The 208 from Peugeot - good looks and fresh tech. But, can it conquer the class?

WHAT'S THE 208 REALLY ABOUT?

I think I'll just go ahead and say it - This is the best looking small-hatch out there.

The last generation 208 was an alright car. It was small, funky and pleasant to drive but it lacked updates and was thwarted by competition from the likes of the Polo, Fiesta or Corsa. Those cars all had updates, and even before their respective refreshes they were better than the 208 in terms of design, tech and (most importantly) quality.

However, there was hope for the future when the GTi popped round and said hello. It was a pleasant sign, a show that Peugeot were no longer driven by middle-aged men with hair growing out of their ears and who didn't know what a safe and indicated lane change was. The GTi reminded us that Peugeot knew a thing or two about driving dynamics and fun hot hatches. It was a sign that the good ol' days of 205 GTi could perhaps be reborn. It was still quite cheap and the interior didn't feel finished in places but, the driving experience was truly fine. Ignoring the gear-shift, it was a dynamically sound device and brought back a smile when thinking about Peugeot.

Today, Peugeot's really changed. They're no longer the huge mouths of old and frightening to consider on the used market. Around the time the 208 came out, Peugeot had a bit of a resurrection - They started to make good-looking, reliable vehicles. The 508 2.0 HDi was a triumph, the 3008 and 5008 were bought by thousands and the 208 brought back interest for the small-hatch buying teenager. And, now, as of the release of the 3008 or 508, Peugeot has revealed the new 208.

THE FIGURES

Model badge up-front - Oooooo, premium.

PETROL POWER

The new 208 is available with a choice of three 1.2 PureTech petrol engines, differing in power. The first of these is a 75hp model with a five-speed manual transmission. Think first-car option with this one, because if you've got a few years of no-claims discounts, you'll want one of the others. Such an example could be the 100hp model which comes with a six-speed manual as standard but, if you pay a few extra pounds, you can have an eight-speed automatic. I'm not sure how many automatic 208s are going to sell in the UK, but expect the six-speed at your local driving school shortly. Finally, there's a 130hp car which tops the petrol range. It, however, gets the automatic as standard so no manual ratio-changes here.

DIESEL POWER

You won't be surprised to hear that the diesel 208 can achieve more than 80mpg. I think we've established that little hatches with diesel engines have phenomenal economy. But, there is something new. Gone are the 1.4 and 1.6 HDi engines previously available in the 208. Instead, a new 1.5 HDi turbo-diesel comes in with 100hp. Expect good torque and decent acceleration from this little thing. Given the history of recent years with VWs actions, this might not be as popular a choice as the diesels in the previous 208 but, on the other hand, some rivals don't have diesels anymore. A Skoda Fabia is a good example of this, and probably one of the closest rivals to the new 208.

ELECTRIC POWER

Blue inserts on the grille and a two-tone lion. I like it, 208e.

You have read that correctly. Peugeot have done something no other manufacturer has done with one of their mainstream small-hatches (Thus, Zoe doesn't count) and introduced an electric-only model. There's no electric Polo, Clio, Corsa, Fabia, Ibiza, Fiesta or A1. So, if you've always wanted a small car but hated the fact your only option was a three-cylinder turbo that emits emissions that harm your local oak, worry no more!

The 208e EV is almost unrecognisable at first glance if compared to the internal combustion engine siblings. But, at closer inspection, the lion has a bit of flare and is a bit blue and 'e' logos surround the body of the car. Inside some digital dials and EV-specific things too but, more on that later.

What you have here in the 208e is a 100kW motor and a 50kWh battery which will be more than quick enough around town. In fact, it can apparently do 0-60 in just over 8 seconds which is a figure that knocks on the hot-hatch doors. Interesting. You've got 146hp and 260Nm of torque at your disposal instantly and can therefore react immediately to the girl flashing you while doing makeup in her A1 behind you.

NOTE: If you still hate Peugeot for whatever reason but have always had a soft spot for the Corsa but also wanted electric, remember that PSA now owns Vauxhall. Why is this important? Well, when the new Corsa arrives there'll be an electric model that is based on the 208e. Consumer advice ahead of time, right there.

TECHNOLOGY

Our Accord doesn't even have adaptive cruise and it's two segments above this thing. Is a bit old, though, compared to this.

