Peugeot 208: the real French car returns
Is the Peugeot 208 the new 205? In one key aspect, certainly so.
First drive in a Peugeot 208 this week, and what a pleasure it was. Small cars are among the smartest cars on our roads when done right: the Fiesta is the best car Ford makes, the 500 and Panda show Fiats can be truly desirable and, now, the 208 reminds us of why Peugeot’s reputation in some quarters is so envied.
It all goes back to the 205. The car that saved the company, it did so with style, cheery faithfulness and a quality of handling that’s rarely offered to mainstream car buyers. It was sublime.
Foolishly, Peugeot failed to replace it. The 106 and 306 were very good, but neither was a supermini, meaning Peugeot gave away what’s now the UK’s largest new car sector for years. Crazy.
The 206 replaced it and became the best-selling Peugeot ever, but it wasn’t a classic drive. The 207 was mediocrity personified. But the 208? Well, it’s a real return to form: not quite reaching the highs of the 205 in some respects, but blowing it out of clear water in others.
Such as? Well, my drive was brief, but still telling. Here are five ways the 208 is great:
1. Looks good. Even in the doom blue of our test car, the 208 has the cheekiness all small cars need to be loved by buyers. The front end is detailed, the rear quarter 205 reference lovely.
2. Distinctive inside. The 208 has a tiny steering wheel and dials you view over it rather than through it. This small detail gives a very different feel for the driver. It’s racier, more dynamic before you even turn the wheel. Luckily, it’s also…
3. Agile. Fast steering and a sharp front end make the 208 very nimble, both in town and on the lanes. It feels geared up at the front, responding quickly and accurately to give a light-on-its-feet feel.
4. Refined. Here’s the big advance over the 205 – the 208 is uncommonly quiet in rolling refinement. Suspension noise is low, the crash from bumps is minimal. Despite a slightly taut edge to the ride, it still seems extremely supple on the move, helped by the sheer integrity it shows no matter what the road surface.
5. Cheerful. Can a car feel happy? When it’s darty, pleased with any road surface, lithe, free-rolling and never jarring, it can. The best French cars are ones that can still please no matter what the mileage. On first evidence, the 208 does just that.
Basically, the 208 is a true French car: it’s rich and rewarding no matter what trim level it comes in. You can buy the basic one and it still feels a quality, rewarding machine: you don’t need aluminium dash trim or Alcantara upholstery to make it feel premium. It already does.
Will it save the company, though? That remains to be seen – and, my goodness, how PSA needs the help, thanks to double-digit sales falls and last week’s news that it’s closing a French factory, halving the size of another and making 8,000 workers redundant.
There is hope, though. The 205 did it before, through being a great car. A bit of that magic seems to be present in the 208, too. Here’s hoping it does the job.
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 1467
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