Peugeot e-208 review – the most sensible electric family car yet?
Has the French brand hit the affordable EV nail on the head?
The Peugeot e-208 probably hasn't been on your EV radar. In a world dominated by the performance EV headlines of Teslas and Taycans, the mass-market ambitions of the VW ID.3 and the Scandi cool of the Polestar 2, this fairly ordinary electric French hatchback is easy to gloss over.
However, by keeping its electric small family car keenly priced and, well, feeling fairly 'normal', Peugeot has created one of the most interesting electric cars of 2020. Watch the video below to see what I think of it (and, erm, which scones I prefer), and read on for more coherent thoughts.
What is it?
It's a Fiesta-sized electric car with a 134hp electric motor on the front axle sipping electricity juice from a 50kWh battery pack. It has a claimed range of 217 miles, though in real-world driving you're more likely to see 160 miles. This mid-range Allure spec car gets most of the gadget and gizmos you need and costs £27,225 after the UK Government's plug-in grant.
Admittedly that spec doesn't sound like it's going to flambe your knickers, and that's true – but it's also sort of the point of the e-208. It's normality, electrified.
It does stand out on the road though, thanks to quirky styling and fang-like daytime running lights scything down from the headlights like icy tears in a winter breeze. The grille gets the classic EV 'filled-in' look, while the back gets Peugeot's trendy claw-like taillights. Aside from a weird black plastic panel under the numberplate and a ever-so-slightly dumpy looking panel above the rear wheels, it's an interesting looking car. We say be bold, however, and spec the bright yellow paint option – it's stunning.
What about the inside?
The first thing you notice about the cabin is how teeny the steering wheel is. It's common to most Peugeots as part of the brand's 'iCockpit' design, which puts the dashboard in a digital instrument cluster on top of the dashboard – the idea being you look over the small steering wheel at the instruments, so that your eyes are closer to the road more of the time. It's almost meant to be a cross be a cross between a digital dash and head-up display. It's fine, but you'll want to test drive one of these before buying, simply because you may find the steering wheel always obscures part of the driver's display. In the e-208 the display is actually partially projected onto a pane in front of the main LCD display, giving a cool but distracting 3D effect to the dash.
Otherwise the cabin is pleasant – everything feels solid and looks pleasant, from the swooping faux-carbon-fibre trim panels on the doors to the door on the cubby-hole that hides the wireless charger pad. The days of creaky French cars seem to be behind us, and the e-208 feels good.
The 10-inch infotainment screen that comes on everything but base-spec models is reasonably okay, though it's a bit laggy to use – either by touching the screen or using the feedback-free buttons underneath it. It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can forgive it most things. And yes, it does commit the cardinal sin of making you use the screen to set the air-con temperature. Le Faff.
How does it drive?
Really quite normally. The steering immediately strikes you as being one of the lightest setups in the entire world – you could parallel park the e-208 using the withered pinky finger of a small guinea pig. It's that light. There's also no feedback whatsoever, but y'know what… it all works. This is a car designed to make life easy, not give you bum-signals into Paddock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch. The turning circle is impressively tight too, which makes parallel parking a breeze.
Acceleration is brisk rather than rapid – 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds and it doesn't feel particularly quick. You get that lovely electric shove from 0-30mph, but above that it tails off pretty quickly. That said, it'll sit at 70mph or faster without any drama, and the cabin is impressively quiet at motorway speeds – you won't be shouting to your passenger unlike some other small cars.
In terms of ride and handling, both are perfectly good. The suspension softens out bumps well for the most part, though over larger bumps you do sense the extra weight of the battery jamming into potholes. But it's fine. It turns into corners well and has plenty of grip. It won't be making you laugh out loud but you can drive it like une lunatique if you want to.
The biggest downside from the driving experience is a brake pedal that's pretty hard to modulate. The brake pedal goes from nothing to 'oh jesus my fillings' pretty quickly. You find yourself having to second-guess how much braking force the car will give you, and when you're driving quickly you'll often guess wrong.
What about practical stuff?
The back seats are a bit tight on the e-208. I'm 6'3" and had to duck a fair bit to get my head under the roofline, and then once I was in my head did brush the roof, and my knees were pretty jammed into the (squidgy) back of the seat in front of me. It'd be fine for adults on short journeys, and kids will be fine until they're grown and gangly, but it's not as roomy in the back as a Fiesta. Boot space is fine at 311 litres – it's the same as the combustion powered versions.
Should I buy one?
Yes – the e-208 is really quite likeable. If you just need a car for traditional small-car trips, and can live with the range it's a perfect replacement for your existing car. It's faff-free and easy to live with, and the driving experience is hassle free. It's roomier in the back than something like a Mini Electric or a Renault Zoe, though it doesn't have the electric range of the latter – but it feels like a more grown-up car. It also makes the Honda e feel distinctly overpriced and kitsch.
Does it deserve more of the EV headlines? Almost certainly – this is the under-the-radar EV to recommend to anyone who just wants an entry to zero-emission motoring.