Month 5 running a Peugeot 208 - comparisons with the faster 208 THP156
Last month I was bemused by the fact Peugeot hadn’t engineered the 208 to be easy to drive around town – blame the flimsy throttle pedal and rubbery gearbox. But the cooking version, the 156bhp THP, is much better. With a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-pot it is, of course, much quicker than my lowly 80bhp 1.2-litre triple. But what you actually notice is how much slicker the six-speed manual is (one cog more than mine) and how better paired clutch and throttle are. This sort of simple stuff really should be a given, though.
I quite liked the 156 THP to drive fast too, and so did Ben Pulman, but Ben Barry didn’t have a kind word for it, calling out everything from the steering to the brakes. The flagship 208 GTi remains the go-to Pug for keen drivers.
A bit of time in the new Renault Clio and revised Ford Fiesta has also crystallised my thoughts on the tablet-style touchscreen found in both French superminis. I’ve decided I’m not a fan, and think loads of buttons (like the Fiesta) or an iDrive/Comand/MMI system with a rotary controller are both simpler (and safer) options to control the multitude of multi-media functions. But to buyers, there’s no denying that a big iPad-esque screen in the centre of the dash feels more premium, even if you only ever prod it to switch between AM and FM.
Month 4 running a Peugeot 208 - bemoaning the 208's well below-par gearbox
I'm no expert, but if you’re building a 200mph supercar I presume you test it at high speed so the bodywork doesn’t disintegrate like Wile E Coyote’s Acme-powered, Road Runner-chasing rocket. And if you’re developing a supermini for city life, then you’d evaluate it in stop/start traffic, right? Not, it seems, if you’re Peugeot, as my 208 is proving impossible to get off the line. I’m not talking about some road-test-style 0-60mph launch either – though revving the nuts off the 1.2 VTi engine and dumping the clutch is actually the smoothest way to get it moving. Alas yoof-like wheelspinning is hardly becoming of a lady.
But the other option is to bunny hop the first few metres like a learner driver. Why? The clutch just doesn’t seem to have any obvious biting point. Add in a limp and lifeless throttle pedal and I kangaroo out of every junction. It’s not just me either, because the whole CAR team has complained. And the gearshift couldn’t be more rubbery if it were a rubber tree. And reverse gear? Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. I think a ‘50s race car would make a welcome, relaxing change after the truculent nature of the 208’s gearbox.
What else? As Anthony ffrench-Constant pointed out last month, the ride’s too firm, and the steering wheel is so tiny it’s like driving a fairground dodgem. Thankfully I’ve just driven another 208, the hotter 156 THP, and it’s not half bad. More next month.
Month 3 running a Peugeot 208 - back to the dealer again for electrical gremlin support
Last time out the 208 had just visited our local Peterborough Peugeot dealer to have its oft-freezing sat-nav screen fixed, but the requisite part wasn’t in stock. Ten days later it’s turned up, so we’ve been back again. Unfortunately it didn’t go quite as smoothly as the poor service guy at Marshall Peugeot thought. The idea is that you slot the USB stick with the updated software into the dashboard slot, the screen goes blank (this is meant to happen) and after 5-15 minutes the radio returns. The screen remains blank for a further 4-13 minutes (those are the specific instructions) and then full service is resumed. Tick tock, tick tock, hmmm, the screen is still blank…
So the engineer hooked the 208 up to a computer, found two system errors, cleared these, and all was fixed. At least until two days later when I started the car in the morning, and while the engine fired into life the screen did not, and remained in that blank state until my journey home in the evening. That, and now the music system has started flicking between tracks, or repeating the same song, repeating the same song, repeating the same song before it’s finished.
Other previous faults remain: the Bluetooth system won’t recognise my phone (I’ve yet to test it with other phones, but then I’d rather have access to my own) and the sat-nav doesn’t appear to accept postcodes. Obviously I need to try again to get it fixed, but for now I’ve lost a bit of faith in the big multi-media screen that sets the 208’s interior styling apart from other superminis. Technology, huh?
On the plus side, although my fuel figures are way off the official claim (whose aren’t?) the little 1.2-litre three-pot engine is loosening up. Our lifetime average remains in the mid-30s, but I’ve just recorded my first 40mpg tank and the dash readout is promising improvements come the next fill. Hurrah. I promise to talk about actually driving the 208 next month.
