I have to admit that I am actually rather partial to compact hatchbacks and despite my heritage, French ones rank highly on my list. So I obviously jumped at the chance of testing out the new Peugeot 208 on some twisty New Zealand roads.
For those that don’t know, the Peugeot 208 is a direct descendent of the 207, which in turn was the successor to the 206 aka ‘the best-selling Peugeot model of all time’. Sure the 208 has big ‘chaussures’ (shoes) to fill, but rest assured, this second generation is definitely up for the challenge.
My review model came in ‘Faro’ yellow. Now faro is either a card game OR in Latin means lighthouse, I prefer the latter as this 208 stands out for miles. Also, being GT-line, meant that all the stylised and sporty exterior trim, such as the grille, wheel-arches, roofline spoiler and 17-inch ‘bronx‘ alloys, all came in a contrasting black or dark grey, like a buzzy bee or an angry wasp. The 208 moniker sits proudly on the hatchback’s bonnet, just above the soon to be phased out lion on the cascading grille and between the claw and saber LED headlights and DRLs.
GT badging is displayed on the rear quarter panels and the rear hatch, the lion sits above Peugeot lettering and to complete the tail, the lights are equally ‘3 clawlike’ and twin chrome exhaust tips peek out from the black lower valance.
At only a shade over 4m long and 1.75m tall, the 208 GT fits nicely into the ‘super mini’ category and acts accordingly. It’s nippy around town and with a turning circle of 10.4m, easy to navigate narrow city streets too – it has been made for Paris after all. Added to this is a tiny yet sporty steering wheel that is bathed in full-grain perforated leather with lime green stitching and another GT logo, it takes very little to spin from lock to lock and makes you feel like a racecar driver, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The rest of the interior is a mix of racy and refined finishes. Carbon effect door panels, piano blacks and chrome, meet contrast stitched leather(ette) and alcantara, there’s a lot going on for such a small cabin, but somehow not overdone. The 208 comes loaded in the tech department with a 10-inch infotainment screen (with Apple and Android connectivity), and the coolest 10-inch 3D (yes 3D) instrument cluster that has been proven to up your braking response time in the event of a potential crash. A point of note is the indicators flash on the cluster cowl – well I found it interesting anyway.
Again, for such a compact car, the 208 comes with an abundance of driver and safety aids, EBA, EBD, AEB with pedestrian detection, ESP, ISOFIX, six airbags, lane keep assist and driver attention alert to name but a few, however, the cruise control isn’t adaptive (yet) and although the audio system is loud, a pair of its six speakers are in the A-pillar which does compromise some visibility.
The pièce de résistance about the new 208 is the way it drives. Under the bonnet is a 1.2L Puretech 130. It’s a 3 pot engine that delivers up 96kW of power and 230Nm of torque. Now I realise that none of this sounds impressive, but when married to a 6-speed auto and placed inside a vehicle that weighs about the same as my lunch, you get a hatch that really likes to shift – provided you stay in sport mode.
0-100km/h is reported to be 8.8 seconds but since you’re sitting quite low to the ground the 208 whizzes faster than a frog being chased by a michelin-starred chef. And I have to tell you that a 3 pot engine under heavy revs sounds very grown up. What’s more, change driving modes and ease off the accelerator and you’ll get a combined fuel consumption of 6.3L/100km with emissions that sit at 143g/km – however I remained firmly in Sport.
Around the corners, the 208 holds a tight line, with a rigid chassis and 205/45 rubber that ensures plenty of grip, well enough to put a smile on most people’s faces. The steering is taut and its response made seemingly quicker thanks to the steering wheel that’s the size of my hand.
The new Peugeot 208 GT may be ‘petit’ in stature but it’s certainly big in heart, for a couple or small family set up, it’s roomy enough and even boasts 311L of shopping space. Sure it’s not GTI in power but happily evokes its spirit. I’m looking forward to testing out the ‘e’ version.