BY BRIAN BYRNE
WITH Peugeot on a current styling roll, taking the keys of the latest 208 was always going to be a pleasing duty. A really good-looking supermini hatchback in its latest guise, and the European Car of the Year 2020 to boot.
The handover happily coincided with the opportunity of my first long road trip in Ireland since the March lockdown, meaning I could really stretch the car over a few days in Yeats Country — Sligo and Leitrim.
I did the initial run in one non-stop gallop. Apart from getting us to our destination as quickly as possible, it also proved that this supermini is an exceptionally good across-country driver. If there are better seats in any other car in the class, I haven’t sat in them.
The new 208 arrived at the beginning of the year. In a short introduction, I was very taken with the styling, which has moved it on from the rather cuddly looks of the predecessor to something very sharp indeed. That grille treatment is key to giving the car more solid presence than most of its competitors, with scimitar-style running lights making their own statement. From the rear three-quarter it is also very fetching.
A small downside — getting in without rubbing my head across the door frame proved to be an issue, but then it is with many cars for me. I suppose I’m actually the issue.
The inside design is cleanly modern, with good thought to the materials and to the instrumentation. It has, of course, Peugeot’s i-Cockpit format, the main instruments viewable close to the eye-line and above the compact steering wheel. The new 208 brings an extra element to the instruments with a 3D effect as part of the available setup.
A large centre screen does the usual stuff, with big graphics. Underneath it a set of piano-style switches for a range of functions. My wishlist would again be manual knobs for climate control, but there we are …
There’s good room for passenger knees and heads, and fairly good storage for those up front, apart from a glovebox that would just about hold a pair. As the version I had didn’t include sat-nav, the easily integrated Apple Carplay worked a treat from my phone for this purpose.
The engine in the review car was a 1.2 petrol, and in this instance working through the truly excellent eight-speed automatic trans that Peugeot is using at the moment. It made the car all the sweeter.
There were Eco, Normal and Sport drive options. In fairness, I used Normal for almost all of the trip, and achieved a very frugal overall fuel consumption.
I did try the Sport option, which tightened up response and shift changes, and certainly made a sporty difference. But for what I was at this time, unnecessary.
Ride and handling is something that Peugeot has had well sorted for a long time now, and that was probably part of the reason I found this one so untiring over the few days away.
And Yeats Country itself? Yep, quite beautiful and engaging, but I’ll hold that off for a travel piece. It did remind me that we have an awful lot to offer on this little island. And a Peugeot 208 is perfectly up to bringing us to see it all.
What I like: The car as driven was just such a well-balanced package.
Price: Starts at €17,995 for the 75hp basic; the mid-range Allure spec and 130hp auto at €24,650