BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN I was driving the electric version of the Peugeot 208 a while ago, I said it was a good-looking car as well as a good e-car. Since then I’ve been back in the model, this time with a petrol engine.
The experience reinforced my thoughts on its good looks, and more. I’m now prepared to put on record that the 208 is probably the most beautiful small car on the market today.
While people asked in surveys will usually put cost, safety, and reliability at the top of their list of reasons for buying a particular car, style is also a key underlying factor. The look of the car we chose, all else being equal, is a reflection of how we see our own personality. For the 208, there’s a direct appeal to those interested in style, presence and an outgoing nature.
It’s hard to quantify such things in any given car model or brand. Like any aesthetic, they are subjective, even elusive. There’s probably no other major consumer item that offers such a variety in visuals, and yet strives to maintain a brand-recognisable ‘family’ look across its various products.
Peugeot are doing all this very well at the moment. The fronts of their cars are distinctive, outgoing, and highly recognisable as coming from the ‘Lion’ brand. Body design details, regardless of the format of the vehicle, are strong and sleek without sacrificing utility to looks. The 208 is particularly a case in point, in hatchback or crossover versions being both smart lookers and practical. For instance, the hatchback could have been sportier in profile, but at the expense of headroom in the rear. So they retained the roominess and worked on a very smart rear styling to make it feel sporty.
The interior is the now-classic Peugeot tech-type design, leavened by some nice trim styling and a very high level of perceived quality. The instrumentation has a configurable 3D style, the information set above the small steering wheel is something we who drive these cars have come to like very much. The central infotainment touchscreen is easy to hand … but I still wish Peugeot would provide real knobs for climate adjustment.
My review car was from up the line in GT grade. That gave appropriate badging, some enhanced trim, and sportier seats that grip better. All the connectivity you could wish for, and driving assist features too numerous, as usual, to list.
The 208 is designed for petrol, diesel and electric motor options, and in this instance was powered by the 100hp 1.2 three-cylinder, with six-speed manual. There is a 130hp option, but the one in this car was more than peppy enough. And, much as I love Peugeot’s current 8-speed auto, the manual shifting here was really nice to use.
Because of the pandemic, there was no Irish Car of the Year in 2021. This particular model was one of those introduced during that ‘lost year’ and so was sadly sidelined like many others. I’d like to think that it would have been among the winners if the competition had taken place. Anyhow, it did win the European COTY 2020.
What I like: 208 starts at 22,370; review car 27,780.
Price: The outgoing personality.