The Peugeot 108 looks to swing right in at the top of the city car reckoning. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the 1.2 VTi variant.
Ten Second Review
The Peugeot 108 comes to market offering customers a lot of choice and a level of interior sophistication that city car buyers won't be accustomed to. The resurgent French marque is looking to stake a major claim in a hotly-contested sector and the 108 looks to have the goods to do just that. This time round, buyers get a choice of engines, the 82bhp petrol 1.2 we look at here arriving to join a revised version of the 1.0-litre unit.
The Peugeot 108 is a small car with a big weight of expectation resting upon it. You probably remember its predecessor, the 107. That car dates right back to 2005 and it's fair to say it probably struggled on a bit too long. It really needed to be replaced back in 2011 when the Volkswagen Group trio of VW up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo arrived and suddenly made the 107 look really old. Since that time, it's market position has changed to a budget contender that couldn't go head on with these cars and was further shoved down the pecking order by the Ford Ka, the Kia Picanto, the Suzuki Alto, the Vauxhall Agila and the Hyundai i10.
With the 108, Peugeot's task was to wind back the clock in a certain regard, to convince people that a Peugeot city car could compete at the top of the class. The French company had already built confidence back with the extremely convincing 308 and 208 hatches. Now it's time for the junior partner to step up to the plate. Its 82bhp petrol 1.2-litre unit will be key in its success.
As you probably know, the old Peugeot 107 was part of a three-car family alongside the Toyota Aygo and the Citroen C1, all three models being screwed together in Kolin in the Czech Republic. It's the same story with this second generation version, which is why it'll come as no great surprise to learn that the 108 is mechanically identical to the Citroen C1. That means you get a choice of a two petrol engines: a VTi 68, available with either a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed Efficient Tronic Gearbox (ETG), or in a 1.2-litre VTi 82 guise with a 5-speed manual transmission - the car we look at here.
If you'll be doing almost any kind of regular open-road motoring, then we'd say that the 1.2-litre variant will probably be a better bet because overtaking is so much easier. The 1.0-litre model takes a yawning 29.8 seconds to accelerate from 50-70mph in its top 5th gear. In the 1.2, the same increment occupies just 15.9 seconds. Enough said. we'd suggest that this stat tells you a lot more than the usual 0-62mph reading, but for the sake of completeness, we'll give you that too: the 1.0-litre model takes either 14.3 or 14.6s, depending on whether its engine has stop & start fitted. The 1.2-litre model manages the same benchmark in 11s.
Design and Build
The difference between the 108, the Aygo and the C1's exterior styling is far more marked in this second generation model. Of the three, the 108 undoubtedly possesses the most mature, refined styling. That's important because this car is not really attempting to make a big play for first time buyers. Instead it's looking to attract customers who might never have chosen a city car because they felt too insubstantial and cheap. The 108 looks reassuringly grown-up with a discreet front end treatment and assured, mature detailing. There's very little here that looks contrived or gauche. Chief designer Ivo Groen insisted on lots of chrome and a palette of restrained, smart colours.
The interior of the 108 hinges around a 7-inch centrally mounted touch screen system. This display is optional on the Active trim level and standard from Allure up and it really brings the interior together so you'll be missing out if you pinch pennies here. It controls the car's media, trip computer, Bluetooth and various vehicle settings. Should you want to personalise your 108, Peugeot offer seven different themes which feature decals, trim inserts, and seat fabrics like houndstooth and tartan.
Market and Model
The 1.2-litre VTi engine is only offered in plusher Allure and Feline trim, so prices start from around £11,000. There's a £400 premium if you want five rather than three doors, an £850 premium for the TOP! Fabric folding roof and a very reasonable £250 premium for the '2-Tronic' auto transmission.
New to the 108 is MirrorLink, which allows the user to control their car's applications through the touch screens of their smart phones. Apple iOS, Android and Windows Mobile platforms are all supported, but do remember that the system won't allow you to start updating your Facebook status when the car's on the move.
Safety equipment shouldn't be an issue as you get Hill Start Assist, anti-lock brakes, emergency collision braking system, and electronic stability control. There are full length curtain airbags, two side airbags and two front airbags. Both rear seats are also fitted with ISOFIX child seat mounts.
Cost of Ownership
We'd be willing to bet that the 108 ends up with the strongest residual values of the three sister vehicles. It looks to have the broadest appeal, although we'd probably look to specify the car with the touch screen if we wanted to guarantee better retained values.
Even if it is being targeted at well-heeled downsizers or those families looking for an easy to use second or third car, the Peugeot 108 can't afford to be off the pace in terms of economy and emissions. Nor is it. Peugeot also proudly boasts that every model in the range comes in at less than 100g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, so there'll be no annual road tax to pay. That even applies to the pokier 1.2-litre VTi PureTech variant with its lustier 82bhp powerplant. This manages 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km.
The Peugeot 108 is an intriguing sort of citycar. Most small runabouts are marketed to two distinct groups; people who don't really want new cars and people who can't really afford new cars. As such, most buyers don't have much of an emotional investment in the vehicle. It's a means to an end; virtually a distress purchase in some cases. The 108 is different. It's a car that sets its stall out to attract people who have the means to buy more expensive cars, making an appeal on style, convenience and agility. Toyota's iQ has enjoyed some success following just this tack before, but the 108 breaks new ground, especially in pokier 1.2-litre VTi guise.
We like the Toyota Aygo and the Citroen C1, but there's something about the Peugeot 108 which sets it apart. It's almost as if by paring the tinsel back, it's become a harder-hitting, more desirable proposition. Less can be more. There aren't too many car companies that have become rich banking on the refined subtlety of the British public, but Peugeot remains cautiously optimistic.