Pinky Peugeot

Read test: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi Allure

B-segment: that hotly-contested, not-quite-as-small-as-they-used-to-be group of cars, now classed as suitable for the ‘small family’. It’s an extremely important segment, with Korea and Malaysia now stomping all over the non-premium end and premium brands such as Audi muscling in at the top. So where does this leave Peugeot? Over the last couple of years, it has been improving styling and using some smarter materials, aiming to bring its head above the Far Eastern competition. So let’s see how the new 208 fares.

Peugeot is using a new design language (following some of the rather challenging large grills of the last decade) and the 208 is much softer-looking. The front grill is still a little awkward but overall it’s neat and still easily recognisable as a Pug. In three-door guise and in strong colours it does look striking; the five-door version loses out on the chromed flash running into the C-pillar and its stance is softer, less muscular.

Many shiny bits

The interior contains many chromed and shiny bits which are slightly excessive. This is echoed in the central information display/touch screen which is busy and not overly intuitive. All the options in the display are shown on a pseudo 3D drum and it’s needlessly confusing. Probably the biggest flaw is the instrument binnacle which is mounted quite far away from the driver and obscured significantly by the top of the small steering wheel.   I tried to find a position where the steering wheel was comfortable without covering-up too much information and the compromise still chopped-off the lower chunks of the dials. It’s a shame, really, because the basic building blocks are good – just let-down by some poor attention to detail. Other minor flaws include the weak interior lighting (which doesn’t extend to the rear passenger area) and the cup holders in the central console which lack height clearance for even a standard keep-warm mug.

Ample torque

The 208 is easy to drive and quite pliant on poor roads or when chucked into corners. Gearing is on the tall side which is mostly fine but there’s a power gap when rolling below 15mph and in second gear – when the turbo isn’t doing its thing, a change-down to first is necessary. When on the boil, it has ample torque and even with a modest 0-62mph time of 12.2 seconds, it doesn’t feel like hard work keeping up with traffic or maintaining motorway speeds.

Of note is the car’s eco mode, stopping the engine when stationary. In fact, it cuts the engine from 20kph (12.4mph) when in neutral to save fuel. I suspect driving schools wouldn’t recommend coasting out of gear but the brakes and steering still remain fully powered with the engine off. The engine kicks in very quickly on dipping the clutch, inspiring greater confidence than in some competition. I also like the counter which adds up all the time spent with the engine off on each journey; an urban trip of an hour had the engine off for over 12 minutes, or 20%.

The 208 is easy to live with

While the right colour choice is important, even in the slightly odd ‘rose quartz’, the 208 is easy to live with. Peugeot has worked hard to deliver on its old values of comfort and drivability – and succeeded. I was disappointed by some of the interior design but the overall package, with this smooth, economical 1.6 diesel was fine. Addressing some of those cosmetic issues would earn the 208 another Motor Writer star.

Peugeot 208 Allure 1.6 e-HDi, tested, costs £15,845 plus £495 for metalic paint and £400 for touch screen navigation

Power: 92 hp (4,000 rpm), torque: 230Nm (1,750 rpm), emissions: 98g/km CO2 (band A), 0-60 mph: 12.2 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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