Peugeot 208 hatchback (2012 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop, 24th April 2014

The verdict

The 208 has its plus points, such as the way it looks and the quality feel of the interior. However, it's way too compromised in too many other areas to trouble the class leaders. If you're not totally sold on the 208's styling, we'd advise you to look elsewhere.

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Expert rating:

3.0

Pros

  • Looks good inside and out
  • Vast choice of engines
  • Good safety kit

Cons

  • Touch-screen system is too complex
  • Driving position is woeful
  • Disappointing to drive

Full Review

1. Exterior

The designers of the 208 have tried to give the car a chic look, and we’d say they’ve succeeded. The body shape is neat and curvy, and the creases in the doors and bonnet give an even more sculpted look. The angular headlights are eyebrowed by LED daytime running lights, and the brake lights have three lines of LEDs in each cluster, mimicking a lion’s claw. High-spec models also get chrome along the glazing, and with palette of ten exterior colours, there’s plenty of choice. It has the sense of fun lacking in the Volkswagen Polo, and easily has as much style as the Ford Fiesta.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The 208’s interior represents a complete re-think of how things should be arranged. The instrument dials are mounted high while the shrunken steering wheel is mounted low, so you view the dials over the wheel rather than through it. It’s bold, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Many drivers, especially shorter ones, will find that the wheel obscures the dials, even when it’s set to an uncomfortably low position. The touch-screen infotainment system that’s standard on all but the entry-level trim is similarly disappointing. The graphics are cluttered, and the way the various menus work is hopelessly confusing. It’s a shame, because the cabin actually looks very nice, with plenty of glossy panels and spangly trims. However, one or two of the more structural panels, such as the top of the dashboard, could be higher in quality.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

This is another area in which the 208 disappoints. Space is fine up front, and rear legroom is actually quite good, but the rear headroom is too tight for adults to sit comfortably, especially in models that have the panoramic glass sunroof fitted. The boot is generously sized at 311 litres, and it’s well shaped, too. However, the low-spec models miss out on the split-folding rear seats that allow you to extend the load area to 1,152 litres – that’s a bit mean.

Our rating: 2

4. Ride and handling

You might be disappointed by the 208’s ride comfort. The suspension struggles to deal with too many lumps and bumps, especially at low speeds, so you’ll find yourself being jostled around in your seat. The jittery ride doesn’t translate into entertaining handling, either. There’s plenty of grip on offer, but the body leans over disconcertingly in bends. The steering could do with more feel, too, but it’s reasonably responsive and light around town, which helps with parking. The GTI version handles a lot better than the regular 208, and it doesn’t lose much in the way of ride comfort. Unfortunately, though, it’s still not as involving as the best hot hatches.

Our rating: 2

5. Performance

There are no less than nine engine choices for the 208; six petrol and three diesel. The petrols range from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 67bhp to a fiery 197bhp 1.6 turbo in the GTI, while the diesel options go from a 67bhp 1.4 to a 113bhp 1.6. Unfortunately, we’ve only had the chance to drive four of the engines so far. The most sensible option we’ve tried is the three-cylinder 1.2 petrol with 81bhp. It’s a little rortier than some rival units, but it’s not too loud or rough for comfort, and it gives reasonably flexible performance. The 118bhp 1.6 petrol we’ve tried is best left alone – it’s flat low down, not that quick when you rev it out, and it’s expensive to buy. The GTI’s 197bhp 1.6 turbo gives suitably sizzling pace, and it’s also impressively flexible. The 113bhp diesel is a peach, too, with strong, smooth performance.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Prices are reasonable compared with other mainstream superminis, and resale values are on a par, too. All the diesels return upwards of 74mpg, while the cleanest car in the range, the 1.4 diesel with a semi-automatic gearbox, can manage an official average of 83.1mpg. Of the petrols, the entry-level 1.0-litre engine is the star performer, averaging 65.7mpg, while the 1.2 will do 62.8mpg and all but the 1.6 turbos better 50mpg – and they get pretty close, too. However, insurance costs are nothing special, and Peugeot’s warranty package is nothing to write home about.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Peugeot’s reliability record has been patchy in recent years, but it’s encouraging that the manufacturer is currently sitting in the top half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings. The 208’s solid build quality should give you confidence in how it’ll stand up to the rigours of everyday use, although one or two of the plastic panels inside look like they’ll mark rather too easily.

Our rating: 3

8. Safety

Six airbags protect the driver and front passenger; two front, two side and two curtain ‘bags. There are also two Isofix installations with three-point attachments in the rear. Anti-lock brakes come as standard, as does electronic stability control. It also features shock absorbers designed to soak up more of crash impacts, along with a collapsible steering column to minimise injury to the driver. It all proved effective in Euro NCAP crash tests, in which the 208 scored the maximum five stars.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Entry-level Access trim comes with cruise control, electric front windows and remote locking, but you have to upgrade to Access+ for air-conditioning. Active trim is our pick for its touch-screen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, front foglamps and split-folding rear bench, while Allure trim adds goodies like climate control and automatic lights and wipers. Feline cars get part-leather trim, directional headlamps and sat-nav (although you can download navigation as an app on any model with a touch-screen system for a small cost), while XY cars have various aesthetic upgrades, plus rear parking sensors. The GTI chucks in part-leather upholstery on top.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

Because you like the way it looks. Other than that, we can’t see much of a reason to recommend the 208. Countless rival superminis offer you more talent for similar or less money. We’d stick with one of those.

Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.0stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior2
  • Practicality2
  • Ride and handling2
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability3
  • Safety4
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:

208 1.2 VTi  82 Active 5dr

Reasonable performance and reasonably affordable to buy and run

Most Economical:

208 1.4 e-HDi EGC Active 3dr

Super-low emissions of 87g/km and economy of 83.1mpg

Best avoided:

208 1.6 THP 200 Feline 3dr

Good engine, but way too expensive for a car as compromised as the 208

The 208’s interior represents a complete re-think of how things should be arranged. The instrument dials are mounted high while the shrunken steering wheel is mounted low, so you view the dials over the wheel rather than through it. It’s bold, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work.