GPs who were driving in the 1980s will have a soft spot for the Peugeot marque. The 205 was an innovative, stylish supermini and most importantly, was fun to drive. It became, with help from the fabulous 205GTI, a motoring legend.
Over subsequent years, it was replaced by the 206 and then the 207, but these were inferior because they lacked the design flair and driving enjoyment of the original.
The excellent reputation gained by the 205 is now starting to wear thin and Peugeot's latest supermini, the 208, needs to be really good to regain lost ground.
|FAST FACTS - PEUGEOT 208 1.2 LITRE|
|Body: Choice of three or five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol (four other petrol and three
diesel units available)
Claimed economy (combined): 62.8mpg
Price pounds: 12,795
I have been testing the new model fitted with the latest small and efficient petrol engine; a three-cylinder 1.2 litre that has a claimed economy of up to 72mpg and a low 104g/kg emission status, which means cheap road tax.
I wonder if it will stand up to the rigours of life as a practice car one minute and a family car the next?
Looks good inside and out
Available with a threeor five-door bodyshell, this small Peugeot looks superb from the outside. On the inside, it gets better still. Despite being slightly smaller than the outgoing 207, there is more passenger room because of clever seat design. Materials are more upmarket than in previous small Peugeots and the driving position is excellent.
Peugeot 208 interior
As is pretty standard nowadays, smaller cars can be specified with all of the extra features that were the preserve of the larger executive models. The new 208 is no exception and the large, clear central touch screen can include satnav and Bluetooth if required.
So here we have a Peugeot with a smart, high-quality interior allied to a refined ambience. Unfortunately, there is one fly in the ointment. The main dials in front of the driver are set rather high and obscured to some degree by the steering wheel. This may put some potential buyers off in the showroom, which would be a great shame.
How does it handle?
The steering wheel is small and thick-rimmed, helping to give the 208 a sporty feel. It all rests on the ride and handling, though. Have the suspension engineers at Peugeot managed to recreate some of the old magic?
Well, it is a great relief to say that they have. The stability control is impressive and the ride is comfortable and not too firm. Although not as direct as in Ford's Fiesta, the steering is sharp enough to dart into corners with decent feedback and extract some of that essential fun factor.
Don't worry, though, if enthusiastic ducking and diving is not your thing, the 208 is great for urban use and parking is a piece of cake.
Performance depends on which power plant you choose. There is a choice of five petrol and three diesel units - something for everyone.
However, the widely acclaimed three-cylinder petrol unit in my test car is probably the best all-rounder. With enough performance to entertain and a sprightliness that belies its size, its 82bhp feels an underestimate and economy is superb.
On a general mixture of driving, expect a real world average of 50mpg, not to be ignored in these times of austerity.
Peugeot's rivals in this class are the Fiesta and the Kia Rio. If you want more class, look at the Audi A1, but expect to spend more. Currently, the 208 comes out on top, but Ford has just updated the Fiesta - it now offers its own excellent three-cylinder 1.0 litre engine, so the game moves on.
Overall, the new 208 is a great car for any GP. Peugeot has created a small car that you can buy with your heart as well as your wallet.
- Dr Rimmer is a GP in Guildford, Surrey