2012 Peugeot 208 review - updated

* New Peugeot 208 driven in UK * On sale now * Price 9995-18,845...

2012 Peugeot 208 review - updated

The Peugeot 208 is a replacement for the dated 207, and a car that's been designed to take on and beat the best superminis.

It has plenty of showroom appeal, thanks to the 208's stylish looks and classy cabin. What's more, buyers can choose from a wide range of fuel-efficient engines.

The petrols are expected to be most popular, and include a range of choices from a 67bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder to a 154bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder. Meanwhile, the diesel options are a 67bhp 1.4 and 91bhp and 110bhp 1.6s.

What's the 2012 Peugeot 208 like to drive?
The steering is light and easy around town and sharp at higher speeds. However, while the 208's front wheels are quick to turn in, the rest of the car isn't so keen to tag along. Sloppy body control means the front-end flops over on the way into corners, then the rear follows suit.

This might be forgivable if the 208 was blessed with a limo-like ride, but it's actually quite uncomfortable. The suspension struggles to cope with patchy road surfaces, and the rear of the car can become bouncy in corners.

The 81bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is the pick of those we've tested. It's a fairly flexible performer that's capable of pulling its higher gears from low revs without labouring. It's only when you ask for a strong burst of acceleration that it feels short of puff.

The engine is quite smooth on the motorway, too, but it thrums noisily when you put your foot down hard. It's a pity, because little wind- or road noise enters the cabin.

The top-of-the-range 112bhp 1.6-litre diesel model isn't as quick as you might expect. The engine emits a gruff note, too. The 67bhp 1.4 HDi diesel is smoother, and is the most efficient engine in the range, returning 83.1mpg and emitting 87g/km of CO2 when equipped with the automated manual EGC gearbox.

That gearbox does blunt what little performance there is, however, so we would still choose the five-speed manual version, which returns 74.3mpg. Equipped with this the 1.4 gets around well enough, even if the gearchange, as in all the 208s, has a rather unsatisfying long-throw action.

What's the 2012 Peugeot 208 like inside?
A comfortable driving position is essential in any car, but the Peugeot 208's won't suit everyone. Peugeot has fitted an unusually small steering wheel that you look over (instead of through) to see the instruments. However, if you're less than six feet tall, you might find the top of the wheel blocks your view of the speedo.

The touch-screen infotainment system that's standard in mid-spec 'Active' cars and above, also disappoints. There are no shortcut buttons to take you straight to individual menus, and you drag your finger across the screen to perform certain tasks something that's hard to do safely or with any accuracy when you're on the move.

If there's an area where the 208 really moves the game on, it's perceived quality. Peugeot has used materials that are easy on both the eye and the fingertips throughout the cabin. What's more, the touch-screen features sophisticated graphics, and the chrome-ringed instruments wouldn't look out of place in an Audi.

Space in the front is pretty good, too, but rear headroom is tight, and while the boot is a good size and shape, you have to buy the mid-spec car before Peugeot throws in a 60/40 split rear seat.

Should I buy one?
With its catwalk looks and classy cabin, the 208 is hugely desirable, which is why it's such a shame it falls down in other key areas.

The cabin is let down by basic ergonomic issues that really should have been addressed during its development, while the ride comfort and handling fall well short of the class leaders.

Yes, the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo have set a sky-high benchmark, but that's what other manufacturers need to aspire to if they are to challenge for class honours. Peugeot hasn't really got close with the 208.

Ford Fiesta
Volkswagen Polo

What Car? says

Steve Huntingford