Peugeot 208 Driven

‘Regeneration’ is very much the buzzword with the Peugeot 208.  Significantly lighter, greener and cleaner than the outgoing 207, Peugeot’s new supermini now looks the part too. Goodbye ugly duckling, hello swan.

Pierre Authier’s milestone

On first impression, the 208 is remarkably elegant for such a small car, and this stems as much from the details as it does from the car’s overall silhouette. What makes this elegance all the more impressive, however, is that the 208 is actually 70mm shorter than the 207.

Featuring a floating grill, ‘boomerang’ rear lights and spine that runs along the roof and down onto the bonnet, the 208 is Peugeot’s most distinctive car since the RCZ, although the project’s Head of Design, Pierre Authier, is most proud of the LED ‘luminous signatures’ at each end of the car. These signatures are patterns depicted by the 208’s lights – a mixture of LED and halogen – and are designed to portray a feline element to onlookers, particularly on the front graphic.

Another interesting flourish is the brushed aluminium blade that protrudes into the C-pillar from the rear window (only on the 3-door, though). This is intended as a nod to the much-loved 205 GTI of the 1980’s, and its blade-like shape is a recurring theme on the exterior – notably recreated inside the boomerang rear lights and the folded character line on each side of the car. Interestingly, the 208 also sports an aggressive kink in the window line immediately before the wing-mirror that is reminiscent of a similar feature underneath the RCZ’s rear window.

Details aside, the upshot is that Peugeot have managed to condense, even distill, the hefty proportions of the 207 (208 is smaller on the outside but bigger on the inside) into a coherent, svelte design that exudes quality in a way Peugeots of recent times could only dream of.

By class standards the 208’s interior is rather spectacular, too, and focuses on providing an intuitive and insouciant environment. The first, and most radical, step Peugeot have taken to ensure this is by considerably reducing the size of the steering wheel – it’s very small by conventional standards and the idea is that the driver reads the high-mounted instrument cluster over it rather than through it. This is intended to aid visibility and awareness in urban environments and, although I’m not a fan of the petite wheel (unlike the unprecedented 3,000 people who have already ordered the 208), the view from the driver’s seat is excellent. The alternate argument is that holding a smaller steering wheel lends the driver a sense of increased control, much like inside a racecar.

The instrument binnacle itself is wonderfully smart and easy to interpret. With an elegant central digital readout and white backlit dials, the already linear casing dissolves into an expansive dashboard that is tastefully adorned with both piano-black plastic and brushed aluminium.

Despite all these delightful little touches, however, it’s hard to not home in on the enormous freestanding 7-inch LCD touch-screen that sits front and centre of the dashboard. Although flanked by metal inserts, surely it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility for Interior Design Manager, Anna Costamagna, and her team to create something a little subtler? And for the system to work as intuitively as the rest of the car, for that matter.

Eco-design for the mass market

Buyers can choose from a range of ten engines, but two are particularly noteworthy. 

All five diesel engines emit less than 100 g/km CO2 and the most impressive is the 68bhp 1.4-litre e-HDI, which puts out just 87g/km CO2. With the help of a competent stop/start system, the diesel is touted to achieve 83.1 mpg.  On a short but busy route out of Manchester through the suburbs, however, we managed a reasonable 43.4 mpg, and although on acquaintance the diesel can seem a little gruff, it soon revealed itself to be a smooth, albeit modesty powered, little engine.

The other significant engine is the petrol powered three-cylinder 1.0-litre VTi, which emits 99g/km CO2. It’s an impressive achievement, but with just over half the torque, needs to be worked harder than the diesel and this becomes a little tiresome. Both engines are attached to a 5-speed gearbox that, whilst slightly lethargic, is entirely suited to a car like the 208.

Both these low-powered engines work because of the impressive weight saving program Peugeot have embarked on with the 208, which is on average 110kg lighter than the car it replaces.  Furthermore, 25% of the car’s synthetic materials are either recycled or naturally occurring (up from 7% for the 207).  The rear bumper, in fact, is entirely recycled.

Reduced weight also endows the 208 with a responsive nature from behind the wheel and direction changes are relatively crisp in comparison to other cars in the B-segment.

The importance of the 208 to the Peugeot brand is enormous. Times have been lean of late and hopefully what is now the best looking car in its class can help remedy that. It’s also encouraging to a see a mass-market car reaping the benefits of serious weight saving and, also, that Peugeot have been diligent in sourcing and using environmentally conscientious materials. The question is: can it take sales from the Corsa, Fiesta and Polo? I, for one, can’t see why not.


Peugeot 208 1.4-litre e-HDi

1.4-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine


160Nm torque

5-speed manual gearbox

87g/km CO2 emission

Claimed 83.1mpg

From £9,995


Photography Olgun Kordal

Discovered during the DAN D, D-DAY, design fair in Zagreb last week 208 by Zlatan Vehabovic!

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