litres that make use of Peugeot's BlueHDi technology. They’re available with 74, 99 and 118bhp and are all free from road tax, thanks to sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. The 74bhp model is capable of returning a staggering 94.2mpg when fitted with Peugeot's stop-start system, called S&S.
There's also the option of specifying an automatic gearbox on some models, but it's somewhat jerky and the manual is better. It's a shame that only the most powerful diesel engine and the GTi get a six-speed manual, though, leaving the rest of the range with just five speeds. This means the 208 is noisier on the motorway than it needs to be.
While the cheapest diesel costs about £2,000 more than the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine, its 80.7mpg economy means that if you cover more miles than most, you’ll appreciate how infrequently you need to fill up. We recommend the 118bhp diesel if your budget can stretch to it. With this engine, the 208 is capable of 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, making motorway overtaking easy, yet will still return 78.5mpg.
The 208 is available in five trim levels, staring with the Access A/C and rising through Active, Allure and top-spec GT Line. The GTi version is only available as a three-door and gets its own trim levels. The entry-level Access A/C has air-conditioning (as the name suggests) as well as remote central locking, cruise control, electric front windows and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The ‘basic’ Access A/C is a very well equipped car, but some may want to stump up the £800 or so Peugeot asks for Active trim, which adds alloy wheels and a seven-inch infotainment screen, complete with DAB radio.
As with the quality of its interiors, Peugeot's reputation for reliability has improved significantly in recent years, and while the 208's 84th-place finish (out of 150 cars) in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey appears average, a 52nd place for reliability sees the 208 edging into the top third. A 124th-place result for ease of driving is less impressive, with that small steering wheel unlikely to help matters. The 208 gained the full five stars from Euro NCAP, meaning there are no such concerns over safety, though.