What's the used Peugeot 208 hatchback like?
Producing a small car has been a struggle for Peugeot in recent decades. Every one of its efforts has inevitably been compared with the 205, a high water mark the company hit in the early 1980s and which it seemed doomed to be unable to match.
But with the launch of the 208 in 2012 Peugeot seemed to recover a bit of its lost mojo. For starters, there’s the styling. The 208’s cute detailing, tidy curves and beaming face give it instant kerb appeal, arguably more so than rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. The effect continues inside, thanks to a clean-looking dashboard smattered with upmarket materials.
But the 208 is more than just a pretty face. Punchy engines make it responsive to drive, and those same engines deliver decent fuel economy, too. From its launch, five petrol engines, ranging from 1.0-litre to 1.6, and five diesel engines, from 1.4 to 1.6-litres, were available. Power outputs varied from 68bhp right up to 205bhp in the sporting variant.
Trim levels are equally as far-ranging. There are four core trims plus three GTi versions and a further three special edition models. The entry-level Access trim equips the 208 with heated door mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth and remote central locking as standard, while upgrading to Active adds 15in alloy wheels, LED day-running-lights and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio and smartphone integration included. The mid-range Allure models get a bit more chrome, 16in alloys, rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers thrown in, while the range-topping GT Line gains 17in alloys, dual-zone climate control, folding door mirrors and red stitching inside.
Want a bit more power from your 208, then Peugeot has three variants of the GTi, all using the same 205bhp, turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine. The standard 208 GTi is adorned with 17in alloys, a rear spoiler, chrome twin exhaust system and leather-clad sports seats, while opting for the GTi Prestige adds sat-nav, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. The final variant sees the Peugeot Sport division tweaking the 208, with it rolling on 18in wheels, with a wider front track, lower suspension, a Torsen differential, specific springs, dampers and wheel alignment set-up compared to the standard GTi, while inside there are Alcantara-covered sports seats.
However, if you are pining for something a little bit more exclusive, Peugeot has three limited edition trims to choose from. The Active Design model is based on the standard Active-trimmed 208 and adds front foglights, 16in alloy wheels and numerous exterior detail tweaks, while the Allure Premium is only available on five-door models and adds sat-nav, a reversing camera and a panoramic sunroof to the package.
The most exclusive model is one that has a long-standing association with Peugeot - Roland Garros. This trim is only available on five-door models and comes with 16in alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, rear parking sensors, all round electric windows, cruise control and numerous orange details on the outside. Inside the orange theme continues but is joined by a panoramic sunroof and Peugeot's fully-loaded 7.0in touchscreen infotainment set-up.
On the road, however, the 208 isn’t perfect. It isn’t the most pleasant car in the world to drive; the engines are all rather noisy and feed a lot of vibration back into the car. And while the steering is light, it’s extremely remote, which means it often comes as a vague surprise to find that turning the small wheel has an effect on the front end of the car. Performance fans might be interested in the GTi model, which is fast and comfortable but not as involving as some of its rivals. That said, the awkwardly named GTi by Peugeot Sport model is rather more entertaining and definitely worth a look.
That wheel is small because of Peugeot’s quirky interior design, which places the gauges above the wheel so that you look over its top, rather than through it, to see your speed. The problem is, this means shorter drivers will find the lower half of the gauges obliterated, while the dials themselves are tiddly and not that easy to read.
With that exception, front-seat occupants will be pretty happy with their lot. The dashboard looks and feels smart and the bits you touch feel like they’re built from high-quality plastics. There are some more suspect materials further down the dashboard, but on the whole, it’s a classy effort, and the front seats themselves are comfortable, offering plenty of space and lots of support.
Farther back, the picture isn’t so rosy. Both rear seat and boot space are merely average for the class, with several other used cars giving you more room to play with.
The 208 received a mild facelift in 2015 that brought tweaks to the styling to bring it up to date, a few changes to the specification and several notable updates to the engine range to reduce emissions. It was replaced by an all-new model, longer and lower and built on lighter underpinnings, in 2019.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Peugeot 208 hatchback?
The 208 is a small car that’s likely to have been used mostly around town, so check all four wheels for signs of kerbing. Light grazing shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if the wheel’s been smacked hard into a kerb, it could cause problems with suspension components that you can't see.
Also check around the extremities of the car for dings, scratches and scuffed paintwork. The 208’s size means it isn’t too hard to park, but there are some awkward blindspots around the car that harm visibility.
208s tend to suffer with quite a few electrical glitches, so make sure everything electrical in the car works and double-check that there are no nasty warning lights on the dashboard.
What are the most common problems with a used Peugeot 208 hatchback?
Peugeot’s infotainment touchscreen software isn’t just problematic in terms of its usability – it’s also starting to develop a reputation for freezing or failing completely, with the result that you can’t use any of its functions – radio, media interface, sat-nav, settings or anything else. If you’re lucky, a software reset will solve the problem, but some owners have had to replace the entire unit, which is not a cheap operation.
