► Prototype Peugeot e-208 driven
► The same, but electric
► Around £28,000 before grant
Electric cars are inherently stealthy, so it’s ironic then that most of the establishment’s electric cars are given bespoke designs and branding to stick out like Gary Lineker’s ears: Zoe, Leaf, i-Pace, Ioniq, EQC. Except that’s not Peugeot’s approach with the new e-208.
Everything about Peugeot’s e-208 EV is deliberately normal. It’s called a 208 for starters. It shares the same handsome design as its ‘thermic’ siblings, as Peugeot calls the petrol and diesel versions.
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The look evokes this magazine’s Car of the ‘80s, the 205, in its overall shape, C-shaped glasshouse that forms a near-replica rear pillar, and light bar across the curved rump. Pure electric signifiers are rare: an ‘e’ symbol on the side, a colour-shifting bonnet badge and body-coloured grille inserts – nothing too distracting.
The e-208’s specs and range info
Thanks to a water-cooled 50kWh battery pack mounted below the floor, cockpit space and boot space (311 litres, more than a Fiesta, less than the new Clio) are – you’ve guessed it – identical to the thermic 208s. And spinning the front wheels in true supermini fashion is a 100kW electric motor (producing up to 136bhp in old money).
Regeneration – which we’ll get to later – is crucial to boost range, which has been homologated at 211 miles using the latest WLTP test cycle. Charging on a single-phase AC wallbox takes 7.5 hours, but the e-208 can handle 100kW DC rapid charging, which loads six miles into the pack every minute and has you moving again in 30 minutes.
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What’s an electric Peugeot's interior like?
It’s familiar: there’s a curved transmission selector which you pull back for reverse, neutral or e-drive, and pull again to alter the regenerative braking feel. Like the standard 208, the steering wheel’s the size of a cotton reel, which despite its tiny stature can obscure the fancy 3D instrument binnacle with its varied depth, staggering layers of information. Obscurity won’t be an issue for drivers who drop the seat low and dump the wheel in their lap though.
It’s a high-quality environment, with a gloss black centre console, wireless charging pad behind a rotating flap that snaps shut with the crispness of a guardsman’s salute, and a delightful carbon-effect layer that twists its way across the dashboard.
What’s it like to drive?
Hatchback normality makes way for a completely ethereal experience, so long as you haven’t driven an electric car before. Press the throttle and the Peugeot e-208 accelerates briskly for its kind, though glacially compared with the warp speed thrust of a Tesla or Jaguar i-Pace. In Sport mode, the e-208 sails from standstill to 62mph in 8.1sec – that’s half a second quicker than the punchiest 130bhp petrol version. The motor’s operating window limits top speed to 93mph.
It's all so serene: there's an absence of combustion chatter and tyre rumble is well suppressed on this smooth test track. The pillow-soft ride on 16-inch wheels intensifies this feeling of wellbeing, with this softly-sprung prototype rocking and rolling like a Liam Gallagher tour. There’s plenty of grip in corners, but the steering feels a little too light and at times inconsistently weighted as you push through a turn.
And then there are the brakes, always a tricky element to integrate in an electric car, with that blend from the initial deceleration caused by the motor switching to energy capture mode and the deployment of the good old-fashioned friction pads. The e-208 offers two levels of regenerative braking: imperceptible and barely perceptible.
Lift off the accelerator, and the Peugeot gently slows, as if coasting in a combustion car. In the more assertive setting, deceleration is slightly more pronounced, as is the whine of the motor. But if these braking modes were graded as cheese, they would be mozzarella and Edam.
Unlike the stilton of the Nissan Leaf’s one-pedal action, which can respond to lift-off with the instant stopping power of smashing into a brick wall. The e-208’s brake pedal feels pretty baggy and buzzy too; it’s clearly an area for fine-tuning before production cars reach the UK around the start of 2020.
What about the e-208's price and battery warranty?
Peugeot will back its battery pack with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and certify its capacity when you come to sell your used EV. It’s all part of a broad range of services, from an app that helps you remotely control charging, pre-heat the car or check its range.
Such features are a normal part of the electric driver’s life. And the e-208 is a conspicuously normal supermini. It doesn’t stand out like the Honda E, or wear its volts on its sleeve like the yellow-accented Mini Electric, which will cost broadly the same as the circa-£28,000 Peugeot (before £3500 EV subsidy).
Those cars may find themselves stuck within the city limits, due to their puny, sub-150-mile ranges. The e-208 should feel equally at home in the city, with its compact package, peppy take-off from traffic lights and zero-emissions capability. But with its comfy, civilised air at motorway speeds and 200-odd miles of range, it won’t be stuck there. Just like a normal car.
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