I'm sure all of you are aware of the fact that car technology tends to trickle down to the smaller, cheaper models as time goes on. We first saw adaptive cruise control (ACC), for example, on the W220 S-Class (Thought Toyota had a crack at it with the Celsior in 1997). Now, that tech has eventually come down to the smallest and cheapest model, the A-Class.

Peugeot offers it with the new 208, and it even comes with 'STOP & GO' functions which, as the name suggestions, means you don't have to touch the pedals at all in the event of rush-hour traffic or the inevitable brake-checking of a man called Sam driving a 2003 Zafira who didn't like the fact you overtook him.

This is a positive thing, this technology thing, because safety standards are going up at a vast rate and those that haven't really had access to such safety tech before in such small cars (Thinking new drivers here) now do! I think that's good for everyone, don't you?

Digitally controlled climate control. *SIGH*

A rather vast touchscreen is available with the new 208 and it comes with many features, such as an updated infotainment system in general and, wait for it, digital climate control. Now, this isn't something extraordinary but everyone seems to be doing it now. Tesla, Audi, VW and now Peugeot too. You see, my gripe with this is that when you're driving a normal car that doesn't have digital climate control, you don't have to stop looking at the road. When you're familiar with your own car, you know exactly what each knob or switch does and it saves you precious seconds which could otherwise be spent looking at the road and staying safe.

But, Peugeot also likes the digital route of things and have decided that the climate control functions can be controlled with the infotainment screen. They're not the first who are guilty of this. Audi with the new A8 and A6 are big examples, as is Jaguar Land Rover with all of their freshly updated and new vehicles. And, our 2006 Accord. The Power of Dreams didn't succeed there, I tell you.

Ahh, good old switches. Bonus points for Peugeot.

In terms of technology, there isn't much else that is new. There are USB ports for your devices and some switches and shortcut buttons that help to reduce the stress of using a touchscreen while driving. Generally speaking, it's a very good bit of kit and there's even mood-lighting as seen in the image above. Now that is a premium addition which I really, really like.

STYLING

One word: LOVE

The French were always good at designing cars. They were never 'boring' or dull, there was always at least one thing that stood out and showed off the exciting ideas of designers. The 208 is no different and they've only gone and nailed it with the new 208.

The front features daytime running light LED's that resemble the claws of a lion directly in the light cluster, with one big light making its way down the frontal sides of the car. I like that they fit in with one of the 'claws' too. It's big and it's brave and I like it, and commend Peugeot for doing it. Other notable bits in the front-end include a '208' badge up front, just above the lion logo, giving the 208 a more expensive feel. The finish looks good too, the paint nice and metallic.

The grille's themselves are nice, too, with a sharp design all 'round. Nothing rounded off and boring like the German's would give you. No. The French are exciting the hatchback scene with bravery and brave strikes of sharpness. The angular design of the lower grille fits in well with the main grille which, I don't know about you, reminds me of a big-gapping Audi grille. Not a big awful mouth like old Peugeot's driven by facially hairy men, but sophisticated German big. That I like. And even so, they haven't made it boring like the safe German designers often do. It's got it's own identity and that's awesome. Remember that the 208e also has the cool blue-inserts on the grille which remind me of what Mercedes does with the Svarovski crystals.

Small. And, weirdly, I see a lot of Mazda 2. Just me?

Until I came to writing this article, I hadn't realises how similar this car looks to a Mazda 2 in certain angles. The front (Minus the big-cat claws) is almost totally similar and the side-profile is just the same. This isn't a bad thing because the Mazda 2 is a fantastically proportioned and aesthetically pleasing thing, so 208 is no different.

The side profile is pleasing. There aren't any hidden door handles that would fool you in believing it's a three-door. Honest. They're just being honest. But, the angular dashes of lightning-like creases continue. And all the better for it. It doesn't look like it has factory-made dents, that's the first thing. Don't think I'm criticising it. I'm loving it. I really am. I wish the new Polo was this exciting. Or the new Ibiza, which is a bit too grown up. I think the looks alone will drive increased 208 sales. I really do. And those eco-wheels on the 208e, just fantastic. Not stupid and full like on old eco-Volvos. Just right.

508, is that you?!

I've noticed a trend in the modern automotive industry that started no-longer than five years ago and that was total design copying on every model. Look at Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The C-Class might as well be an S-Class and I won't mention how similar the 7 is to the 3 (Besides the massive kidneys). Peugeot does it too but, again, they're getting aesthetics right. They take the best design elements from their first all-new design language (I think in this case it was the latest 3008) and transplant it into the other models. The 208 features the blacked out light cluster with further big-cat claw resemblance in the tailights. Also, it sort of reminds me of the Mustang. Or is that just me? What do you think? Let me know. I want to engage. I promise.

