Drives Peugeot 208 Light Featured

Published on May 1st, 2013 | by Seán Ward


Peugeot 208 1.2 Allure VTi

Peugeot 208 NightI’m not too sure why my dad got rid of his Peugeot 405. I think it had something to do with its terrible reliability, or perhaps it was the rust. I’m not quite sure.

What I do remember was going to pick up the car from a town about 7 miles away from me; we hopped on the train, went to see the car, signed a few papers and drove off.

Superb, I thought. A nice car, we agreed. Bad decision, said my dad’s wallet.

In the end the car moved to another home because it cost too much to own. A great shame, in my mind, as I enjoyed the car, but these things happen.

My next encounter with a Peugeot was the 107 last year, and I thought it was terrific. Small, economical enough, and with a terrific engine that had to be used hard to go anywhere. And seeing as there are so many 107’s still on the road (the 107 was launched 2005) it seemed to be more reliable than the family 405 too…

But where to go from the 107? Logic said the 208, so that’s exactly what I did.

Peugeot 208 Rear LightHaving driven it in the summer for around 30 miles (15 miles in a diesel, 15 miles in a petrol) I wasn’t expecting much, as my short encounter with the car was exactly that: short. So I didn’t bond with the car, or get enough of a feel for how it behaved on the road.

But there were some positives, chief among which were the engines. The diesel was torquey and economical, and the petrol was as underpowered and fun as the engine in the 107.

But which engine to go for? At first, the diesel felt like it would be the better car to try, as more torque and power would mean more speed, but in the end the petrol won me over, partly because having scanned Twitter I realised Jeremy Clarkson had my exact test car for a week at his house, but mostly because a 1.2 version of the 1.0 litre I had in the 107 could only be better.

Peugeot 208 Front LightThe first thing to notice about my car was the paint. In the picture on Clarkson’s twitter page it looked like Peugeot had taken tips from British Leyland in the 1970’s and gone for a shade of beige with a hint of brown, and sure enough it looked that way when it arrived. But on closer inspection, it isn’t as beige as you first think, and in some lights it looks positively silver.

Looking elsewhere at the exterior, the chrome wing mirrors look nice, but scratch them and they they’ll look pretty crap, and people will judge you for your shoddy driving.

The front lights look rather cool and the LED strips at the bottom of each lights turn on when you unlock the car. In general the whole front end looks so much better than the old 207.

Peugeot 208 WheelsAnd the wheels – my word, if you’d have put those on a 207 it’d look like the wheels cost more than the car.

At the back, though, I’m still not convinced. The first pictures of the 208 came out in February 2012, and while the car, as a whole, has grown on me, I find the rear lights rather odd. Who knows why – maybe there are just certain features on cars that I can’t get over (the new grille on the Focus ST is a prime example).

Inside, though, my word this has moved on from the 207. The seats are stitched with some sort of Burberry stitching, which for the tiny bit of my soul that is probably an antisocial youth who likes ‘mods,’ ‘rims’ and ‘bling,’ is a superb decision by Peugeot. Also, the seats are big, supportive things and look like something you’d find in a big hot hatch, not a dinky town run around.

Peugeot 208 SeatsThe centre console is a move away from Peugeots of old too. While it’s still very ‘black-on-black,’ it feels so much more a quality product.

But, like the outside, there are problems. Firstly, despite this having all the satnav-stereo gubbins on offer, you don’t get a CD player, and instead just MP3 connectivity. That would be fine in a world where CDs really have gone out of date, but for the moment most people do still have CDs. Oh, and the satnav doesn’t work. At all. On one particular journey I entered the post code fair and square, but I ended up ten miles away from where I wanted to be, and on another I was bowling down the motorway when I was instructed to leave at the next junction. I followed its advice, and went down the slip road to get to a roundabout, where it told me to take the second exit and rejoin the motorway. For £10k, I’d expect more.

Other than those things, though, the interior is rather nice. A small steering wheel might not be for everyone, but it’s something you get used to.

Enough of looks and interior quality, I’m interested in driving, and with that I find myself a little wanting.

My first drive in the car was taking the chap that delivered it to me to the station, and immediately I found myself feeling like I had absolutely no understanding of what the controls were doing. The clutch was long and the bite right at the top of the pedal, and even then with the clutch and throttle in a constant position the revs were moving around for no reason what so ever.

The brake pedal had very little feel, although the brakes themselves (disks at the front, drums at the rear) were good. And the throttle? Quick response times weren’t its forte, but it really wasn’t that bad. My only gripe with it is that when I pushed the pedal all the way down there was a click right at the bottom of the pedal, after which it would move even further down towards the floor, as if to warn you that you were about to go quickly.

Peugeot 208 Traction ControlI mentioned earlier that my 208 had a 1.2 litre three-cylinder related to the 1.0 litre three-pot you get in the 107, and sure enough you get that same old growl, but because of the extra weight you don’t get any more performance. With 82 bhp and 87 lb/ft of torque, 0-60 mph takes 14.2 seconds and the top speed is 109 mph. All things considered, the figures aren’t great, but the 208’s dynamic strengths lie with its fuel economy and weight, not performance. On the combined cycle, thanks to a weight of 975kg, you can get around 62 mpg, and although I only managed 50-something, that’s still mighty impressive.

On the road, the engine is the most entertaining part of the package, as the suspension (McPherson at the front, Cross deformable at the rear) rides out the bumps well, but comes unstuck a bit when you push on.

Should you buy one? What’s it like for the enthusiast?

Peugeot 208 BadgeI didn’t fall in love with this car like I did the 107, but it isn’t a lesser car. The engine is the best mechanical part of the package, as a three-cylinder bark is huge fun, as you can rev it to pieces and never break the speed limit.

But with all small-power, economical cars, there’s a price to pay – the flip side of the economy coin: performance.

I wouldn’t buy a 208 with this engine, as it just needs a bit more oomph. A three-cylinder is fine in the smaller 107, as it fits its character much better, but here it feels overworked. Imagine how much better it could be if this 1.2 litre went into the 107? (Although, again, there’s a flipside as the 208 has a much better interior and much more space.)

If you buy a 208, unlike my dad’s old 405, it won’t fall to pieces, it won’t eat your wallet, and the exterior and interior quality is so, so much better. But I’d recommend you try the 107 too. You’ve got less space and the quality isn’t as good, but it’s a bit more entertaining.

If the 208 is the car for you, though, and you really want to hoon about on B-roads, give Peugeot a ring and enquire about the GTI.

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I love cars, love writing, love photography. If you've got an idea, drop me an email and I'd be happy to chat.

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