Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The cheapest petrol engine is the 74bhp Puretech 75, but if you can stretch your budget to the 99bhp Puretech 100 you'll have secured the pick of the range.
The Puretech 100 is a really zingy motor that picks up nicely from low revs and feels gutsy in the mid-range. It's absolutely ideal for propelling you along on A-roads and motorways without any fuss, and is livelier than a Clio or Polo with equivalent power. The 127bhp Puretech 130 (available only with an automatic gearbox) adds even more pace, but for most it will just be an unnecessary expense, considering that the 100 is so good.
If you cover a huge mileage every year, it could be worth considering a diesel engine for fuel economy reasons. The 1.5 BlueHDi 100 also has 99bhp and its added diesel shove gives it plenty of punch from low revs, so it feels sprightlier when pulling away from a standstill. Its extra pulling power means you won’t have to change up and down gears too often, making for a relaxed driving experience.
To read about the all-electric e208, click the link to our separate review.
Suspension and ride comfort
The 208 scores well in terms of ride comfort, providing a gentler and more composed ride than even the Volkswagen Polo or Audi A1.
It is much softer than cars like the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta, so you get more float over undulating B-roads, but not in the wayward manner of a Citroen C3. And there's also no better small car at smothering potholes or ridges in town than the 208.
While the 208 is a cushy, comfortable boulevard cruiser, it's not the sportiest of the small car breed. Compared with a Fiesta or Seat Ibiza there's more body lean through tight twists and turns, so it's not as keen to switch from left to right through an S-bend.
The 208 also comes with a tiny steering wheel (see more about that in the Interior section) that looks go-cart like, but the weight of the steering itself feels inconsistent and artificial. It does get heavier and more satisfying as you build speed, but provides little feedback to help you gauge how much steering angle to apply when negotiating bends. Once you're used to it, it's fine, but many of its rivals, including those mentioned above and the Renault Clio, are more engaging to drive.
Noise and vibration
This is another area of great strength for the 208, relative to its class. Road noise at speed and suspension noise around town are suppressed excellently. The 1.2 Puretech engines have a throaty boom under load that fades gracefully away at motorway speeds, and the diesel engine sounds a lot gruffer, regardless of speed, but still isn’t what you’d call unpleasant. There's a bit of wind noise around the windscreen pillars at 70mph, but that's not intrusive, either.
The six-speed manual gearbox doesn’t quite have the pleasing mechanical precision of the equivalent ’boxes in the Fiesta and Ibiza, but it's very slick and slots nicely into each gear. The automatic, meanwhile, suffers a little bit of a delay when you put your foot down, and doesn’t iron out its gear changes as smoothly as it could.