Car review: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi

Published on MSN  Cars: By Ginny Weeks, contributor, MSN Cars

Model: Peugeot 208 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp Allure
Bodystyle: five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp
Transmission: five-speed manual
Date of test: June 2012

What is it?

Peugeot continues its ‘brand regeneration’ mission with a completely new and very different 2 series model – the 208.

Crucially, it had to be different, because its predecessors – the 206 and 207 – just weren’t good enough. With the 2 series providing the backbone of the Peugeot range, it is essential for the brand that this new model does well.

We drove the 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp Allure, which sits at the upper end of the range and is priced at £15,845. Prices run from £9,995 to £18,495 for the limited edition Ice Velvet three-door (which includes special metallic paint).

Let’s start with its looks, which are noticeably less feminine than previous models. It now has a striking front, with muscular chiselled lines and lower swooping headlights, giving the car a new confident, planted character.

The boomerang rear lights and oversized bumper at the back of the car lend a distinctive, if slightly bulky, appeal. What gives it the edge over several other supermini’s though is the little design details like chrome framing and Peugeot lettering under the bonnet, which help to give it a considered, up-market look.

What is also impressive is the way that Peugeot has substantially reduced the weight of the car (by up to 173kg compared to the 207), shortened the body length by 7cm and yet increased the interior and boot space.

All models (except the entry level Access) also come equipped with a colour touchscreen infotainment system that syncs radio, Bluetooth and music in a fuss-free, easy-to-use way.

Where does it fit?

The 208 will sit in the fiercely contested supermini market – with its main rivals being the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa.

Our 1.6 e-HDi 92bhp Allure model is the second fastest diesel model in the range. There are a huge amount of engines on offer – from a 1.0 litre petrol to a 1.6 115bhp diesel.

The quickest is the 1.6 155bhp petrol that will go from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. This will be overtaken at some point in the near future by a sporty GTI edition.

As is standard on most 208 diesels our car came with a stop/start system and produces less than 100g/km of CO2. The 208 is available in five trim levels, and an additional special edition – Ice Velvet. The Allure trim on our car came with sports seats, 16 inch alloy wheels, visibility pack and dual zone air conditioning.

Is it for you?

Many people think diesels are loud, unsophisticated things…well, this might have been the case 10 years or so ago but now it’s totally different. With this 1.6 engine, for example, it is refined and light just like a petrol engine. In fact, it hardly feels any different at all.

Having also tried the 1.6 120bhp petrol, we much preferred the more gutsy drive of the diesel. There is a substantial price difference between the two though. The entry-level diesel comes in at £2,650 more than the entry-level petrol. However, if you cover a lot of miles and rely on good economy figures, than the diesel could be the better long-term choice.

What does it do well?

The eager drive of this 92bhp model has a real charm to it. The drive is chirpier than suggested on paper (0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and 170lb/ft torque), and there’s a nice engine note at higher revs.

The ride is just right: solid on the motorway and absorbent of any unexpected lumps and bumps in town. Where many other supermini’s can feel harsh and a bit raged on the road, the 208 manages to achieve a very grown-up feel in a compact package.

The reduced weight has resulted in lighter and more engaging handling too, which is a lot more precise around bends. It’s perfectly happy to take whatever you throw at it.

The interior design really makes this car stand out; it is filled with clever, clutter-free controls and innovative features like the elevated instrument panel- where you look above the wheel rather than through it. The large windscreen and high driving position make for a pleasant, big-car driving experience.

What doesn’t it do well?

The smaller than average steering wheel creates a detached and quite unnatural driving position and the steering itself is accurate enough but lacking in any real feedback. This would lead many to choose better-handling rivals,such as the Ford Fiesta, for long-term driving enjoyment.

The interior quality still doesn’t quite match the elegance of its top rivals, with several bulbous plastic moulds distorting the clean lines of the dash, alongside some hard scratchy plastics. The gearstick is over-large and clunky to use and gives a feeling of clumsiness to an otherwise smooth and engaging gearbox. It’s a shame because it’s almost perfect.

We found that the standard sports seats fitted to our car were too narrow and not as comfortable as they should be on long journeys. Legroom in the back is much improved but also hampered by the headroom, which is still cramped for anyone approaching the 6ft mark.

What’s it like to live with?

The 208 is a good-looking, desirable car. It’s solidly built, and mostly well thought out.

The intuitiveness of the infotainment system on board will stop it from ageing prematurely, unlike many systems on the market.

Comfort is good and with standard rather than sports seats, this shouldn’t ever be an issue. For a young family, the lack of headroom in the back wouldn’t be a problem and the boot space is generous for a car of this size.

There are a whole host of optional extras- our car had several – but the one we would definitely go for is the integrated satellite-navigation (£400) as it’s very easy and effective to use. The panoramic glass roof (£400) is also a great addition.

How green is it?

This model, alongside all of the 208 diesels, is tax and London congestion charge exempt. It produces only 99g/km of CO2 and will return 74mpg. It might just be the most fuel-efficient diesel in its class.

Would we buy it?

This car will be immensely popular among young drivers and families alike. It combines good looks, solid economy figures and a fun drive all in one, good-quality package.

Yes the handling could be better, and some rivals will perform better in this area, but if you’re looking for value for money and market-leading economy, this must be one of the best supermini’s out there.