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New Peugeot 208 2019 prototype review

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Peugeot 208 prototype - front tracking

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12 Jul, 2019 4:30pm Vicky Parrott

We get behind the wheel of the new Peugeot 208 in prototype form to see if it can drive as well as it looks…

The Peugeot 208 doesn’t need much introduction. It’s the bread and butter of the small car world, along with key rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa (which now shares its platform and powertrains with this all-new 208) and Ford Fiesta.

Peugeot is pitching itself as ‘the classy one’ in this rather crowded corner of the market. The chunky but chic styling certainly backs that up, as does a rather executive-looking interior that borrows much of its styling from the Peugeot 508.

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The 208 is also going to bring electric motoring into the mainstream like never before, since it is offered in pure electric guise with a 211-mile driving range.

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Peugeot 208 prototype - rear tracking

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Here, we’re driving a prototype version of the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol; the mid-level option in a line-up of three petrol engines that also include a 74bhp version of this engine, and a more powerful 128bhp version that comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. A 98bhp diesel is also on offer.

Our time in the prototype version of the six-speed manual PureTech 100 backs up the on-paper figures that suggest this is the sweet spot in the range if you don’t fancy that electric version.

The engine needs to be revved quite a bit to get the best out of it, but it’s happy to thrum away cheerfully and is both quiet enough and pokey enough to do a great job of both town or motorway travel. The clutch action is vague in our car, and the gearknob is an unnecessarily large, squared-off affair that makes it feel like you’re changing gear with your wallet. But despite all that it’s not difficult to drive the 208 smoothly and with a bit of vigour.

Select Eco mode via the toggle switch under your elbow and the steering becomes overly light, but Normal weights things up and delivers more reassuring bite as you swing into a corner. At that point you’ll also find the 208’s neutral cornering style is absolutely fit for purpose, but a lot more flat-footed than the always entertaining Fiesta, or even the sharper SEAT Ibiza.

Don’t be misled by the Peugeot marketing, then, which will shout about driving excitement and ‘unboring’ the future. The 208 is a car that majors on comfort, refinement and a classy finish. It soaks up small bumps easily, delivering a loose, spongey ride comfort that‘ll sure to make light work of scruffy town roads. The compromise is some body lean even at low-speed cornering.

The main thing that characterises our 208 (which may yet be a fraction off the final production set-up) is just how grown up it feels. It doesn’t feel like a small, affordable car so much as a truncated executive car.

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Peugeot 208 prototype - interior

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That’s in part thanks to the unruffled way it goes down the road, but it’s even more thanks to the interior. Some drivers will have to play around with the seat adjustment to find a position that allows them to see the dials clearly over the top of the small steering wheel, but the dense materials and variety of finishes in our Allure test car make it feel really classy.

There’s even a driver readout with ‘3D’ look, thanks to select information being beamed onto a reflective screen. It looks a weird initially, but within a few minutes, your eyes get used to the fact that the digital speed readout appears to be jumping out of the dials.

Overall, the minimalist design and tactile materials make the 208 feel great inside, and while final details are yet to be confirmed you can expect the 208 to be one of the better-equipped options in this class – even in its cheapest guise, which is expected to cost from around £16,000.

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Peugeot 208 prototype - rear tracking

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It’s good for practicality, too. The new 208 is a five-door only, and while the rear door aperture is a little narrow, once you’ve slid onto the rear seats there’s room for two adults to get comfortable.

A 311-litre boot makes for plenty of space to throw a chunky buggy or a Labrador (maybe not both together), although it’s a shame that there’s no variable boot floor to create underfloor storage and a flush load lip.

Still, you can add a space-saver tyre without impacting on boot space, and other standard safety equipment includes traffic sign recognition and autonomous emergency braking, while blind-spot recognition and a semi-autonomous driving mode will be standard on higher-spec cars.

The new 208 is set to take the title of the most grown-up small car on sale – set apart by a classy interior and plush ride. It’s not exciting to drive, but if loads of tech and a premium feel is what you’re after, the Peugeot should be on your list.

  • Model: Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 100 Allure
  • Price: £18,000 (est)
  • Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 98bhp/200Nm (est)
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 115 mph (est)
  • Economy: 50mpg (est)/ 99g/km (est)
  • On sale: Winter 2019

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