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Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE (2013) at Frankfurt motor show

Published: 27 August 2013

Here’s Peugeot’s salvo in the fight to make cars more economical: the 208 Hybrid FE. The supermini concept can achieve a claimed average of 112mpg (and a maximum of 141mpg), and emits only 49g/km of CO2.

Peugeot is especially keen to point out it’s a conventionally shaped supermini with five seats, unlike VW’s own super-frugal XL1, which looks decidedly sci-fi in comparison, but has a smaller boot than a Ferrari 458…

The 208 FE is 25% slipperier and 20% lighter than a regular 208, but that’s only part of the reason it allegedly achieves such eye-opening numbers at the pumps.

>> Click here for CAR's A-Z guide to the 2013 Frankfurt motor show

What’s the ‘FE’ in Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE for?

It’s a French double entendre: FE stands for Fuel Economy and Fun & Efficiency. The latter ‘fun’ tag relates to the car’s warm hatch-pegging 0-62mph time of 8.0sec, despite the eco-minded set-up.

What changes have been applied to the exterior?

Up front, there’s a new, low-drag grille – it’s 40% blanked off due to the retuned 1.2-litre engine requiring less cooling. Door mirrors and handles have been removed to cut drag; rear-view cameras, in classic concept car fashion, are preferred instead.

The tyres, developed specially for the 208 Hybrid FE by Michelin, use a narrow 145mm diameter to cut rolling resistance and drag. The 19in alloys have natty carbonfibre inserts to smooth airflow too. The biggest change is found at the rear of the car, where you’ll find an all-new air-smoothed rear end designed to disrupt airflow off the car’s rear as little as possible.

So it’s just an aerodynamic exercise then?

No, it’s actually much lighter than a regular 208 as well. The car’s body structure has been shaved from 295kg to 227kg thanks to composite panels, and there’s polycarbonate glazing which weighs 50% less than glass windows. Slimmed suspension components and composite resin interior fittings also contribute to the overall 20% weight cuts versus a regular 208.

And the drivetrain?

The common-or-garden 1.2-litre three-pot has been breathed on – there’s a higher compression ratio, lower friction lubricants, and geometrically-optimised components. Overall, internal friction has been slashed by 40%. The cylinder head itself has been machined with a reduced thickness versus a regular production item to save weight.

There’s a conventional manual transmission, albeit with no reverse ratio and new grease to prevent the lube gunking up the gear teeth over time and spoiling your mpg average. The petrol motor develops 68bhp but is 10% more efficient overall than a standard powerplant.

The really interesting bit is the hybrid knowhow that’s supposedly filtered down from Peugeot’s Le Mans programme. The 208 FE electric motor weighs only 7kg, but develops 40bhp and 22lb ft, spinning up to 40,000rpm. The electric motor also provides the 208 FE’s reverse function, missing from the back-to-basics gearbox. As with most hybrids, the motor also provides most of the car’s braking effort, via a reg-gen function which recharges the car’s battery when coasting to a halt. Of course, conventional disc brakes are fitted, but there’s no servo assistance, reducing demands on the engine.

Does the hybrid system spoil the 208’s practicality?

No – and this is what Peugeot’s really keen to stress – you still get a family-seating supermini with a decent boot. The 20kg battery pack is mounted alongside the 25-litre fuel tank underneath the rear bench seat, preserving cabin space and keeping the centre of gravity usefully low.

Come on, what’s the catch?

Apart from the fact the 208 FE is just a concept car, showing off what Peugeot can do, rather than what you can buy next week? Well, there’s no air-conditioning – that’s been binned due to its heinous effect on fuel consumption.

If this is all a bit hair-shirt for your tastes, check out the fire-breathing 270bhp 308 R concept that Peugeot is also bringing to the Frankfurt motor show by clicking here.

>> Is Peugeot’s ultra-green 208 FE relevant, or a folly? Is it a bigger engineering marvel than VW’s carbonfibre XL1? Add your comments below

>> Click here for CAR's A-Z guide to the 2013 Frankfurt motor show

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