Smaller on the outside, bigger inside - the new Peugeot 208 is impressive.
The front-wheel drive 208 may be a little shorter than the 207 it replaces, but inside the engineers have found additional legroom and a bit of boot space that help the new car feel more upmarket. 208 effortlessly builds on the reputations of its predecessors (207, 206 and 205) as a globally popular and fashionable small car. It is comfortable on the open road and has a big car feel.
Available as a five or three-door, 208 is more rounded and interesting on the outside. There is a new front end that features the latest corporate face of Peugeot and depending on the version and specification of the car, drivers can have a grille that varies in look from functional to sophisticated. 208 is softened and more curvy than the 207 in a direct attempt to woo back some female buyers, who Peugeot says found the outgoing car's styling a bit aggressive.
Inside, the cabin quality is impressive and the seating comfort level verges on class-leading – Peugeot makes some very comfy machines. The main dials are repositioned brilliantly and are now prominently displayed high on the dashboard above the steering wheel. You now look over, not through, the new, smaller and very sporty steering wheel to see the speedometer, and this helps keep your eyes on the road ahead. Thankfully, a digital speed display is selectable (between the dials) because, as ever with French cars, the speedometer doesn't display the actual numbers relevant to our speed limits, bar 30 and 50kph.
Under the bonnet the big-selling engine in Ireland will be a new 1.2-litre, 82bhp, 3-cylinder petrol unit (65% of sales). It feels lively and nippy while also capable of delivering low CO2 (104g/km). Going from 0-100km/h takes 12.2 seconds, but the nature of the 3-cylinder engine means it feels a lot quicker than that. We tried a couple of more powerful engines, namely a 1.6 petrol and 1.6 HDi (diesel) and both felt indulgent and unnecessary. The 1.2 is more fun and eager to please than the larger engines and more in keeping with 208's inherent youthfulness. The 1.2 is frugal, too, delivering a combined average fuel consumption per 100 kilometres of 4.5 litres of fuel (62 mpg). The diesel HDi of choice will be a 1.4 litre that is so green only butterflies come out of the exhaust!
One new toy you'll either love or hate is a touch screen display for the stereo, nav, Bluetooth etc. It is quirky and tricky to get your head around at first – if you have trouble using a smartphone it is best avoided. At one stage I found myself opting to use the Tom Tom Sat Nav app on my iPhone for directions as it was easier - and I'm a tech geek!
Ireland prices and specifications are yet to be finalised for the June launch, but we can expect three grades, Access, Active and Allure, with the entry car having a circa €14,500 starting price.
208 is an innovative, fun-yet-mature supermini that could easily be mistaken inside for a larger category of car.