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Peugeot 208 Review: French fancy is so pretty you’ll forgive any shortcomings


We’ll kick off this week with a spoiler.

This new Peugeot 208 isn’t as good to drive as a Ford Fiesta. A problem? Not really.

Because, as you can see from the photos, the 208 is fantastic looking, at least I think so.

French carmaker Peugeot’s designers deserve an Oscar – or whatever the car industry’s ­equivalent gong is for design.

The 208 is an all-new supermini that shares its platform with the soon-to-be launched Vauxhall Corsa.

And, like the Corsa, the 208 offers a choice of petrol engines, a diesel or pure electric.

The car was planned from the outset to also be electric which means there’s no compromise – the battery pack in the ­electric e-208 is under the rear seats so the boot is exactly the same size as the one in models with combustion engines.

The Peugeot 208 was actually built to be electric – but this one has an engine

We drove all three engine types at the car’s launch in Portugal – but we’ll wait until the 208 is in the UK before giving you the full lowdown on the electric model because we want to see how it performs on our roads – and particularly in our climate.

But I’ll say this, having driven the diesel 208 and then got into the e-208, the absence of engine noise is a joy.

Also, the gear change on the diesel car was pretty poor – and in the electric version there is, of course, no gearbox at all.

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We’ll focus on the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol-engined model with eight-speed automatic transmission.

Our test car is in top of the range GT-Line spec which comes out at £23,350.

The 208 range starts at £16,250 for the Active spec version fitted with a 75bhp engine and five-speed manual gearbox.

Our test car looks fantastic. At the front there’s a chrome grille and the 208 badge is on the panel just ahead of the bonnet in the same style as on the 508.

There’s no denying the car looks fantastic

The design of the C pillar (the rearmost on the car) pays tribute to the iconic Peugeot 205 and the car’s backside makes it look wider and squatter than it is.

The 208 is just as impressive inside with quality a cut above the current model. There are hard plastics but they’re out of the way.

Our car features contrasting coloured stitching that lifts the whole atmosphere inside.

The party piece is a 3-D version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit digital instrument panel.

This is the sort of thing I tend to dismiss as a gimmick, but it works really well and is easier to read than the standard i-Cockpit display.

The cheapest Active trim makes do with a conventional instrument panel, but Allure models up get the 3D-effect unit.

It’s just as impressive inside with quality a cut above the old model

A 7in infotainment screen is standard on the 208, but you can upgrade to a 10in unit for £660 (it’s standard on the e-208).

Like the current 208, the screen isn’t easy to use. You can now call up the home screen by prodding the display with three fingers.

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I prefer the piano keys that can be used to select features more safely.

The boot holds 311 litres, about average for the class.

It’s tight in the back for large adults, but then the 208 is a supermini.

It’s just a shame it’s not as much fun to drive as a Fiesta

Your kids won’t mind as they’ll be more than impressed by the two USB sockets in the back.

The 130bhp petrol engine is excellent and works well with the automatic gearbox.

There’s plenty of performance and it’s quiet, unlike the 1.5-litre diesel.

The car handles and steers OK, but it’s just not as responsive or as fun to drive as the Fiesta.

The 208 stacks up well against another new French rival – the Renault Clio (just about to enter UK showrooms).

It is a lot dearer, but should be available at ­competitive leasing costs.

All in all, this beauty is the most desirable car in its class even if it isn’t quite the best.

Our UK electric version test is going to be very interesting.

THE FACTS

Peugeot 208 TCe 130 GT Line five-door hatchback

Price: £23,350

Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder, 130bhp

0-62mph: 8.7sec

Fuel consumption: 52.2mpg

Co2: 103g/km

THE RIVALS

Renault Clio

The Renault Clio costs just £20,295

Also new this year. The 208’s equal except for styling.

Volkswagen Polo R-Line

The Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI meanwhile costs £21,260

Solid but less interesting than its rivals.

Ford Fiesta ST Line

The Ford Fiesta ST-Line will set you back just £18,890

The best to drive, good value but not as inspiring to look at inside or out.

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