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Long-term review

Peugeot 208 - long-term review

£23,775 / £25,225 as tested / £318pcm
Published: 03 Aug 2020
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    Peugeot 208 GT-line 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT8

  • ENGINE

    1199cc

  • BHP

    129bhp

  • 0-62

    8.7s

Is the Peugeot 208 more than just a good-looking car?

Several hours before the Prime Minister gave the British people that infamous ‘simple instruction’ to stay at home and avoid sneezing in each other’s general direction, a Peugeot 208 was delivered to my house. Not this Peugeot 208, though.

The blue one that arrived had 99bhp and a manual gearbox. Ordinarily I’d have driven it to the office the next day and the whole TG team would’ve had a steer. We’d have disagreed over its interior and mutally admired the way the new 208 looks, I bet. Instead, it became a lockdown companion, covering a handful of miles on weekly shopping trips to keep the battery alive, while the radio news played some bleak statistics and some stories of hope. I didn’t go far in that blue 208, but I bonded with it a bit.

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When lockdown eased it went away, and I wrote about how it’s so refined at speed, so beautifully put together inside, and so utterly planted in corners, it simply doesn’t feel ‘French’. It has a Germanic quality now. As solid as stone. But is it about as charming?

Sure, it’s a wacky-handsome object, but the quintessential Frenchness of a small hatchback has always been rooted in being a bit tinny, a bit flakey, and a bit of a hoot. The new 208 doesn’t seem to be… any of that. A few days later I received a very polite email from Peugeot, asking how they could relay to their engineers back at base that its new Fiesta and Clio rival was apparently ‘too good for its own good’. Fair enough – imagine your teacher writing to your parents to say you were doing so unexpectedly well in class, it was alarming the other students.

It’s a funny thing, expectations of a car based on its nationality. If you were trying to categorise such a thing in a chart, you’d say German cars had dour but well-finished interiors, and crisply designed panels. But is that really the case these days? Look at this new 208. Its bodywork is so achingly handsome and fabulously detailed, it makes a VW Polo look like a sad refrigerator.

Inside, the Peugeot is all-black, but that’s the only conservative thing about it – all crevices, angles and materials that’ll make an Audi A1 wake up screaming out of its big grille.

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A French car, in the same chart? Well, the old cliché commandments state it should have flighty, gameful handling, but only because the whole car is tied together with the flaky material integrity of an overbaked croissant.

On first impression, this 208 is determinedly not fun-to-drive, in a misbehaving sort of way, but chances are you’ll be too astounded by the fact this is an actual road car, not a concept model destined for a museum to really care it doesn’t jink into corners as flightily as a Fiesta.

This is the designer’s choice spec. GT-line is the top-rung trim for a fossil-fuelled 208: only the e-208 is allowed full ‘GT’ status. GT-line gets smart 17-inch rims and the all-LED eyes. Under the bonnet, the same engine as my lockdown companion: a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo, but this one is upped to produce 128bhp and teamed with an eight-speed auto gearbox. How’s that for mature?

This one’s been optioned with a very reasonable £300 assisted driving pack, adding radar cruise-control and a semi-robotic lane-following steering. The mustard-rich Faro Yellow is free of charge. I think it looks tremendous, but I’ve been wrong on fashion sense before.

A 208 GT-line went up against TG’s favourite small car, the Ford Fiesta ST-line, a couple of months ago. On account of higher monthly payments, a smidge less space inside, and not proving as much fun in the bends, it duly lost Top Gear’s head-to-head showdown. But everyone has a Fiesta. This Pug is a wilfully alternative choice. So, now the lockdown is lifting, let’s see if I can spend the next few months learning to love Peugeot’s new normal.

Good stuff: Has to be the prettiest supermini on sale. And on these wheels, in this colour, it has proper road-going concept car presence. Well done, Peugeot.

Bad stuff: Someone’s specced this one with a £500 glass roof. Looks like the AC will be working hard this summer...

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