30/08/2012 09:17 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Peugeot 208 1.4 HDi Active 3dr review (2012 onwards)

This is the bright young hope of the Peugeot range – the new 208

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Model: Peugeot 208 1.4 HDi Active 3dr, £13,495 (£14,390 as tested)
Bodystyle: three-door hatchback supermini
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbodiesel, 68hp @ 4,000rpm, 118lb ft @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual, front wheel drive
Efficiency: 74.3mpg combined, 98g/km CO2

First drive: Peugeot 208 (2012 onwards)
Peugeot 208: a route with a view
Peugeot 208: the real French car returns

What is it?

This is the bright young hope of the Peugeot range - the new 208. Set to banish all thoughts of the lack lustre 207 forever, it could be just the tonic for those looking for something a little more chic and sophisticated in the non-premium supermini sector.

The styling treads a fine line between individual and ugly, while Peugeot has cleverly managed to make the 208 both smaller and more spacious than the car it replaces. Usefully this also makes it significantly lighter, too.

This in turn is good news for the fun factor - and the fuel economy. A godsend, given the particular example we've got in for a week's testing is the 1.4-litre HDi 70 turbodiesel that packs just 68hp.

Peugeot 208 (© Peugeot)

Where does it fit?

The 1.4 HDi 70 is the entry-level diesel choice in the 208 range; it's also the only diesel offered without stop-start - although an 'upgraded' (depending on whether you like your cars slower or greener) e-HDI eco spec is available for more cash. Alongside various petrol options.

The Active trim level of our test car, meanwhile, is lower-middle on the ladder. Yet still includes such buyer delights as air-con, alloy wheels, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a split-fold rear seat and the funky multifunction colour touchscreen that's one of the 208's outstanding interior features.

As Peugeot's assault on the fearsomely competitive supermini segment, the 208 takes on cars like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Mazda 2, Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio. It's a trend-chasing little thing, however, so you might also choose it as an alternative to cars like the MINI hatch and Citroën DS3 as well.

Is it for you?

Leaning further towards the masculine

Available in subtly different three- and five-door bodystyles, to our eyes the 208 is usefully ambisexual in appearance, perhaps leaning a little further towards the masculine in the three-door (as tested). But it's sharp, rather than overtly aggressive, with enough fine detailing to take it beyond merely cheap.

With prices starting at less than £10,000 it is, however, certainly also that. You'll need £13,500 for a diesel like this one (and that's before options), but you can have yourself a nice compact runabout for around £14k - especially if you pick petrol.

Peugeot has been hugely successful in the supermini segment in the past; the British-built 206 was a bestseller for years, and we don't need to remind you about the 205. We suspect that there's a whole legion of fans just waiting for another good petite Pug, and the 208 really could be it.

Peugeot 208 (© Peugeot)

What does it do well?

First impressions: the 1.4 HDi is slow. As in, it takes 15.5 seconds to go 0-62mph - which by modern automotive standards feels positively glacial. But then you scuttle around your first set of corners, and the 208 is suddenly a revelation.

Peugeot has fitted its smallest ever steering wheel in this car, and combined it with a chassis set-up that veers very distinctly towards the sporty. As a result, the nose is wonderfully keen to tuck into turns, compensating for the motor's lack of oomph by encouraging you to just keep on carrying the built-up speed.

Whisper it, but the 208 really rather reminds us of a Renaultsport product - particularly the Twingo - with loads of grip and an eager desire to please. It may not feel quite as lively as a Fiesta or as solid as a Volkswagen Polo, but it's got oodles of adhesion and poise.

What doesn't it do well?

One of the side effects of making the 208 fun to throw around is a fairly firm ride. It's not terrible by any means - and supermini's are generally a touch bouncy in this department due to the short distance between the front and rear wheels - but you might find urban surfaces occasionally rather grim to bear.

The diesel engine note never goes away

The diesel engine note never really goes away, but we didn't really find it particularly bothersome either. And although you may have to adopt a slightly different driving position to your usual preference - for good reasons, which we'll go into in just a moment - this wasn't a major issue for us.

The one thing we really didn't like was the gearbox. Inspiring such comments as "awful" and "vague" from within the team here, compared to the rest of the car it feels flimsy, and abruptly disturbs the sense of quality the 208 otherwise exudes.

What's it like to live with?

Gearbox aside, and lack of outright pace accepted, driving this car is a joy. But Peugeot has really gone above and beyond to make the everyday supermini experience seem just that little bit more special on the inside.

The instrument cluster is set high on the dashtop, meaning you have to adjust the steering wheel so you can look over rather than through it to see the dials. This is odd at first, but you quickly get used to it, and the line-of-sight positioning means you barely have to take your eyes off the road.

Peugeot 208 (© Peugeot)

Adjacent to this, and again, mounted tall and proud on the dashboard is the touchscreen multimedia interface. With a slick, intuitive custom graphics design this neatly integrates the stereo, various car settings and the optional sat-nav. For £400 the last is surely a must have, and works very well.

Add it and you also get a second USB port, handy for charging all those various mobile devices. Build quality is solid, there are design flourishes aplenty, and the seats prove both comfortable and supportive. What's more, there's an adult-friendly amount of space in the back, and a sizable 285-litre boot.

How green is it?

Accord to Peugeot, the 208 1.4 HDi weighs just 1,050kg. By modern standards this is a very impressive, and achieved without compromising safety or comfort thanks to the use of high strength steels. Euto NCAP scores it the full five stars.

Impressive - but the 0-62mph time drops

Being light makes the 208 entertaining to drive, but it also makes it economical. According to Peugeot, even without stop-start and the eco improvements of the EGC automated manual gearbox fitted to e-HDI variants it still emits just 98g/km CO2 and returns a claimed 74.3mpg combined.

Step up to the 1.4 e-HDI and you can improve this to 87g/km with an 83.1mpg claim. Impressive - but the 0-62mph time drops from 15.5 seconds to 17.9, and it costs an extra £700. Given EGC is usually an unpleasant experience, we'd give the e-HDi a miss.

Would we buy it?

We gave the Peugeot 208 five stars when we drove it on its launch debut earlier in 2012 , and we stand by that decision. This is an innovative, economical and - above all else - enjoyable addition to the supermini segment. It's spacious for its size, it's smart, and it's thoughtful.

Would we choose the 1.4 HDi? Probably not. The 1.2-litre VTi petrol is the one for us - it's more playful, and you'll have to cover a huge distance before the diesel's real world running costs make up for the extra outlay in the initial purchase price.

First drive: Peugeot 208 (2012 onwards)
Peugeot 208: a route with a view
Peugeot 208: the real French car returns

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