New 2019 Peugeot 208 prototype review

We’ve driven a development version of the new Peugeot 208 to see how it compares to its rivals

Peugeot revealed the next version of its 208 supermini earlier this year and it’ll go on sale before the end of 2019. At the moment, engineers are currently finessing many aspects of the new Peugeot 208 but we were invited to test a prototype car to see how it’s likely to feel when it reaches showrooms.

The new 208 will be a crucially important car for Peugeot. It’s one of the company’s best-selling models and will go against some very accomplished rivals including the Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza and the new Vauxhall Corsa, which borrows the same platform as the forthcoming 208.

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Peugeot is aiming to provide the upmarket option in a saturated class, and the new 208 features an interior that’s mostly borrowed from the Peugeot 508 saloon. Throw in eye-catching new styling and the option of an electric Peugeot e-208 version with 211 miles of range, and the 2019 Peugeot 208 could be one of the small cars to beat.

Out test car was a mid-range Allure, and the amount of premium-feeling materials and trim finishers inside was impressive. The interior feels classy and grown-up, and should make the 208 one of the most highly equipped superminis - although final prices and specifications are yet to be revealed. There’s a digital speedometer readout with a 3D display but some drivers may need to play about with the seating position to be able to see it over the small steering wheel.

Allure is likely to be a popular spec, alongside the PureTech 100 1.2-litre petrol engine. With 98bhp, it’s the middle output alongside 74bhp and 128bhp versions, and the sweet spot in the range. You’ll sometimes need to rev it hard to make good progress but most of the time it’s more than powerful enough to cope with town and motorway driving. Acceleration is good too, with the 0-62mph sprint dispatched in under 10 seconds. The gearstick in our manual test car was larger and squarer than you’d expect - almost like an automatic gear lever - and the clutch was vague, but this may be adjusted before the car arrives in showrooms. We expect the 74bhp engine to feel a little underpowered, and the automatic-only 128bhp version will be more expensive. There’ll also be a 99bhp diesel engine aimed at high-mileage drivers.

As in many new cars, you can switch between Normal and Eco driving modes, and the latter lightens the steering significantly. It’s handy for city driving but we found it to be a bit too light and without feel on faster roads. The overall driving experience is good enough for this class, and entirely inoffensive, but keen drivers will prefer the Fiesta and Ibiza, which are both sharper and more entertaining. From our test drive, the Peugeot seems to be more comfortable, which will appeal if the roads you regularly drive on are full of potholes.

Practicality isn’t the main forte of cars like this but they still need to be capable of carrying four adults and their luggage. The 2019 Peugeot 208 manages this with ease; once you’re through the narrow rear doors, there’s enough space for adults to be comfortable. The new car is five-door only, as sales of three-door hatchbacks are in decline. Behind the seats is a 311-litre boot, which is plenty big enough for a kid’s buggy or a medium-sized dog. It boot isn’t class-leading - the Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza offer 355 litres - but it’s better than the Fiesta and Hyundai i20.

A variable boot floor isn’t an option, so you can’t create a flat load bay or have underfloor storage, but at least opting for a space-saver spare wheel won’t affect the amount of boot space. Traffic sign recognition and automatic emergency braking are both standard, but you’ll have to go for a higher-spec car if you’d like blind-spot recognition and some self-driving ability.

While the Peugeot 208 won’t be the best-driving small car you can buy, it will be one of the most accomplished and filled with tech. This will help it appeal to a huge number of buyers, and they’ll likely also be swayed by its sharp styling and reasonable practicality. Fuel economy should be good - expect 50mpg or so - and other running costs will be equally low.

Read more about the new Peugeot 208 here.

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