June Neary and family put the Peugeot 208 to the test..
Will It Suit Me?
The arrival of any new car is always an event in our household. The kids crawl all over the back seats looking for new gadgets. My husband pops the bonnet and scans the cam covers. And me? I just take a step back and take it all in.
With this improved Peugeot 208, doing just that was an enjoyable experience. And an enlightening one. I hadn't expected much interest from my neighbours in an affordable model like this one but I was wrong. Words were exchanged over the garden fence. Cups of sugar were borrowed. It created a stir.
First and foremost, I'd say that in my view after having completed a few hundred miles in this car, I think it would be an easy one to own. You slip in behind the wheel and everything feels just right, the major controls falling to hand easily. Too many of the cars I test require you to get out and study the handbook before you can explore all the functions available but with this one, I was up and running almost immediately. If you can operate a payphone, you shouldn't have much trouble with this car.
There were lots of little touches around the cabin which showed just how much care the designers had taken to get things just right. We lost count of what car marketers call 'surprise and delight' features - basically, clever little additions you simply wouldn't expect on a car like this.
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.
Behind the Wheel
The responsiveness of the 1.6-litre 100bhp BlueHDi diesel engine in the car I tried was more direct than I had expected from this class of car - a boon when overtaking slow moving traffic. It's a very torquey powerplant too - in other words, there's plenty of pulling power. And that's a help not only when overtaking but in urban traffic as well. Unlike other cars in this class, I didn't find myself constantly having to change gear to keep the engine on song. No matter how characterful an engine is, if you're constantly having to row it along with the gearlever, it quickly becomes an irritation.
All-round visibility is great, again, a boon when you're manoeuvring around crowded city streets. You also feel very safe behind the wheel: it's one of those cars you could trust to your eighteen year old daughter (if you absolutely had to), knowing that she would be as safe as it was possible to be. Finally, it's secure. Tests have shown that it's one of those cars that crooks just walk away from.
Value For Money
You'll pay somewhere in the £10,000 to £18,000 bracket for most 208 derivatives, pricing that's pretty much par for the course in the supermini segment. There's a £600 premium to go from the three-door car to the five-door body style. If you're shopping at the bottom of the range, bear in mind that the 1.2-litre engine starts at around the £12,000 mark, around £2,000 more than the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol version. Talking of premiums, you could easily find yourself having to pay around £2,000 more to go from one of the base petrol units to an equivalent BlueHDi diesel variant and that's an outlay unlikely to pay for itself in terms of the running cost benefits.
This car isn't the cheapest in its sector but then you wouldn't expect quality to come without a price. When you sit down and compare it to rivals, it actually stacks up extremely well. Especially when you take account of the reasonably high level of specification included.
A range of personalisation packs are now available to match the current buying preference in this segment. And no matter which three or five-door 208 model you opt for, you'll find a competitive level of standard equipment included. Yes, you'd probably get more if you bought something from a budget brand but nevertheless, even the entry-level version of this car is decently kitted out with cruise control with a speed limiter to help you keep your licence in urban areas, a stereo with an AUX-in jack and wheel-mounted controls, remote central locking and electric front windows.
Fresh technology includes a 'MirrorScreen' feature, which allows you to duplicate the functionality of your smartphone on a dashboard infotainment display that's standard from 'Active' trim upwards and is compatible with apps like Coyote, Parkopedia, Glympse, and Sygic. Safety-wise, buyers can now specify features like a reversing camera and the Active City Brake system that scans the road ahead as you drive for potential collision hazards.
Could I Live With One?
I'd say so, yes. This car looks good, the family like it and, when you add everything up, it's also very good value for money. That's a pretty difficult combination to beat.