First Drive

2015 Peugeot 208 review

The Peugeot 208 has always been a solid, competent performer rather than a class leader. Has this facelift moved it closer to the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo?

Words ByJohn Howell

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Welcome to the new Peugeot 208 range. Well, it’s a facelift rather than a completely new model, but nonetheless it gets an updated exterior, more efficient engines, new trims and upgraded technology among a raft of changes.

The styling upgrades include a new front bumper incorporating a wider grille, plus revised LED tail-lights. All but the base Access trim models receive new two-tone headlights with LED running lights, as well as different alloy wheel designs.

There’s also a new top trim level called GT Line, and a sportier GTi version with a rather cumbersome name: the GTi by Peugeot Sport.

Peugeot has created two personalisation options for the 208: Lime Yellow and Menthol White. These brighten up the interior and exterior with yellow or white accents, and incorporate a 3D-effect grille plus sports seats.

Three new exterior paint options have also been added, including two β€˜textured’ matt finishes.

What’s the 2015 Peugeot 208 like to drive?

Several new engines join the range, including a 108bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit with engine stop-start. The previous less powerful 81bhp 1.2-litre and 1.0-litre petrols are still offered.

The new motor’s power and efficiency figures all but match those of the equivalent Fiesta and Polo engines. On the road it has plenty of mid-range shove, but the engine’s note isn’t as refined as the Polo 1.2 TSI’s.

There’s a new 1.6-litre diesel engine that comes in three states of tune: 74bhp, 99bhp and 118bhp. These are also available with engine stop-start.

We didn’t try the 118bhp version, but the 99bhp unit delivers its power over a wide rev range and will pull cleanly in most gears. However, it becomes boomy under hard acceleration and transmits a fair degree of vibration through the controls.

The 74bhp version is noticeably quieter and more refined, but it’s more at home in the city than it is on motorways as it runs out of puff at higher speeds.

It’s extremely efficient, though, officially averaging up to 94.2mpg fuel consumption while emitting only 79g/km CO2; that makes this engine best in class. All the diesels produce emit than 100g/km of CO2, so road tax is free.

Depending on the engine, you get either a five or six-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed feels particularly vague and both have an excessively long throw.

A new six-speed automatic β€˜box is available on the 110 petrol, which is generally good apart from the occasional jerky downshift.

Dynamically the 208 feels similar to before. The ride is up with the class best - as long as you avoid the larger 17in wheels - but there’s too much body roll in the corners and the steering feels rather inert. As a result, both the Polo and Fiesta remain more enjoyable to drive.

What’s the 2015 Peugeot 208 like inside?

It’s not a radical departure from the previous model. Peugeot has stuck with its contentious i-Cockpit design, which means the steering wheel can obscure the dials depending on your driving position.

The driving position itself is very good. There’s a broad range of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel to cater for the majority of builds, while the well-shaped seats give plenty of support.

Visibility out is generally fine, although the wide windscreen pillars can obscure your view in tight bends.

One of the previous car’s strengths was its spacious cabin, and it’s still bigger inside than the Ford Fiesta and not far behind the roomy Skoda Fabia. It seats four adults in relative comfort, as long as the headroom-eating panoramic roof isn’t fitted.

The 285-litre boot is on par with those of the Fiesta and VW Polo, and the rear seats fold but do leave a stepped load bay. There’s no adjustable boot floor, though, like you’d find in, say, a Hyundai i20.

The 7.0in touchscreen (standard on all but the entry model) is the same, but does include a software upgrade and new apps, plus a Mirror Screen function. This allows you to display your smartphone screen, with all its apps, on the infotainment system.

Other new features available include a city brake assist function to help prevent front-end collisions, a rear-parking camera and semi-automated parking assist.

Should I buy one?

The changes Peugeot has bestowed on its 208 aren’t dramatic, and as a result the model continues to be a decent, if slightly underwhelming car next to the class best.

The new diesel engines certainly make it cheap to run and there’s no doubt that the ride and space inside make it a viable proposition if these features matter to you. However, we still think it falls down in too many other areas to recommend over a Fiesta or Polo.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

Ford Fiesta

Volkswagen Polo

Peugeot 208 1.2 Puretech 110 S&S 3dr

Engine size 1.2-litre petrol

Price from Β£15,495

Power 108bhp

Torque 151lb ft

0-62mph 9.6 seconds

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 62.8mpg

CO2 103g/km

Peugeot 208 1.6 BlueHDi 75 S&S 3dr

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from Β£13,845

Power 74bhp

Torque 170lb ft

0-62mph 13.3 seconds

Top speed 106mph

Fuel economy 94.2mpg

CO2 79g/km