Lit­tle cat’s out of the bag

The new 208 feels punchy and com­fort­able but there are nig­gles

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

THAT’S a lit­tle more like it,’’ I said aloud as I pointed the Al­lure Sport’s nose out into the traf­fic.

Leav­ing the Peu­geot deal­er­ship in the (for-now) 208 sport­ing flag­ship, the lit­tle three-door im­me­di­ately feels to have the pep and panache to bring back some cred­i­bil­ity to the brand.

It’s ob­vi­ously a cut above other 208s sam­pled to date.

Curvy, sculpted and stylish, the new 208 in its Al­lure Sport guise feels punchy and com­fort­able.

VALUE

The new 208 range has a pair of Al­lures at $26,490— a five­door Pre­mium model or this three-door (only) man­ual (only) Sport. The lit­tle French ma­chine has dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, par­tial leather trim for those very com­fort­able and sup­port­ive seats, Blue­tooth phone and au­dio link, au­todim­ming rear-vi­sion mir­ror, 17-inch al­loys and fixed-glass roof (not ideal in this cli­mate). There’s a touch­screen con­troller for the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem— but the big screen is wasted with­out satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion.

An­other ‘‘ but’’— it’s priced to­ward Polo GTI ter­ri­tory and that comes with three doors or five and stan­dard with a sev­en­speed twin-clutch auto.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The 1.6-litre turbo four— shared with its Citroen cousin, BMWand Mini— has been around for a while. In this guise it pro­duces 115kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm from 1400rpm.

The large touch­screen, set high in the dash for vis­i­bil­ity, doesn’t do well in full sun­light. The menu is a lit­tle con­vo­luted, as well as be­ing hes­i­tant to com­ply with some in­struc­tions and tem­per­a­men­tal when con­nected to an iPhone. The lat­ter is not an iso­lated in­ci­dent be­tween the Ap­ple phone and the French

mar­que.

DE­SIGN

The only three-door 208 has sculpted flanks and a brat­tish stance— it is cer­tainly a snap­pier look than the five-door. The LED run­ning lights up on the new closed­mouth, tight-lipped snout work, as do the lion-claw pat­terned LED tail-lights. Light of kerb weight, the new car has im­proved in­te­rior space and a rea­son­able load-space. The driver is well ac­com­mo­dated in a com­fort­able and sup­port­ive sports seat— one of the bet­ter places in the new car mar­ket to park your butt— but the driv­ing po­si­tion is still not quite ideal.

High and close-set ped­als are still set up for lit­tle Gal­lic feet, but it’s an im­prove­ment over ear­lier Pug hatches. The cen­tre stack is laid out for easy use, dom­i­nated by the touch­screen, with a nar­row in­stru­ment bin­na­cle only just vis­i­ble above the tiny steer­ing wheel.

SAFETY

It’s rated five stars un­der NCAP’s tough­ened rules. There are six airbags, sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-lock brakes (with elec­tronic brakeforce distri­bu­tion and emer­gency brake as­sist) and a full-size spare.

DRIV­ING

The lit­tle 208 in­stantly im­presses with ride qual­ity that be­lies the sport tag. The first se­ries of cor­ners shows the com­pany has han­dling back on its radar, although not at the cost of com­pli­ance.

Com­mut­ing on our pock­marked roads is no magic car­pet ride, but it bor­ders on com­fort­able. Much of the oc­cu­pant com­fort can be at­trib­uted to the seat­ing— the front seats in par­tic­u­lar are easy on the rump and hang on to your ribs in the bends.

The leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel is a lit­tle grip­pier than the plas­tic ver­sion in the 1.2, but it is very small. The steer­ing it­self is sharp in the way the car dives into cor­ners with gusto, but it lacks feel, some­thing that is hopefully rec­ti­fied in the coming GTi.

This en­gine has had some is­sues in the past with crank gear slip­page caus­ing prob­lems, but when it’s work­ing prop­erly it’s a great lit­tle pow­er­plant. It can rev if you so choose, but it’s the meaty mid-range that means plenty of in-gear fun, hit­ting 100km/h in a claimed 8.1 sec­onds.

The six-speed man­ual is notchier than the five-speed box on the lesser models, but once you’re fa­mil­iar with the nar­row pedal set-up the Sport can be hus­tled along at an amus­ing clip.

When you’re not mak­ing the most of forced in­duc­tion, fuel use is de­cent, too— Peu­geot claims a rea­son­able 5.8L/100km, although the en­thu­si­as­tic na­ture of our week’s driv­ing pushed that (lab­o­ra­tory-de­rived) num­ber past 8.0L.

VER­DICT

The French brand re­gains its ride and han­dling mojo, but there are still nig­gles. Carve cor­ners: Han­dling is back on Pug’s radar

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