Peugeot's much improved 208 makes frugal sense with BlueHDi 75 diesel power. Jonathan Crouch checks out the most efficient non-hybrid car in the UK.
Ten Second Review
The improved 208 hatchback sees Peugeot build yet more sophistication and style into its supermini line. With some extremely economical engines and a focus on making the car better to drive and better to sit in, this could well be one to watch. Especially in frugal but responsive 1.6 BlueHDi 75 diesel form. With 79g/km of CO2 and up to 94.2mpg possible on the combined cycle, it's a very efficient contender indeed.
There wasn't much wrong with the original version of Peugeot's 208 supermini. It was good to drive, smart to look at and reasonably frugal to run. In today's small car market though, 'reasonably frugal' isn't good enough, such is the level of competition. Hence the super-efficient BlueHDi diesel engines introduced as part of Peugeot's mid-term mode refresh for this model.
Here, we're going to look at the unit most buyers will choose, a 75bhp version of the 1.6-litre powerplant. Has Peugeot's supermini been fully rehabilitated in this guise? Let's find out.
This car's BlueHDi technology is mainly about improving efficiency, so the driving experience is much as before. Which means that one issue still tends to dominate your thinking the first time you get into this 208 and drive off. Namely the smallest steering wheel you'll find this side of a supercar. A potential problem, you might think, given that in most vehicles, you view the instrument cluster through the wheel. Here though, you don't have to for the instrument pack has been moved to sit up above the wheel as it would do in, say, an MPV.
On the road, the electric power steering could do with a little more feel and you get a slightly notchy manual transmission. Otherwise though, there's enough in the 208's repertoire to see off the Clios and Corsas that many buyers will be trading up from and there's a quality of ride and chassis balance that seems impossible when you learn that this car's suspension set-up has been carried over largely unchanged from the stodgy old 207. There's a choice of two 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel engines, offering either 75bhp and 100bhp outputs. The lesser-powered unit we're looking at here will be sufficient for most, making 62mph from rest in 13.3s en route to 106mph.
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
Pricing for this 208 BlueHDi 75 start from just under the £14,000 mark: that means a substantial premium of just over £2,000 over an equivalently-trimmed 1.0-litrePureTech 68bhp petrol model, so you're really going to need to be sold on the idea of diesel power. There's a choice of three trim levels - 'Access AC', 'Active' and 'Allure', with a fourth ('GT Line') available if you're prepared to trade up to the pokier BlueHDi 100 unit. Mind you, you'd be looking at around £17,000 if you were to do that. The figures quoted are based on those of the three-door hatch: there's a premium of £600 to pay if you want your car with five doors.
You'll need to bear in mind that the really eye-catching fuel and CO2 returns this variant is supposed to deliver only come when an engine stop/start system is fitted. You can only get that if you opt for mid-range 'Active' trim and then pay a £200 premium over the ordinary version. All that takes you to an asking price of around £15,000.
All variants are decently kitted out with cruise control and 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. Perhaps the biggest draw though, will be the colour touchscreen system. You're going to need to know a little bit about this 7-inch high resolution monitor if you're a potential 208 buyer, for all but very basic entry-level models get it. In its basic form, the high-resolution screen offers access to radio, a Bluetooth hands-free kit and will play music files via a USB connection or audio streaming but many owners will want to pay a few hundred pounds extra to add satellite navigation to it.
Beyond that, it's really down to your choice from a whole library of downloadable 'Peugeot Connect Apps' which can do almost anything from warning you of traffic jams to locating a fuel station, from finding you a car park to locating a restaurant. You can also check the weather, search for tourist locations, find entertainment venues - even search for a trader via a 'Yellow Pages' function. Very clever.
Cost of Ownership
The revised engine line-up means all versions of the 208 meet stringent Euro6 emissions standards. BlueHDi technology is one of the most effective diesel emissions control systems on the market and every diesel version of this 208 puts out below 95g/km of CO2. The BlueHDi 75 variant we're looking at here manages 80.7mpg on the combined cycle and 90g/km of CO2 in entry-level trim.
If you can afford a plusher level of 'Active' specification, your car can also come with a stop and start system that'll cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, the CO2 figure improves - to an impressive 79g/km, while fuel consumption improves to 94.2mpg on the combined cycle - enough to make this the most efficient non-hybrid-powered car available in the UK. If you want more performance than the 75bhp unit can provide, the pokier BlueHDi 100 model doesn't make you pay heavily for it in terms of efficiency, returning 83.1mpg on the combined cycle and 87g/km of CO2.
Peugeot's 208 has been rejuvenated, especially in diesel guise. If that's what you've got in mind, then we'd point you to the BlueHDi 75 variant we've been looking at here. It's affordable and very cheap to run, particularly if you stretch to one of the plusher stop and start variants.
It's a key part of a 208 line-up that confirms the way that Peugeot as a brand appears to have rediscovered its mojo. Anybody who loves small, fun cars will raise a glass to that fact.