At the time of writing, there are a total of 10 recalls out on the 208, the largest of which involves 5502 cars and requires replacement of the front suspension wishbone mounting bolts, a batch of which have been found to break and result in loss of steering control and vibration from the front of the car. It’s worth checking to see which recalls might affect the car you’re hoping to buy and finding out whether the appropriate work has been carried out. If not, you’ll want to book it into a Peugeot dealer as soon as possible to get the work done (usually for free).
Is a used Peugeot 208 hatchback reliable?
The 208 is not reliable, according to the latest What Car? Reliability Survey. It finished in second to last place in the small car class, scoring just 87%. Electrical gremlins afflicted more than 15% of 208s, centred around the infotainment system and the switches. Peugeot as a brand finished in 18th place out of 31 manufacturers.
What used Peugeot 208 hatchback will I get for my budget?
As little as £2000 to £3000 is enough to get you into a Peugeot 208 these days, but do be careful, because at this price you’ll be shopping among high-mileage examples and cars that have previously been written off.
We’d therefore recommend you up your budget to between £3000 and £4000, which is enough to get you a petrol-engined example from 2014 or 2015 with an average mileage for the year and a full service history. Expect to pay between £5000 and £7000 for a good condition 208 from 2016 or 2017, and around £8000 for a good 2018 car. A GTi, meanwhile, will set you back at least £5000. Remember, though, as with all cars of this age, condition is king.
How much does it cost to run a Peugeot 208 hatchback?
A 208 won't cost too much to run. On paper, the line-up of engines at the time of the car’s launch was extremely efficient, ranging from the 48.7mpg 1.6-litre petrol, through the 65.6mpg 1.0-litre and 62.7mpg 1.2-litre petrols to the 1.4-litre e-HDi diesel, which manages an impressive 83mpg, with the 47.9mpg GTi coming later.
The facelifted models that came along in 2015 had some tweaks to the engine range to improve their efficiency. The 1.0-litre petrol and 1.4-litre diesel were canned in favour of less powerful versions of the 1.2-litre and 1.6-litre respectively. This had little effect on the consumption of the petrol models, but the various diesels improved marginally.
However, in the real world, you’ll struggle to get close to these economy figures, and while that’s also the case with most rival cars, it does mean that the 208 isn’t as efficient as it at first appears. As an example, we reckon the 1.2-litre petrol averages around 40.9mpg in daily use.
One thing those unrealistic lab test figures do result in, though, is low tax. All diesel 208s registered before April 2017 qualify for free road tax, as do the 1.0-litre and lower-powered 1.2-litre petrols. Those that don’t will cost you no more than £30 a year to tax, with the exception of the thirsty 1.6-litre petrols and the GTi – all of which will set you back either £115 or £135 a year, depending on which model you choose.
Keep in mind, though, that any car registered after the new tax regulations were introduced in April 2017 will set you back £140 a year to tax (increased in 2019 to £145 a year), regardless of its engine.
The 208 isn’t too pricey to service, even at a main dealer, and once it hits three years old it’ll qualify for Peugeot’s fixed price servicing, which starts at £115 for the most basic service. And if your 208 does go wrong, parts aren’t too expensive, so it should be reasonably cheap to repair.
Which used Peugeot 208 hatchback should I buy?
Because the 208 is relatively light, you don’t need much power to keep it moving along nicely. And while the diesels are extremely efficient, they’re also more mechanically complex and harder to find. You should only buy a diesel if you do a lot of longer journeys, because if you fail to do so, their diesel particulate filter (DPF) can become blocked, and this isn't cheap to repair.
Our top choice is therefore the 1.2 82 petrol engine, or if you can’t stretch to a facelift car, the 1.0-litre petrol that preceded it. Neither of these engines is particularly refined, but both are very efficient and qualify for free tax if registered before April 2017.
Steer clear of the entry-level Access trim level, which is a little stingily equipped, and instead go for the Active model, which is both cheap enough to make sense and well enough equipped to keep you happy.
Drivers of a performance bent are likely to be tempted by the GTi, but if that’s the case, we’d recommend stretching your budget to the GTi by Peugeot Sport, which is a much better car.
Our favourite Peugeot 208: 1.2 Puretech 82 Active
What alternatives should I consider to a used Peugeot 208 hatchback?
The Fiesta is one of our favourite used small cars, so that’s where we’d recommend turning to as your first port of call. It’s great fun to drive, extremely comfortable, cheap to buy, cheap to run, and easy to find as there are loads around. In fact, there’s very little not to like, with the possible exception of a cheap-feeling interior.
If you fancy something with a smart interior like the 208’s, we’d recommend looking at the Polo, which is comfortable, quiet and very grown-up-feeling. However, it, like all Volkswagens, commands a price premium.
If you fancy trying something stylish and fashionable, there’s always a used Mini hatchback. Older examples aren’t quite as pricey as you might think and all are lots of fun to drive, but you do lose out on practicality because the rear seats are even more cramped and the boot even smaller than the 208’s.
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