Review and road test of the Peugeot 208 (2015 - 2019)
MORE LOVE & EIGHT
By Jonathan Crouch
Peugeot stepped up a gear in the supermini segment when it launched its 208 model in 2012. Buying second hand, ideally you'd look for this post-2015 facelifted version. Smart to look at and smart to own, it offers frugal running costs, quite an individual feel and lots of clever high-tech. In short, it's a small car with very big ideas.
3/5dr Supermini (Petrol - 1.0 [68hp], 1.2 [82hp], 1.2 PureTech [110hp], 1.6 [208hp] / Diesel - 1.5 BlueHDi / 1.6 BlueHDi [75hp,100hp,110hp])
The 208 has long been the French brand's best selling model, first introduced back in 2012 as the latest in a long line of '2'-designated Peugeot designs dating all the way back to 1929. Not many of them though, were as important as this one, a car the Gallic maker urgently needed. Its modern era superminis had managed critical acclaim (with the 205 of 1983) and record sales (with the 206 of 1998), but the successor to those two designs, the 207 of 2006, was notable for neither, and back in 2012, that left Peugeot as an also-ran in the small car segment.
It all meant that when this 208 was first created, a fundamental re-think was needed. As a result, though this model's basic platform was little different to what went before, pretty much everything else was, with huge steps forwards made in quality, efficiency, driving dynamics and general practicality. Most importantly, this design was all about the 'want one' factor. For this era, a small Peugeot was no longer merely to be a car you might need but one you might really want.
It was a successful strategy that saw nearly a million 208s sold in this model's first three years on sale. A strong start then, but one that quickly came under threat from an army of new or substantially revised rivals in this closely-fought market segment. In response, Peugeot bought us this much improved model in the Spring of 2015, including smarter looks, extra equipment and greater scope for personalisation. More significant than all of that though, was the installation of a fresh range of new-generation BlueHDi diesel engines, plus the extension of PureTech petrol technology to also include more powerful models. The result is a car that claimed at launch to be the most efficient, the most stylish and the most interesting supermini in its class. It sold until the Autumn of 2019, when it was replaced by a new second generation model.
What You Get
The original version of this MK1 model 208 saw Peugeot return to simple, smart but effective design, an approach that continued here with a series of subtle aesthetic updates. Providing you avoid entry-level trim, you get smart two-tone headlamps with black and chrome masks and hi-tech LED light signature. There's a smarter front bumper than was fitted to earlier versions of this car too, with sharper, more precise lines that surround the wider grille with its integrated chrome finisher.
Take a place in one of the very comfortable seats up front in what Peugeot rather pretentiously calls the 'i-Cockpit' and four things are immediately apparent: quality, lack of button clutter, the big centre-dash LCD infotainment screen and, most notably, the tiny steering wheel above which (rather than through which) you're supposed to view the instruments with their finely sculpted needles. It's true that you may have to fiddle around quite a bit with the steering wheel adjustment until you get it to a point where it doesn't obscure your view of the gauges, something not everyone may be able to manage completely to their satisfaction. Do that though and for most, the benefits will be well worth having: namely wrist-flick steering feel - and dials much closer to your line of sight on the roadway ahead.
As for the rear seat, well almost all models you'll find will be 5-door examples. On these the back compartment features extra headroom. Out back, there's a 285-litre boot. Flatten the back seat and, though the cargo area revealed isn't completely level, you'll get 1,076-litres of fresh air to play with, one of the largest capacities on offer in this class from this period.
What to Look For
The 208 has enjoyed a far better reliability record than its problematic 207 predecessor, but there are a couple of things you should check over when looking at the cars. The first is a fully stamped up service record. Next, examine for flaking of paint on the bumpers and check that the air conditioning works and that the pixels on the centre display are all good. Also check for rear bumper scrapes. Finally check that the Bluetooth pairs reliably with your phone handset. Electrical glitches are relatively common, so make sure everything electrical in the car works and double-check that there are no unexplained warning lights on the dashboard.
Peugeot's infotainment touchscreen software can sometimes cause the monitor to freeze or fail completely. A software reset may solve the problem, but some owners have had to replace the entire unit, which is not a cheap operation. Ten manufacturer recalls were issued on the 208, the largest of which involved replacement of the front suspension wishbone mounting bolts, a batch of which were found to break and result in loss of steering control and vibration from the front of the car. Obviously, you'll want to make sure this has been done.
(approx based on a 2015 208 1.0 excl. VAT) A pair of front brake pads are between £15-£45 depending on brand. A pair of rear brake pads are between £14-£35. A pair of front brake discs start in the £55 to £90 bracket, but you can pay well over £100 for pricier brands. A pair of rear brake discs start in the £100 to £175 bracket, but you can pay over £200 for pricier brands. Shock absorbers costs around £50-£75. Air filters sit in the £8-£13 bracket. Oil filters cost around £4-£8 and a radiator sits in the £57-£113 bracket. A rear lamp sits in the £75-£80 bracket; a headlamp is around £150-£165.
On the Road
On the move in this 208, the first thing you'll notice is its tiny steering wheel, over which (rather than through which) you view the instruments. The layout takes a bit of getting used to but once you've adjusted, you can enjoy wrist-flick cornering and instrumentation that's easier to monitor without taking your attention away from the road. Handling could be sharper, but ride quality is excellent and the car feels agile thanks to all the efforts made to remove weight from the basic design.
As a result, performance seems eager, even if you opt for the base normally aspirated petrol variants, a 68bhp 1.0-litre model and an 82bhp 1.2-litre derivative. Both these PureTech units are three cylinders in size, like the powerplant we'd recommend, the PureTech 110. Boosted by a turbocharger, this 1.2-litre unit feels usefully rapid and original buyers could optionally mate it with one of the smoothest automatic gearboxes in the sector, Peugeot's EAT6 transmission. If you want a diesel, Peugeot offered a range of clean, efficient 1.6-litre BlueHDi engines in this car, with a choice of 75bhp, 100bhp or 120bhp outputs (replaced in 2018 by cleaner 1.5-litre BlueHDi units). At the top of the range, the GTi hot hatch version continues much as it had originally, though its 1.6-litre THP petrol turbo engine was slightly boosted in power to 208bhp.
In many ways, this MK1-series 208 supermini was, as promised, 're-energised' at its facelift in 2015. True, you'll be able to find yourself a sharper-handling supermini than this from the 2015-2018 period, but chances are it'll have a harsher ride, a nastier cabin and higher running costs. Efficiency indeed, is a fundamental strongpoint right across the 208 range thanks to impressive PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel technology that arrived as part of this model update.
As a result, what was delivered here was a more complete 208 and Peugeot finally brought us the supermini it was always capable of. A smart small car choice - in more ways than one.
Peugeot 208 (2015 - 2019) review by Jonathan Crouch