Having already reviewed and been impressed with the Peugeot 208 in various petrol guises, it’s now time to see how it fares with diesel power under the bonnet.
I got my hands on the smaller of the two diesel units on offer; a 1.4 litre HDi in Active trim which sits near the bottom of the range. Offering penny pinching economy and free road tax how did it fair and can it rival the very best in class?
Peugeot seem to have hit the ground running with the styling of the 208. Let’s face it the 207 wasn’t particularly blessed in the looks department, however this 208 looks much more appealing.
The brand’s now familiar floating grill sits proudly up front with edgy looking headlights. Simple curves feature elsewhere, with a distinctive rear with its tiger claw light clusters – and thanks to more compact dimensions – it definitely looks more sporty and less flabby than before. In Active trim it’s nice to see body coloured handles and mirrors and attractive 15 inch alloy wheels as standard.
The cabin’s well appointed with a swoopy dashboard dominated by a touchscreen infotainment system standard on all but the base Access model. There’s a definite air of sophistication, from the font on the dials to the chrome accents around the vents.
Everything is very well screwed together and simply laid out with modern looking high-gloss trim on the door pulls and around the dials. Trim quality is a little lacking in places though, with hard plastics on the sections of the doors passengers touch most, which is at odds with the high quality finish on the dashboard face.
New steering wheel and raised instruments
The biggest talking point is likely to be the miniature steering wheel and raised dials which take a little getting used to – but once you do, the setup actually works very well. The dials sit nicely in the driver’s line of sight, and with the bottom of the wheel in the same position as a larger wheel, the view of the dials is unobstructed. It very quickly feels natural and you begin to wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
Despite smaller dimensions compared to the 207, cabin space is actually more generous than before. There’s plenty of space up front, with lots of seat and wheel adjustment for the driver and decent visibility both forward and rearwards. The only letdown is the soft spongy seats that lack support on longer journeys.
Space in the back is also perfectly fine for a pair of adults, and getting in is easy via the wide opening rear doors. The boot too offers plenty of room again, up from before at 285 litres although there’s a sizeable load lip hindering access slightly.
Even on Active trim (sitting near the bottom of the 208 range) equipment is very decent and includes electric windows, remote central locking, electric mirrors, column mounted audio controls, alloys wheels and a touchscreen infotainment system. It was also surprising to see standard fit cruise control on a car offering such good value-for-money, which I found areal bonus on longer motorway jaunts. The cheery seat fabrics also help raise the mood.
Sitting on the same platform architecture as the previous 207 (although thoroughly re-calibrated) the 208 couldn’t feel more different. The vastly improved ride is more akin with Peugeots of old in its soft, absorbent nature that comfortably smothers everything in its path.
It’s also decent enough on challenging roads, although the suppleness of the suspension results in notable body roll in corners. Beyond that it grips well and is fairly neutral, feeling much lighter on its toes (thanks in part to its reduced kerb weight over the 207). The tiny steering wheel adds to the feeling of agility, although enthusiasts will find the rack over assisted and although direct, there’s a noticeable lack any real connection with the front wheels.
With Peugeot’s tiny 1.4 litre HDi diesel engine under the bonnet I was dreading longer journeys, as it’s not especially quick or powerful, producing just 68 bhp. It more than makes up for it with its smooth and punchy power delivery which suits the character of the car well. With 118 lb ft of torque coming in at just 1750 rpm, acceleration feels more swift than the 13.5 second sprint to 60 mph would suggest.
It’s just a bit of a shame that the five speed gearbox is so unpleasant to use with its slack, long throw action.
This 208s biggest asset however is its real-world economy, which was in the high-60s during my week with the car. It’s also road tax exempt as it emits just 98 g/km of CO2
TECHNICAL DATA: Peugeot 1.4 litre HDi Active
Price as tested: £13,695
Personal Lease price: from £132.56 p/m
Engine: 1.4 litre 8v 68 bhp – 0-62 mph: 13.5 secs – Maximum Speed: 101 mph – Economy: 64.2 mpg (urban) –83.1 mpg (extra-urban), 74.3 mpg (combined) – Emissions: 98 g/km – Band A (12 months): £0
Dimensions: Length: 3962 mm – Width: 1829 mm – Height: 1460 mm – Wheelbase: 2538 mm
*data from Peugeot UK