By Sarah-Jayne Harrison
Month 2 running a Peugeot 208 - our Peugeot 208 makes a few unscheduled dealer visits
The 208 has only been with us for a month but it’s already had to visit our local Peugeot dealer, Marshall in Peterborough. First was a precautionary recall to check the torqueing of the air-con compressor unit’s mounting bolts. The undertray has to be removed, but it’s a half-hour while-you-wait job – if you can wait. But Marshall were exemplary, booking us in with less than a day’s notice, hanging on to the car over the weekend (because a hectic press week meant we couldn’t nip back to get it) and then returned it fully cleaned inside and out.
I’m still waiting for the second fault to be solved though. On a few occasions the multi-media touchscreen has frozen. Solution? That old IT staple – we turned the 208 off and then on again. Marshall have diagnosed the problem, but the new sat-nav memory card unit my car needs wasn’t in stock in the UK so we’re playing the waiting game.
It should be fixed for next month, at which point we can talk about that trick screen, and how the 208 is even making lil’ old me feel like a giant behind the wheel.
By Sarah-Jayne Harrison
Month 1 running a Peugeot 208 - we welcome our new 208 to the CAR fleet
Sexy little superminis are the heartland for French car makers. Forget the lacklustre BMW 5-series rivals seemingly only built to ferry government ministers around Paris; it’s the affordable, fun and small cars that Citroën, Renault and Peugeot do best. The DS3 is cool, you can read about Papa and Nicole’s new Clio in First Drives on p38 and our long-term fleet has just been bolstered by this, the Peugeot 208.
But perhaps bolstered is the wrong word, as the 208 is shorter (by 7cm) and lighter (by an average of 114kg) than its 207 predecessor, and with a zeitgeisty three-cylinder engine, one of the cleanest and most economical members of our fleet. Heavy, expensive diesels always seem odd in such small cars, so we’ve bypassed the HDi engines and opted for one of Peugeot’s new-gen three-pots: we picked the 80bhp 1.2 over the entry-level 67bhp 1.0, but it still emits just 104g/km and officially manages 62.8mpg. Wonder how it’ll match up to the fuel figures of my much-missed Audi A1 1.6 TDI?
The rest of our spec? Prices for the 208 start at a fiver under £10k for the entry-level 1.0-litre three-door, and stretch to a preposterous £18,495 for the launch edition Ice Velvet model. Our is the mid-range Allure, which means 16in wheels, tinted rear windows, LED daytime running lights, a grille that supposedly apes the SR1 concept car, chrome door mirrors, air-con, auto lights and wipers, ‘sports’ seats and a leather steering wheel. We eschewed such accessories as pink alloy wheel caps and chequered flag stickers for the roof but spent £495 on smart Virtual Blue metallic paint, £210 on an alarm(!), £100 on electric folding mirrors, and £340 on rear parking sensors and Cornering Assist Foglights which asymmetrically light as you swing the steering wheel.
Plus there are two other important big-car options. The first is the £400 panoramic roof, which floods the cabin with light. Or at least it does while I’m in the office, because now the clocks have cursed us I only seem to be driving the 208 in the dark. Still, when you climb in at night there’s a lovely line of blue LEDs around the edge of the roof, aping our Jag XF’s cool vodka-bar atmosphere.
The second option is an upgrade for the big touchscreen that governs the cabin design. The 7in colour is standard on Active models upwards (so 80% of 208s sold in the UK will have it) but an extra £400 adds sat-nav and a second USB socket. It’s a cool system, which I’ll talk more about next month, but in a world where phones and tablets are all controlled by swipe functionality, it’s a little frustrating that this screen doesn’t work exactly like an iPad.
Three or five-door body? We went for the former, purely for the 205 GTi-aping chrome tabs that flick off the side windows. Fashion over functionality, but something I’ll regret? I’ve got plenty of time to decide but right now the team and I are getting used to the 208’s tiny steering wheel. It’s as small as a Lotus Elise’s and like a saucer in the hands of larger road testers, but we’re all still trying to find an optimal driving position from where we can see the dials in full.
By Sarah-Jayne Harrison
Peugeot 208 1.2 VTi Allure - 3dr
| Cubic capacity
| Max power (bhp)
||82 @ 5750rpm
| Max Torque (Nm)
||118 @ 2750rpm
| Max speed