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Peugeot 208

7/10
Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review:Peugeot 208

£16,065£23,145

Driving

What is it like on the road?

Right, shall we get the diesel out of the way first? Peugeot’s BlueHDi diesels are seriously smooth and extremely frugal, but even Peugeot predicts that of all the fuel-burning 208s it sells, only five per cent will be 99bhp turbodiesels. As compelling as it is to climb aboard a supermini with a 700km range, the 208 feels blunted and leaden by the diesel motor. Think of it as a very unlikely future museum piece – the last of the diesel superminis.

The 74bhp petrol is best left as the vehicle of choice for the L-plate contingent – it exists as the base price banner car, the ‘new 208, from £16k’ poster car. The 99bhp version starts at £17k and it’s a cracker. It makes the chirrupy 3cyl noises we like without the vibration we don’t and has a decent slug of performance. Just a pity that the standard six-speed manual that it’s joined to is more rubbery than condom-flavour chewing gum.

You could solve that by stretching to the 128bhp 3cyl 1.2-litre, which gets an eight-speed auto as standard. Eight speeds in a supermini! Heady times. It’s a great box, best in class, in fact, since the VW Group’s DSG has been so utterly hobbled by WLTP shift strategy. The extra poke doesn’t turn the 208 into a warm hatch – it’s half a second slower to 62mph than the e208 – but it’s spritely enough to make the car feel bright and energetic. 

The chassis itself isn’t trying to be as agile and chuckable as a Fiesta, but it feels wieldy purely because the steering wheel is pocket-sized. The ride’s fine on 16s, but the handsome 17s that arrive on GT-line trim do the 208’s rolling refinement no favours, and it gets a bit jiggly. Hold that thought.

The e-208 is around 300kg heavier than a petrol-powered 208, and though the weight is hung far lower in the chassis, Peugeot’s had to toughen up the springs and redesign the rear suspension to support the heft. With firmer settings and less overall travel, the e-208 is noticeably fidgetier again. In an urban car that’ll have to deal with broken city streets, speed bumps, tramtracks and so on, that’s a shame. Then again, only Jaguar has so far managed to make a modern EV with a genuinely impressive ride. It’s much better on the smaller rims, too.

The e-208 feels very conventional inside, just as it looks like a standard 208 outside. Same clever dashboard, same auto gearlever, just with a ‘B’ mode for upping the regenerative braking. Not enough to be a true one-pedal car, but handy when you’re conserving range. Same modes too: Eco (82bhp, no climate control), Normal (106bhp) and Sport (the full 136bhp). Guess which we spent most time in?

Off the line, the e-208 accelerates gradually, without the insta-thwack YouTube thrives on. Momentum builds consistently and it does indeed feel more rapid than the lighter petrol cars. Speedy. Zippy. Good in town. The brakes aren’t too dead underfoot either, and the re-gen is well-judged. It all feels very… normal. We suspect this is exactly the intention. There isn’t even a spaceshippy zoom-woosh noise to accompany prodding the go pedal. Peugeot reasons that one of the big EV boons is their silence, and gimmicky fake engine tones are pointless.

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

The same car underneath, but with an even madder interior. Also available in electric.

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