Peugeot's 208 might well be at its best with a tiny three-cylinder petrol engine. Jonathan Crouch reports on the 1.2-litre PureTech 82 variant.
Ten Second Review
This much improved 208 hatchback represents Peugeot more strongly in the supermini segment and the three-cylinder 1.2-litre 82bhp PureTech petrol engine many will want is an absolute cracker. If you thought the days of small, modestly priced hatches that painted a big smile on your face had gone, you need to try this car.
Peugeot always used to provide us with small cars that were fun to drive and in recent years, the company has been showing signs of a return to that happy place. The launch of the 208 supermini was a big step forward in that regard and the car's prospects have certainly been aided by the willing three cylinder 1.0 and 1.2-litre PureTech petrol options available at the bottom of the range.
It's the base 1.2-litre version we look at here, a car with 82bhp on tap and a willing, revvy nature. Combine that with the smarter looks and extra hi-tech connectivity of this lately improved model and you've the potential for a tempting recipe.
I appreciate that this could be a statement that could come back to haunt me but after driving this car, I reckon Peugeot is back. Proper Peugeot - the Peugeot that we used to know and love. Yes, the car has had to make a few concessions to modern motoring, and the electrically-assisted power steering isn't the wholly organic experience you got behind the wheel of a 205 GTI, but here is a car you'll drive just for the fun of it. I tried some of the larger petrol and diesel engines on offer, figuring that more was better, but this 82bhp 1.2-litre powerplant aced the lot of them for sheer fun. Without wishing to sound detrimental, it has a holiday hire car kind of feel to it, where you just feel inclined to travel everywhere with the throttle buried into the carpet and a huge smile on your face.
It's not even particularly quick. 62mph comes and goes in 12.2 seconds while the top speed is 111mph. If that's not fast enough, Peugeot also offers a 1.2-litre PureTech 110 variant that improves those figures to 9.6s and 118mph. Either way, there's the option of an ETG5 auto gearbox for townies. Personally, I'd stick with the lower-powered variant and the manual 'box. You'll need to be pretty slick with the stick shift to keep things on the boil, but as you punt it through corners you'll be amazed at the sheer amount of front end grip on offer and its speed of turn-in. It's a real hoot to drive, with a real willingness to rev and very little flywheel effect. It's the first small car I've driven for a long time that suddenly gave me the pang of wanting to actually own.
Here is a supermini you'll drive just for the fun of it. I tried some of the larger petrol and diesel engines on offer, figuring that more was better, but this 82bhp 1.2-litre powerplant aced the lot of them for sheer fun. Without wishing to sound detrimental, it has a holiday hire car kind of feel to it, where you just feel inclined to travel everywhere with the throttle buried into the carpet and a huge smile on your face.
Design and Build
Peugeot has tried to make this 208's styling a bit more assertive and distinctive. The restyled front bumper creates a sharper and more precise line, with a wider grille and deeper chrome finisher that is now fully integrated. Plus most models get two-tone headlamps, with black and chrome masks and a hi-tech LED light signature. At the rear, the full LED light clusters have been redesigned to incorporate Peugeot's 3D 'claws' motif.
Inside, not too much needed doing. Soft touch plastics, tactile switchgear, chrome highlights and almost faultless ergonomics show other supermini sellers how it should be done. As before, the two main talking points inside are the smallness of the steering wheel (over which you view the high-set instruments) and the colour touchscreen attached to the fascia that controls audio, trip computer and stereo functions and to which you can add a now wider range of clever downloadable apps. The wheel is now trimmed in full-grain leather from Active trim, while the soft-touch moulded dashboard strip - which is standard regardless of trim level - has smarter graining on higher specification models.
Despite the slightly more compact outward dimensions, there's a little more room on the back seat than you might expect - and decent luggage space behind. Don't get us wrong: 285-litres isn't huge by supermini segment standards but it's a very usable space that can be extended to as much as 1,076-litres of you push forward the rear bench.
Market and Model
As usual with the 208, you get a choice of either three or five-door bodystyles. Plus there's the option of an ETG5 automatic gearbox for a premium of around £1,400. Prices start at around £13,000 for the base 'Active' trim level with 82bhp power, but you can pay up to £16,500 if you go for the plusher 'Allure' trim level and the pokier 110bhp output wedded to the ETG5 auto gearbox.
So what do you get for your money? Choose the Active variant and you'll find cruise control, heated door mirrors and air conditioning with a refrigerated glove box. There's also 15-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a multifunction colour touchscreen, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, plus a split rear bench for added versatility. The plush 'Allure' version gets 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers. Satellite navigation is an option.
Cost of Ownership
Where diesel engines in superminis often fail to make sense is down to the premium charged for the more expensive engine when weighed against the fact that most of these cars do modest mileage and the benefits in fuel savings will never actually break even. No such worries with the 208 1.2 VTi. It's an inexpensive engine that makes all kinds of sense on the balance sheet, both for you and for Peugeot. It's not going to crucify you at the pumps, no matter how spiritedly you drive the thing. Peugeot's official figures quote a combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg, although I don't think I could ever drive the car in such a restrained fashion to approach that.
Emissions are also very low at just 104g/km. If you think it's a bit of a shame that the car couldn't dip below the 100g/km barrier, well I'd agree, but there's an ETG5 automatic version that does, this variant registering 97g/km and 67.3mpg.
Any car enthusiast who knows their stuff will know how significant it is that Peugeot is back in the game with a genuinely good supermini. The 208 platform just works. Driving position aside, it's nothing revolutionary, just solid good engineering. There are a number of commendable engines to try but the three-cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech 82 engine just has likeability shot straight through it. It's a fun and infectious little fizzer of a powerplant, not particularly quick but always up for a bit of sport.
This is a small car that is priced well, looks good and is even respectably practical. Ongoing running costs are tiny and equipment levels are good. Downsides? There aren't too many. Not everyone gets on with the strange driving layout but it's nothing a little familiarity wouldn't conquer. All in, the 208 is a hugely pleasant surprise and the 1.2-litre PureTech engine the hidden gem. Just go and try it, you'll see.