Peugeot 208 hatchback review
"The Peugeot 208 hatchback is a modern, stylish supermini with a future-proof engine range but it's a shame it's not more fun to drive"
- Striking design
- Nippy petrol model
- Electric version available
- Numb steering
- Tight interior space
- Quite expensive
The Peugeot 208 hatchback is the French brand's best-selling model and continues a lineage started by the iconic Peugeot 205 supermini. The small five-door is a direct rival to the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo, and while it still competes with the Vauxhall Corsa, it now shares a great deal with it, too. The latest 208 marks the occasion that, for the first time, Peugeot is offering a fully electric version of one of its cars in the form of the Peugeot e-208, which we've reviewed separately.
Recent hits like the Peugeot 3008 SUV meant hopes were high that the 208 would continue the brand’s success, firmly closing the door on the ugly and poorly built cars of its recent past. Happily the manufacturer has succeeded, distilling the impressive design of its SUVs into this small but crucial model to take the fight to a range of competitive rivals.
This 208 looks like no other supermini, with a sophisticated face and fang-like LED daytime running lights, along with contrasting wheelarches and a black roof for sporty GT models. The wheels are pushed out to each corner, and the rear pillars and short, rounded hatchback are clearly inspired by the Peugeot 205.
Underneath, the 208’s new chassis has been future-proofed by making it highly adaptable. From the outset, it'll be able to accomodate petrol, diesel or pure-electric powertrains, and a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol is expected to make up the bulk of sales. This PureTech engine is offered with 75, 99 or 128bhp, while a 1.5-litre diesel offers 99bhp and the electric e-208 is effectively the range-topping model with 134bhp and a driving range of up to 225 miles. Find a rapid 100kW fast-charger and it can be topped up to 80% charge in just 30 minutes.
It's likely to attract customers who'd never considered a Peugeot supermini before and they're likely to be very impressed by the interior. Sophisticated, soft-touch materials, lashings of piano black trim, contrasting stitching and a digital instrument display are features more commonly associated with executive cars, but they're all here. In fact, the higher trim models even get a new 3D driver's display for an even more impressive effect.
There's lots of kit too, including 16-inch alloy wheels and a small digital dial display for Active Premium cars, while the Allure Premium trim introduces equipment such as LED ‘Claw Effect’ front lights and a 180-degree parking camera. The GT and GT Premium cars get a sporty makeover with a contrasting black roof panel, dark chrome trim and full LED headlights. The 208 isn't cheap as a result – in fact, our test car came in at around £3,000 more than the equivalent Renault Clio. Peugeot is confident there'll be finance deals to keep monthly payments for the 208 competitive.
Another sticking point is the driving experience, because while the 208 is reasonable from behind the wheel, it only serves to reaffirm how much better the Ford Fiesta is to drive. The Peugeot's steering is the main culprit, because it’s too light and lacks feel. A nippy 1.2-litre PureTech 130 petrol engine goes some way to making up for it, along with an improved automatic gearbox.
Overall, the Peugeot 208 is a highly desirable supermini, with a striking design and an interior that makes most of its rivals’ look a decade out of date. It's a shame the steering doesn't live up to the car’s looks, and list prices make the 208 look a little on the expensive side, but Peugeot may be able to iron these issues out relatively quickly.