Pug­na­ciously priced

Aus­tralia’s cheap­est Peu­geot in more than 30 years takes the fight to Euro­pean ri­vals

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

I NEVER thought I would see the day when a Peu­geot would be priced sharply enough to com­plete in Aus­tralia with the Ja­panese and South Korean tid­dlers.

But Paris has fi­nally got the mes­sage and the re­sult is the com­pany’s cheap­est chal­lenger in Aus­tralia in more than 30 years.

The 208 hatch has a show­room sticker of just $15,990, right in the heart­land oc­cu­pied by the Asian brands.

As a price fighter, the base Peu­geot has a 1.2-litre en­gine, five-speed man­ual gear­box and no sign of a re­vers­ing cam­era. There is also an $18,990 au­to­matic with a turbo en­gine (81kW/205Nm).

Peu­geot adds a re­vers­ing cam­era at just $300 and on some mod­els there is a $500 safety pack with the cam­era and ac­tive city brak­ing.

Af­ter driv­ing and en­joy­ing the lat­est 308 ear­lier this year, with a sim­i­lar three-cylin­der eco en­gine un­der the bon­net, I’m look­ing for­ward to try­ing the lat­est 208.

Peu­geot makes some im­pres­sive claims on the up­date work, which brings a mild styling tweak, pow­er­plants that sat­isfy the tough­est Euro6 emis­sions reg­u­la­tions, a much­needed six-speed Aisin au­to­matic gear­box and op­tional matt paint (first seen on the GTi version).

“This puts us on the radar for small-car buy­ers. We were al­ways over the $20,000 psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­rier,” says Peu­geot spokesman Tyson Bowen.

“We could have had a four­speed auto but we knew the sixspeed auto was a must. And it’s the cheap­est Peu­geot for at least 30 years.”

That prob­a­bly tracks back to the 205, which was a real fun run­ner de­spite a flimsy cabin and com­pro­mises on the likes of power steer­ing and air­con­di­tion­ing.

I was hop­ing to trial the $15,990 starter car but the 208 Al­lure that ar­rives to tus­sle for a Tick has the same me­chan­i­cal pack­age as the $18,990 model and the price is not out­ra­geous at $25,990 in­clud­ing a sun­roof, 17-inch al­loys and the cam­era-AEB safety gear.

In the past it prob­a­bly would have been the start­ing price for the Peu­geot, with noth­ing like the same equip­ment.

The 208 looks French and feels Euro­pean, invit­ing com­par­isons with the Volk­swa­gen Polo from my part­ner. We have to look hard for the changes to the grille and lamps but she likes the over­all am­bi­ence and the qual­ity look and feel in the cabin.

My big­gest com­plaint, and it ap­plies to ev­ery Peu­geot in the line-up to­day, is the driv­ing po­si­tion. When I lower the driver’s seat to my pre­ferred po­si­tion the steer­ing wheel ob­scures more than half of the dash­board, in­clud­ing the speedo and tacho.

Peu­geot in­sists it is pro­vid­ing a driver-fo­cused lay­out but all the good driv­ers I know, and I’ve put a few into a Peu­geot, com­plain about the er­gonomics ( just as we’re still not happy with the gear se­lec­tor lever in many Mercedes-Ben­zes be­cause it’s too easy to con­fuse with the turn sig­nal).

Mov­ing on, I’m im­pressed with al­most ev­ery­thing about the 1.2-litre turbo triple. It has gen­uine oomph, is very light on the bowser and makes the car light and easy to han­dle.

The six-speed auto is also slick, en­cour­ag­ing me to go for man­ual shifts on my favourite driv­ing road, with gear­ing that makes high­way cruis­ing com­fort­able and quiet.

But, I’m not so happy with the stop-start tech. It works well enough, it’s saving fuel and help­ing emis­sions but the test car has a slight stam­mer as it’s slow­ing that I can only put down to the stop-start.

It’s a mi­nor glitch but I know it would an­noy me as much as I enjoy the heart­beat of the lit­tle triple un­der full throt­tle.

The rest of the 208 pack­age is fa­mil­iar, not just from pre­vi­ous drives but also from the feel and fin­ish of the larger 308, which is one of my sur­prise favourites of 2015. The steer­ing feels great and the brakes are pow­er­ful.

The seats are great, sup­ple yet sup­port­ive, and there is rea­son­able space in the rear and boot. It’s not great for legroom, even for my six-year-old co­driver in his booster, but it’s what I ex­pect for the class.

It’s also good to find a full­size spare and I like the sixs­peaker au­dio and the large in­fo­tain­ment screen. The re­vers­ing cam­era can be a lit­tle slow to kick into ac­tion and, thank­fully, I get no chance to test the auto brak­ing.

It’s a given that the sub$20,000 cars will be more aus­tere, even miss­ing elec­tric mir­rors and rear elec­tric win­dows as do some of their ri­vals, but the ba­sics are good and will be ap­pre­ci­ated by peo­ple who are pre­pared to punt on the new Peu­geot.

But, if you’re look­ing at the base model, please find a lit­tle ex­tra for the safety stuff.

My week with the 208 passes quickly and hap­pily, and I can’t say enough good things about the ride and han­dling. Hyundai and Kia are do­ing im­pres­sive work on Aus­tralian tun­ing for their sus­pen­sion but Peu­geot has al­ways done bril­liant ba­sics for its sus­pen­sion and that con­tin­ues with the 208.

THE TICK

The up­dated version definitely re­minds me of the 205 — which was such a star — and I’m hop­ing more peo­ple will put a Peu­geot on their shop­ping list now. The price is fi­nally right and it gets The Tick.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.