Peugeot 208 lays on aesthetics and luxury touches
The French hatch is a fancier and more refined take on the hatch segment
It’s not every week that a former European car of the year winner (in 2020) ambles through my gates for a road test. This is what happened when the Peugeot 208 arrived. Seeing it parked there my first thought was to describe it as a traditionally sweeter-looking offer in the segment and it looks better than its Stellantis cousins from Opel and Citroën. The 208, Corsa and C3 hatches are essentially one car built on a similar chassis but differing in looks.
The engineering, however, matches the ethos of their respective brands, so it’s worth trawling through their variances and finding a perfect match. The 208 is the better looking in my opinion, and it’s a successful adaptation of the French company’s corporate suit of feline cues such as fang-like DRLs and the large maw of a grille filled with shiny slats.
The interior best emphasises Peugeot’s place in the Stellantis pecking order. It has an ambience of more expensive German hatches and has a fully digitised dashboard with playfully active icons and clever light usage. This is combined with stylishly arranged and chrome-tipped function buttons and well-padded seats.
It’s just as roomy as the others, with no marked advantage in how it cossets passengers. The rear seat is foldable for increased practicality but it’s hard not to focus entirely on the cabin. Features are the usual fare of electric windows, climate control, USB ports, multifunctional steering wheel and infotainment, but I looked forward more to experiencing the chassis variances.
In Allure specification it uses a 1.2l turbo three-cylinder to drive the front wheels. Power is 74kW and 205Nm and it’s paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. This configuration is a promise of lower purchase cost for budget seekers and driving nirvana for enthusiasts. The transmission is light and slick in the hand and though the engine wasn’t coming to the racing party it was nevertheless frugal. It averaged 6.2l/100km.
The motor has good urge but its torque peaks at 1,750rpm, a rather early point compared to both the Corsa’s and C3’s higher 2,750Nm peaks. Evidently the Pug is tweaked for luxury and tractability ahead of racy responses. Its maker says it’ll sprint from standstill and past the 100km/h mark in 9.9 secs and run out of steam at 188km/h.
The suspension settings of the 208 remain passive for racy feelings, but it’s luscious when roads are smooth. Its handling is poised and you can muscle it down a twisty back road with success.
The Peugeot 208 takes on more than its group siblings in a crowded segment. There are many other contenders vying for the same piece of the pie, including the Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio.
It’s a varied mix of protagonists with competencies and drawbacks. Some rivals such as the Mazda2 are smaller, and some are more practical and automatic transmission only, such as the Honda Fit, and some are cheaper, but all compete for a similar batch of customers.
The reward for paying extra attention to aesthetics and luxury touch points in the Peugeot 208 is a classier, more niche product with a pricier perch that was good enough to earn the title of best car in Europe in 2020.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol
Type: Six-speed manual
Type: Front wheel drive
Top speed: 188km/h
0-100km/h: 9.9 sec (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 5.8l/100km (claimed), 6.7l/100km (as tested)
Park distance control front and rear, cruise control, two USB ports, multifunction steering wheel controls, auto on/off lights, rain sensor wipers, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, climate control, partial cloth + artificial leather upholstery, cellphone integration, remote central locking, ABS, six airbags, stability control and tyre pressure sensor
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Service plan: Three years/60,000km
Lease*: R7,868 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Peugeot 208 1.2T Allure
WE LIKE: Refinement, styling, interior
DISLIKE: It’s on the pricey side
VERDICT: A classy hatch for connoisseurs
Motor News star rating
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Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid, 90kW/172Nm — R337,500
Nissan Micra Acenta, 66kW/140Nm — R335,900
Opel Corsa 1.2T Edition, 74kW/205Nm — R339,900
Mazda2 1.5 Individual, 85kW/148Nm — R343,100
Renault Clio 1.0T Intens, 74kW/160Nm — R349,900
Kia Rio 1.4 Tec, 73kW/135Nm — R350,995
Citroën C3 1.2 Shine, 81kW/205Nm — R352,900
Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI Life, 70kW/175Nm — R353,600