Okay, put me in the driving seat
Crank the grab handle to lower the seat, and you’ll need to drop the rake-and-reach-adjustable steering wheel into your lap. A Peugeot USP is a steering wheel the size of a cotton reel, which requires positioning low else you may obscure the instrument panel. And that would be a shame because on mid-spec Allure trim and above, customers get novel 3D dials.
This layers up instrument panel data like the tiers of a wedding cake, with critical info projected on slanted Perspex in the foreground, and secondary stuff listed on a screen set further back. Peugeot clearly deems a digital speedometer, an indistinct tachometer strip and your locale’s speed limit critical info, and… not much else, it appears. Flicking through other displays can bring driver assist systems such as cruise control or the navigation directions centre stage.
Enough throat-clearing: how does it drive?
Swing the steering wheel at low speeds and you’ll find it’s lighter than the products of a Great British Bake Off meringue week, conceived for easy manoeuvring. There’s more resistance at motorway speeds which makes the 208 feel reassuringly stable, but occasionally the computer-controlled assistance can feel inconsistently weighted and a bit loose off the dead-ahead.
Turning is accompanied by plentiful body roll – this mid-range three-cylinder supermini is rather softly sprung. It’s not ungainly and feels more pronounced from the passenger seat, but it’s ever-present, and the firm, progressive brakes can cause a bit of nose-pitching too.
The engine line-up
The engine is Peugeot’s familiar 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol, available in three states of tune from 74 to 99hp and 128bhp. We’ve driven all three and the middle is the best all-rounder, available with both manual and automatic gearboxes (the lower powered version is three pedal only, while the stoutest 208 is only sold with an auto) so will suit the majority of drivers.
Drop the feather light clutch and the 208 gets off the line eagerly with the free-revving engine thrumming away in the background, although it runs out of puff in the mid-range. The benchmark sprint from standstill to 62mph takes 9.9sec.
Power is transmitted to the front wheels by an eight-speed automatic, or the six-speed manual tested here. The throw action isn’t too long but can be a little indistinct (you might mistake third for first), and it’s not helped by an unhelpfully supersized gearknob that’s like handling an upside-down golf driver (a club, not a person).
And hasn’t Peugeot thrown the tech kitchen sink at the 208?
Indeed, and probably an Internet of Things-connected sink at that. Most notable is a pure electric version with a range of up to 211 miles, which should cost from around (excluding government subsidy). But ‘thermic’ 208s, as Peugeot calls combustion-engined variants, are dripping with gadgetry too.
All 208s get those beautiful fangs of LED running lights, The second-highest trim, GT Line (the yellow car pictured here), gets high-beam headlamp assist, a 7-inch touchscreen and wireless smartphone charging plate, plus front/rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.