Car (South Africa)
The fashionable feline
For some or other reason, the latest 208 is one of those models that has managed to elude CAR’S testing schedule despite having landed here almost a year ago. It’s not as though we aren’t fans of Peugeot’s latest wares; the 2008 walked away with a win in a closely fought group test against the Mazda CX-30, Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Creta in our May 2021 issue. We also spent six months in the company of what is essentially a reskinned version of this car – the Opel Corsa – and barring a couple of foibles arising from our example’s pre-launchbatch sourcing, it proved to be a solid and thoroughly entertaining little car.
Even when finished in our test unit’s metallic gunmetal hue, the 208 is an eye-catching addition to the small-hatch fold and is a far cry from its globular and rather po-faced predecessor. From the bold front-end treatment to the taut sheet metal and felineinspired lighting features – such as the fang-like daytime running lights and claw-mark brakelamp elements – the 208 offers visual charisma that its rivals here struggle to match.
It’s a similar story inside, where the fascia, with its bold, sweeping lines, contrasting patinas and piano-key buttons for ancillaries make its rivals seem somewhat pedestrian by comparison. Allure specification also ushers in a bold 3D-effect digital instrument binnacle, but it’s a feature that some on the test team struggled to fully appreciate owing to the ergonomic problems presented by Peugeot’s i-cockpit layout. This arrangement, comprising a smalldiameter steering wheel and narrow instrument binnacle, proved a bone of contention in the previous car. When allied with closely spaced pedals and limited steering column rake in the new car, getting comfortable behind the wheel remains a challenge for taller folks.
Underpinned by the PSA Group’s CMP platform, the new car is marginally larger than its predecessor, though the cabin is decidedly snug, with 580 mm of rear legroom undercutting that of its rivals by quite a margin. Thankfully, our measurements revealed boot and utility space of 230–830 litres, which is respectable in this company.
We’ve long admired Peugeots for the way they acquit themselves on the road and the new 208 is no exception. The ride and body control tread a neat line between tautness under swift directional changes and a degree of fluidity that sees the petite Peugeot soaking up bumps with little drama. That small-gauge steering wheel furthers the impression of directness when cornering and the brakes (upgraded from the Active model’s rear drums to discs for the Allure) proved crisp and second only to the Renault in terms of stopping power in our tests.
The turbocharged 1,2-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol is a willing performer that develops 74 kw and a group-topping 205 N.m at a low 1 750 r/min; the latter goes some way to explaining its flexibility and strong in-gear acceleration compared to the Polo and Clio. It also has to be said the addition of a sixth ratio on the
208’s manual ’box – its manual rivals featuring five-speeders – made motorway cruising more relaxed than in the Clio and on par with the Polo, which is spared any national-limit freneticism by virtue of its tall gearing. That extra gear, coupled with the tractability afforded by that plentiful low-end torque, could explain the 208’s impressive 6,12 litres/100 km showing on our fuel route, a figure surpassed only by the lighter and more powerful Honda Fit. The one fly in the 208 drivetrain’s ointment is the clutch, which has an awkward high biting point that slightly hampers the smooth action of shifting gears.
In terms of specification, the 208 is reasonably well equipped. A touchscreen infotainment system sporting Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, keyless ignition and rear parking sensors with camera are among the standard inclusions, and its three-year/60 000 km service plan is only bested by the Honda’s four-year item. That said, it has undergone a R6 000 price increase between the time of testing and publishing, which means it’s the most expensive of the Europeans and the second most expensive test car overall.
While there’s no denying the Peugeot’s strong performance and bold styling in this company, its ergonomics and pricing could weigh against its chances here.