Peugeot 208 2015 620x277

First Drive: Peugeot 208

Look back at 2012 and you might remember that the Peugeot 208 was something of a talking point in the world of small cars. Its predecessor, the 207, had presented Peugeot to the world as a company that had rather lost its way; the car was too heavy and too expensive, while the GTi was uninspiring to look at and uninvolving to drive.

The 208 represented a change. It was lighter, cheaper, better looking and more economical, which was good news for Peugeot and good news for consumers.

Three years later and the 208 is beginning to feel a little middle-aged. A mid-life facelift promises to refresh the range, and so I found myself with the keys to a new 208 in my hand and an inflatable car in front of me. Apparently I was to drive at a steady 20kph at the puffed up Peugeot and let the 208 I was driving do the emergency braking.

Despite every fibre of my being compelling me to jump on the brake, I did as I was told and trusted in the car, and sure enough it brought me to a firm but safe stop. Well done, little 208.

The active braking is just one of a number of changes and upgrades for the refreshed 208 which goes on sale this month.

The alterations are subtle. Small details like the new lights and re-profiled creases on the bodywork tidy everything up. You can also opt for some interesting little front grille highlights in all sorts of weird colours and, if you really want to, you can order a textured paint.

Inside it’s a similar story of small but positive changes. We’re used to the ‘i-Cockpit’ set up by now, but for those who aren’t familiar with it you’ll need some time to get used to a dinky little steering wheel positioned so low with instruments popping out above the rim. The result is it can feel that you’re sitting on the car rather than in it.

Peugeot’s navigation system has been notoriously bad in recent years – leading me to end up 15 miles away from my requested destination in one of the early cars – but thankfully everything worked perfectly on this two-day test.

Other than that, it’s business as usual which means there’s a well equipped cabin and good quality trim, all wrapped up in something surprisingly stylish. Inside there is space for four adults or two adults and three children, while the rear seats come with the usual Isofix mounting points. The boot provides 285 litres of storage, marginally less than the Ford Fiesta but a long way short of what’s available in the Skoda Fabia.

There are more significant changes to be found under the bonnet. All the 208’s engine variants meet the new Euro 6 emission standards, while all the diesel options somehow produce less than 95g/km of CO2. That makes everything cleaner, but also cheaper thanks to a car tax bill of zero.

Buyers have three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from. The entry-level petrol is a 1.0 litre, 68PS three cylinder that can achieve 64.2mpg, while upward from there you can choose from a 1.2 with 82PS or 110PS which manage 67.3 and 62.8mpg respectively. On the diesel front, you could opt for the entry-level 1.6 with 75PS, or pay a little more for a 1.6 with 100 or 120PS.

It was the mid-range diesel option I tested, with promised economy of 83.1mpg making this the most efficient model in the range. The frugality isn’t at the expense of fun as, despite there being a little weight over the nose which impacts its handling slightly, it remains a zesty and playful car.

Cruising the motorway, it was comfortable and quiet, but the claimed economy figure was just a distant dream. That wasn’t helped by a lack of torque, leaving little in the way of that low-down surge you so often associate with diesel engines. Making swift progress meant working the car harder, and that means economy suffers.

Switching briefly to a petrol model, the 110bhp option fitted with an automatic gearbox makes for a happy city car, seamlessy zipping around town in a relaxed fashion. However, the character of the car changes, the engaging fun disappearing as the electronics take over.

The changes to the 208 have, for the most part, been successful. The cosmetic changes are near impossible to identify but somehow combine to refresh the car nicely. New safety features and attractive economy figures are welcome and will sway some potential buyers.

What hasn’t changed about the 208 is its bubbly character. It’s a small, efficient car with a playful nature, and more efficient engines only serve to make it an even more attractive proposition.

Model tested: Peugeot 208 Allure 1.6 BlueHDi 100 3dr
Price: £16,445
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 116 mph
0-62 mph: 10.7 seconds
Power: 100 PS (99 bhp)
Torque: 254 Nm (187 ft-lb)
Combined fuel economy: 83.1 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 87 g/km
VED Band: A / £0 per year
Car insurance group: 20D
Kerb weight: 1,080 kg
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Motoring blogger. Handy(ish) with a camera. Mazda MX5 owner.

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