Like many other motoring enthusiasts, I have very happy memories of the iconic Peugeot
205GTI – the hot hatch of choice in the mid 1980s.
Indeed, I liked my first 205GTI so much that, after 18 months, I traded up to the 1.9-litre model. Such was the 205GTI’s popularity that second-hand prices held up extraordinarily well and, when I traded it in for its bigger-engined sibling, I got back only £250 less than I had paid for the car new!
The launch of the new Peugeot 208 has been accompanied by some carefully orchestrated reminders of that iconic 205GTI, although we shall have to wait a while for its true successor to appear – the forthcoming 208GTI.
Encouraged by the suggestions that this was going to be the Peugeot small hatchback to bring back the glory days, it was with perhaps too much anticipation that I grasped the keys of the Peugeot 208 Active 1.2 VTi 82 test car.
The “showroom” impressions were positive. The ugly gaping mouth of recent Peugeots has been replaced by a more refined look and the interior is considerably more attractive. Silver highlights and piano black trim give a most welcome lift to the interior ambience with a more up-market look reminiscent of the Peugeot 3008
Some serious effort has also gone into the design of the multi-function touch screen in the centre of the dash. Clearly this has been designed to appeal to the iPhone generation.
I’ve had trouble finding a comfortable driving position in my most recent encounters with small Peugeots. Perhaps it was just luck, but fitting comfortably into the 208 seemed a whole lot easier. There are still some flaws, though.
Foot space around the pedals seems a little confined and the seats themselves are a bit shapeless – something that was to reveal itself later during more spirited driving on the twists and turns of our finest by-ways.
Peugeot say they have put considerable effort into better space utilisation and the 208GTI does seem to offer good space for four, or even five, adults and a modicum of luggage.
Weight reduction is one of the big drives in the motor industry today as manufacturers strive for greater efficiency and lower emissions. Peugeot claim that the 208 has lost about 110 kg compared to the 207. This has been achieved by using high-strength steel, some aluminium components and – on this model – a lighter three-cylinder engine.
My first driving impressions were clouded by a clutch pedal that only connected in the last fractions of its travel. This made it difficult to operate progressively and driving smoothly in stop-start traffic became unnecessarily difficult. It feels as though the clutch, the gearchange and the drivetrain all have their own agenda.
The new three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine is notably hushed, but it does feel low on power – particularly on hills. Once again, the trick is to maintain the momentum as much as possible. Driven in this manner, the 208 will tackle country roads with some gusto, although the lack of lateral support in the seats is a limiting factor.
Adding to the refinement, the ride quality is good for such a short wheelbase car and the precise steering and handling make it reasonably rewarding. I would prefer a little more weight and feedback from the wheel. It seems the car has been tuned for ease of manoeuvring and parking in town.
The 82 bhp produced by the 1.2-litre VTi engine gives this Peugeot 205 a 0-62 time of 14 seconds, with a maximum speed of 109 mph. The combined fuel consumption is 62.8 mpg. Although still very creditable, my 37 mpg overall reflects how hard I was pedalling the 208 VTi to make up for its lack of grunt.
Although some models of the 208 manage to squeeze under the 100 g/km carbon dioxide figure (and qualify for a free UK tax disc), this one returns 104 g/km to slot into Band B for UK tax.
The price for the Peugeot 208 5-door Active 1.2 VTi 82 is £12,795.
There is no doubt that the new Peugeot 208 is a substantially more attractive proposition than some of its immediate predecessors. But, is it good enough to tempt you away from some of the other fine small hatches on the market?