The rear end is probably the least angular and sharpened part of the car, but that isn't to say it's the worst. It's got just enough lines to stand out while also having awesome elements like the probably-not-real diffuser on this GT Line car and, I can't believe it, what looks like real exhausts! Real exhausts in 2019?! I can't believe my eyes. Of course, time will tell if they're truly real but, they look real to me. Bonus points for doing what other's have stopped.

The light cluster has to be the highlight for me, with that murdered out look and the resemblance to the lion of the logo. It just works. I think I can safely conclude in this segment that this is truly the best small hatchback out there. Hands down, no regrets. Unless Toyota or Honda get their act together and make an awesome new Yaris or Jazz, I don't think anyone can trump this 208. No one.

INTERIOR

Leather and cloth never looked so good.

This bit is important because it's what let the old 208 down. The interior. Again, it was okay but it wasn't special. It lacked the quality and design of rivals and let the rest of the car down, big time. Now, however, this changes. And it changes very seriously.

Whoever designed the no-doubt optional seats in the image above, I'd like to commend you and buy you not one, but two pints. Yes, it might not be perfectly symmetrical like if it was done at a German factory by a man called Hans who had all A*s in the German-equivalent of schooling but that's fine. It's a Peugeot, it isn't meant to be as sophisticated as a German it's meant to be exciting and, even then, no one will notice that some of the cross-stitching is off or that it lacks precision in places. It's a job well done and it shows that half-leather cloth or alcantara seats are epic.

Peugeot has decided to exclude the dashboard of scratchy, mean and brittle plastics and has replaced it with the sort of stuff that doesn't hurt at the flick of a journalist's finger. Mat Watson at Carwow, shout out to you and the flick test. Peugeot has gone a bit more upscale with the latest 208 interior. Mind you, it's basically the same interior you get in the rest of the new Peugeot's but, it's not a bad thing.

Buttons. But not the right buttons. I shall explain.

Like I mentioned before, the car has buttons. And, buttons are good. Very good. They make life simpler, easier and reduce the stress-levels that will eventually lead to modern cardiovascular diseases ever-influenced by stressful situations. But, Peugeot hasn't decreased your likelihood of stress-induced cardiovascular disease.

The 208 has buttons. There are shortcut buttons just below the air vents for the infotainment screen that do help you out, giving peace of mind when faced with on-the-move touchscreen manoeuvrability. But, the climate control functions are all in the infotainment. Why? Why would you do this Peugeot? This rant applies to all of your new models because the 508 and the 1000s suffer from this too. It's so much easier to turn a dial than it is to touch a screen while also having to focus on a dozen things around you, like the Mercedes Sprinter from a delivery company that I won't name that's speeding past you at the company-set limiter or the unaware and selfish cyclist that is asking for a rear-end knock. Why not make it simple and integrate the climate control functions, into the beautifully metallic buttons you have. At least the MAX AC button is present.

Digital dials. Fancy, Monsieur.

Yes, Peugeot has visited Audi worl- I mean, have done their own research into digital driving displays. The rev counter goes anti-clock wise, like on an Aston Martin. That's a neat touch, but given that Peugeot's are generally bought by people who can't afford an exotic grand-tourer or a yacht, it might surprise and shock the odd Steven or Karen out there. But, the display itself is pleasant with attractive graphics and awesome animations when switching around the information presented.

It allows for various functions such as driving-data that's relevant to your car's economy, performance or navigation. It adds ease to driving, making it an easier car to live with. And, especially for the 208, that's important because small cars are meant to be the easiest to live with on a daily basis. They're stress killers that helps to cocoon you in metal and cloth and fake carbon fibre from the outside world of smog, anger and silly children doing silly dances from silly video games.

CONCLUSION

I think Peugeot have just revealed a car that will really make the opposition scratch their heads and think about their own mistakes, be that in design or execution. It's the best looking car in it's class, it feels far more upmarket than you'd expect and features technology that some bigger cars don't have access to. But, it isn't without fault. Whoever thought that fake carbon was a good idea needs to have a rethink and the person responsible for deciding that the climate control options are to sit in the infotainment may want to look in the mirror and remember that he or she is supposed to make life less and not more stress-free for customers.

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