If wow factor is what you want then feast your eyes on this French beauty.
As superminis go there is nothing to match the reigning European Car of the Year. Not that we should be surprised, the French have been churning out head turners for decades – Citroen DX, Renault 16, Peugeot 405 – I could fill a page, and the fifth generation 208 is the best in its 37 year history.
Just to clear up any confusion for those who think this model should be called 209, Peugeot decided a couple of years ago to stop at eight for every model in its line up.
The body styling is not even the best feature, it’s the cabin where the real wow comes in. The futuristic switch free i-Cockpit broke cover on the 308 seven years ago and has been tweaked and honed so much so that no one comes close to matching its chic design, while the quality of materials has pushed the 208 towards the premium division.
That is where this love-in with 208 has to take a breather. The i-Cockpit is certainly fabulous to look at but has its critics and I am one. The driver’s binnacle sits on top of the dashboard so it is a case of looking over rather than through the small steering wheel which has a flat top to make it easier to see the display.
It means you have two choices: sit low or high and getting it right, or rather close to right, takes too long and is even more irritating when a partner has a different preference. If ever there was a case for powered driver’s seat with memory function this is it.
The original i-Cockpit design came in for a lot of stick because every function was controlled through the touchscreen which took the driver’s eye away from the road for too long. That was partly resolved with stylish quick keys and the set up in the 208 has been further refined with touch pads as well although they need to be angled rather than flat for ease of selection.
Once the driving position is sorted and the controls mastered the 208 is driving pleasure. There is a tremendous feel good factor right through the cabin both with the sparkling design features and premium quality materials while the driver’s interchangeable 3D head up display has to be seen to be believed
It is good to drive as well and I like the small steering wheel. It harks back to the sixties and seventies when a steering wheel did nothing more than steer, so us young bucks in our bangers swapped the ungainly big one for the tiny rally styles of the day in the misguided hope you would drive faster. How silly we were.
Even though the Peugeot supermini’s reputation was built on the handling prowess of the sublime 205GTI the latest version airs more on the side of comfort but can still be thrown around with confidence and in many ways is the ideal compromise.
There is a GT badge on the back of my test car though this was a long way from its speed machine ancestor. Times have changed, now it is all about smaller engines giving a lot from a little with as few nasty carbon emissions as possible and Peugeot has been leading the charge.
This three-cylinder 1.2 petrol is no flyer compared to some hybrid rivals, and while it won’t give GT performance of old it meets the demands of modern day driving. That said the week’s average of 47mpg with a best of 52mpg was down on what I was expecting.
Cabin space is no better than average so if your family has lanky youngsters get them in the back for a trial before signing on the dotted line. All the seats are well shaped and comfortable.
On price the 208 is at the top end of its class but is well equipped right from entry level with many safety features, and the engine line up is strong. My choice would be this 101bhp petrol even though the diesel will give better economy.
So a desirable car although I would be inclined to move up to the 2008 crossover for the extra space.
Need to know
208 GT Line 8sp auto
£22,100 (range starts £17,155)
1.2 litre; 101bhp
0-62mph 10.8secs; 117mph
99g/km. 1st tax £130
Insurance group 20
Boot: 311 litres