17.7.2012 Peugeot 208 1.4 e-HDi review
The new 208 is the most important Peugeot in 20 years because not only is this supermini heir to the legendary 205 that saved the company in the 1980s, but rising debts and falling sales in Europe mean the same feat is needed again. In its favour the 208 is a pretty good looker with a much better quality interior than Peugeot has achieved on its other small cars.
Crucially it gives Peugeot engines in the sub 1.4 litre capacity where most of the small car sales are found today. It's not quite the sparkling drive some commentators have suggested, and in virtually every model you find yourself looking for a non-existent sixth gear, or even a seventh in some, to make the car more composed and improve fuel consumption. Manual gear changes are long movement and vague and don’t suit the character of a small car. Keener drivers will be happiest with the 1.2 petrol.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
Despite the 1.4 litre turbocharged diesel's capacity, it has been tuned for economy with a mere 67 bhp at 4,000 rpm, though there is a handy 118 lbs ft of torque from 1,750 rpm. Make the most of the five-speed 'robotised' electronic gearbox (EGS) and once moving you can make satisfactory progress but 0-62 mph takes a sluggish 17.9 seconds according to Peugeot's official figures and it feels like it. That's 2.4 seconds longer than the conventional five-speed manual. The EGS car is fractionally faster on top speed; 103 mph compared to 101 mph.
A very small steering wheel dominates the proceedings so that you feel you are driving with your wrists. On wet/slippery roads, some colleagues thought the response was too fast/nervous. You can quickly get the car into an arc through a corner. Balance then feels good, though you are aware of the weight of a diesel engine upfront, and is fine on a neutral throttle, but back off the power at high effort and the tail can slide round requiring action before the stability systems cut in. Gear changing uses paddles or a gear selector. The lever is counter intuitive – you push forward for higher gears when instinct is to pull back as acceleration pushes you backwards – obviously not for keener drivers. Bumps are felt more than in some rivals.
Usually three-door hatches look sharper than five-doors but both 208 versions are attractive. In some lighting and colours the car looks particularly modern from the front three-quarters, but it can look fussy too. At least that should mean the shape won't date quickly. The wide windscreen pillars obscure more vision than I'd like and the 208's rear end is undistinguished. Overall the cabin is a pleasant place even though the car is 70 mm shorter than its predecessor 207 which is expected to boost appeal to city parkers. Rear seat headroom won't suit taller people. Touch screen satellite navigation proved temperamental on test car. The 208 is 3965 mm in length and 1829 mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As Fiat did with the Panda, Peugeot has put a new body and interior on an existing floorpan/chassis to keep down costs but you can’t see the join. The ride is fairly firm, which better suits a small car than a wallowy ride, but you hear the suspension working more than you do in a Volkswagen Polo.
Notchy seat backrest adjustment might put you in between settings unlike a rotary wheel on Seat's Ibiza. Whether the low steering wheel position suits you is a matter of personal build. My big feet would have liked more room round the pedals. Despite the 208's showroom appeal, industry analysts reckon the 208 is 30% cheaper to build which should help Peugeot claw back from its shaky financial situation.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Based on the official tests all cars go through, the 208 e-HDi 1.4 has a tiny fuel thirst with 78 mpg round town and 83 mpg overall on the 'combined' test. To get anywhere near that you would have to drive like there was an egg you didn't want to break between your foot and the accelerator. With multiple drivers 'our' car was in the mid 50s.You also have to put up with the stretched elastic effect of the EGS gearbox which feels awful. The normal manual gearbox car costs £700 less and though I have not driven one would still be my choice. CO2 emissions are just 87 g/km for the EGS car and 98 g/km for the standard model. Both would escape current UK road tax and the London congestion charge. Peugeot backs the 208 with a three-year/100,000 mile warranty.
Peugeot is to be congratulated for reducing the weight of the 208 compared to its portly 207 predecessor by about 110 kg while raising interior quality to levels not seen in small French cars before. Recycled or natural origin green materials are used for a quarter of the car's polymer made fittings but it's a surprise only the top of the range 115 bhp turbodiesel is fitted with an engine start-stop system to save fuel in traffic. Peugeot quotes some good aerodynamic figures so out of town cruising fuel consumption should be good – though not using six-speed gearboxes for lower engine revs seems an error. The new 208 e-HDi has been given a Next Green Car Rating of 27.
Test car's Access+ trim includes manual air conditioning with refrigerated glove box, power steering, radio/CD player with steering column controls, multifunction colour touchscreen, USB input for external audio device, Bluetooth phone connectivity, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, one-touch open and close electric front windows, anti-lock brakes, heated door mirrors, cruise control and speed limiter, remote control central door locking and front drive, passenger, side and curtain airbags.
Model tested: Peugeot 208 1.4 e-HDi Access+
Body-style: Three door 'supermini'
Engine/CO2: 68bhp 999cc 4-cylinder turbo-diesel / 87g/km
Trim grades: Access, Access+, Active, Allure, Feline
On-road price: 208 range starts at £9,995. Test car £13,345
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS
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