Europe on a bud­get

Peu­geot plays the num­bers game with cheap version of its baby hatch

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

THE num­bers haven’t added up for the 208 un­til now.

The Peu­geot hatch has been lum­bered with too high a price and too old a driv­e­train to come into se­ri­ous cal­cu­la­tion.

The launch of a facelifted model in Oc­to­ber ad­dressed both is­sues … but not in the same pack­age.

The en­try 208 is now $15,990, equalling the likes of the Suzuki Swift base model. Not bad for a Euro­pean-built car and also $800 cheaper than a Re­nault Clio.

The bad news is that to hit that price the Pug has been stripped, los­ing the turbo from the 1.2-litre three­cylin­der en­gine pow­er­ing the rest of the reg­u­lar range, along with niceties such as pow­ered rear win­dows and elec­tri­cally fold­ing door mir­rors.

To get some spark into the drive, buy­ers need to ante up an­other $6000 for the Ac­tive model Cars­guide tested, which brings a stan­dard six-speed auto, the turbo en­gine and a lit­tle more gloss to the in­te­rior pack­ag­ing.

DE­SIGN

Lit­tle stands out on the ex­te­rior of the Peu­geot, though that is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.

The wheels are pushed out to the cor­ners of the car to max­imise in­te­rior space and make it pos­si­ble for three adults to sit in the rear for short pe­ri­ods.

That should com­pro­mise boot space but the Pug’s 311L job is big­ger than in a Ford Fi­esta or Volk­swa­gen Polo.

It is not quite up to the Honda Jazz’s cargo car­ry­ing ver­sa­til­ity but is bet­ter than av­er­age for the class.

There’s plenty of space up front as well and there needs to be: the small, low-slung steer­ing wheel and the driver’s seat need to be pre­cisely ad­justed to avoid ob­scur­ing any­thing on the high-mounted in­stru­ment panel.

The prin­ci­ple be­hind this er­gonomic anom­aly is that the driver doesn’t have to glance down — and away from the road — to check speed or en­gine revs.

It’s a well-in­ten­tioned the­ory that doesn’t work well in prac­tice.

The over­all build qual­ity can’t be faulted but some of the plas­tics low in the cabin still look and feel cheap.

AROUND TOWN

The lack of a stan­dard re­vers­ing cam­era doesn’t do Peu­geot any favours.

It can be had for $300 but it is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an ex­pected safety fea­ture even in small hatches.

Hav­ing to pay $1500 for sat­nav only bol­sters the case to use a mo­bile phone holder and let Google or Siri sort out the route.

Equip­ment apart, as an ur­ban run­about the 208 works well enough. In turbo form, the 1.2-litre triple be­lies its mod­est ca­pac­ity by will­ingly haul­ing the 208 up to ur­ban speeds.

It isn’t the quick­est in the light-car class but it doesn’t dis­grace it­self, ei­ther.

Auto stop-start and a new six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion pare fuel use to a claimed 4.5L/100km — ex­pect to see up to 7.0L in peak-hour traf­fic.

The sus­pen­sion is heav­ier than a typ­i­cal Asian light hatch. That has the ef­fect of keep­ing the 208 com­posed over mi­nor rip­ples in the road but it can jar on sharp-edged pot­holes or speed humps.

ON THE ROAD

The three-cylin­der is suf­fi­ciently bois­ter­ous for the 208 to sing with the best of them but the vague steer­ing feel doesn’t en­cour­age tak­ing the hatch on a high-tempo dance through favourite curves, de­spite the fact the turn­ing ra­tio ap­proaches go-kart di­rect­ness.

The lack of front-end pre­ci­sion is ex­ag­ger­ated by body roll and pitch­ing un­der brakes.

Nei­ther is ter­ri­ble but they de­tract from what could oth­er­wise be a sporty drive.

The en­gine’s will­ing­ness to rev isn’t re­flected on the speedo, with a 100km/h sprint time of 10.9 sec­onds. Tall gear­ing is the ma­jor cul­prit here and is the price paid to achieve that fru­gal fuel rat­ing.

Driven less en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, the Pug is a com­posed and quiet car with the in­te­rior space and am­bi­ence to be a de­cent daily driver.

VER­DICT

A great new en­gine is let down by a chas­sis that can’t match the best in class for driv­ing feed­back and a driv­ing po­si­tion some won’t be able to rec­on­cile.

At $22K, the 208 Ac­tive en­coun­ters top-end ri­vals from Honda to Toy­ota.

The num­bers don’t quite add up in a seg­ment where value for money is the key de­nom­i­na­tor.

3962mm (L), 1739mm (W), 1460mm (H), 2538mm (WB) 1070kg Full-size

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