What stands out?

The Peugeot 208 is a uniquely styled, beautifully finished little hatch that oozes French charm. It offers economical three-cylinder engines with character, and a high level of ride and cabin comfort. There is also an appealing, hotted-up, four-cylinder 208 GTi.

What might bug me?

Paying more for the most costly 208, the GTi, and not getting the automatic emergency braking that’s standard with the Allure and GT-Line models.

What body styles are there?

Most 208s are five-door hatchbacks, but the 208 GTi is a three-door hatch.

The Peugeot 208 drives its front wheels. It is classed as a light car, lower priced.

What features do all 208 versions have?

Air conditioning, and cruise control with a speed limiter.

You also get a leather trimmed steering wheel, front fog lights, and bright, long-lasting LED daytime running lights.

Arkamys brand, six-speaker audio system, controllable from a 7.0-inch touchscreen, with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and USB and auxiliary input sockets.
Reversing camera and Rear parking sensors give you an audible indication of how far the bumper is from obstacles.

Fog lights, and bright, long-lasting LED daytime running lights.

Leather trimmed steering wheel with audio system controls.

Alloy wheels, and a full-size spare wheel and tyre. A tyre pressure monitor, which warns you if a tyre has lost air (this can give you extra time to get a slow puncture seen to).

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one on the outer side of each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag on each side covering the front and rear side-windows.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Peugeot 208 carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder that drives most five-door Peugeot 208s – and all automatics – is as easy on fuel as any of the three engines available, consuming just 4.5 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

One reason you might not choose the 1.2 turbo is that you are happy to pay more for your 208, you need only three doors, and you want the dramatically more exuberant personality of the 208 GTi. Its turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder supplies more than half again as much thrust as the turbo 1.2-litre, while using about 20 per cent more fuel.

Both turbocharged engines have stop-start systems that save fuel in urban driving. They shut down when you stop, and start automatically when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

All 208 five-doors come with a conventional (torque converter) six-speed automatic gearbox. The 208 GTi comes only as a six-speed manual.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The most affordable 208, the Active brings, you the auto gearbox and turbo 1.2 engine that’s standard in all but the three-door GTI model. It also has standard cloth trim and 16-inch alloy wheels. Satellite navigation is available as an option.

Spending still more for a 208 Allure gets you, in addition, satellite navigation as standard, dual zone climate control (which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin), and front parking sensors. A city park system can steer the car into parking spaces automatically. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, headlights switch on by themselves when it’s getting dark, and there are fog lights which shine into corners.

The Active also gains automatic emergency braking, which was previously an optional extra.

Springing for a 208 GT-Line brings the look and feel of a 208 GTi, almost, but without the firmer ride and extra power. Changes over the Allure include sports front seats, which have deeper side bolsters that give you extra support during quick cornering, 17-inch alloy wheels with tyres of a lower profile again, and a suite of sporty interior and exterior cosmetic upgrades.

Auto-braking is standard on the GT-Line as well.

Options available on some but not all 208s are front seat heaters, leather seat trim, a power operated panoramic sunroof.

Choosing the most expensive 208, the 208 GTi, gets you a big increase in engine power and cornering ability – the latter from stiffer springs and firmer damping. The GTi comes with seats trimmed in a mix of leather and cloth, as well as sporty interior touches such as red trim highlights, a race-car style flat-bottomed steering wheel with sculpted thumb-grip areas, and aluminium covers for the control pedals. On the outside, you get different 17-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, a different front grille and a rear spoiler.

The GTI loses the automatic emergency braking available in the Allure and GT-Line.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The firmer springs and shock absorbers on a GTi make the ride a bit less supple, particularly at low speeds and over sharp-edged bumps.

The deeper front seat bolsters in GT-Line and GTi versions make the seats a bit less easy to jump in and out of, compared with the non-sports seats in the other 208s.

Because it’s a three-door, the GTi has longer, heavier front doors than the five-door 208s. This can make getting in and out a bit more difficult in confined spaces or on hills.

There is a small but noticeable reduction in the smoothness of the ride as you move from the 55 profile tyres on the Active and Allure, to the 45 profile tyres on the GT-Line, because the lower profile tyres have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road.

Auto emergency is standard on the 208 Allure and GT-Line, but you can’t have it with a GTi.

Of nine colours available on a Peugeot 208, only Bianca White comes without extra cost. Pearl, metallic and matte finishes cost about $1000 extra. The GTi only comes with six colour options, including Bianca White.

How comfortable is it the Peugeot 208?

The attractive interior presentation, palpable quality, and softly cushioned front and rear seats make the Peugeot 208 a fundamentally pleasant and comfortable car to sit in, and the French brand’s renowned – but only recently rediscovered – supple ride quality makes the 208 a relaxing car to ride in.

The low position of the steering wheel, a part of Peugeot’s raised head-up instrument cluster design, takes some getting used to. The unique layout means there may not be a big enough range of adjustment to allow a comfortable position for every driver, although you can adjust the wheel for both height and reach.

Five-door 208s have terrifically absorbent suspension, which lets them breathe to soak up bumpy, undulating roads tackled at highway speeds. Yet they also deal smoothly with low-speed bumps and joins in the road. The 208 also shuts out tyre, wind and engine noise very well.

The 208 GTi’s suspension is firmer than that of five-door 208s, which makes it less smooth in most driving. However, it is not over-stiff and the damping feels well matched to the stiffness of the springs. It is unavoidable that a hot-hatch is a bit less comfortable than a normal light hatchback, but the 208 GTi is comfortable for what it is.

What about safety in a 208?

Stability control, six airbags, and a tyre pressure monitor contribute to a good safety package in the Peugeot 208.

Autonomous emergency braking system is only included in Allure and GT-Line versions. It warns you of obstacles in front of the car, typically a slower vehicle, and applies the brakes automatically if you do not react. It is effective at speeds up to 30km/h.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the 208 its maximum five stars for safety in 2012.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The French flair evident in the design of the Peugeot gives it personality that’s rare in a relatively inexpensive small car. That makes it satisfying to own, even before you go for a drive.

Once you’re perched on a softly supportive pew behind the low-set steering wheel, looking at the richly rendered instrument panel that sprouts out of the dashtop, it’s clear you’re about to drive something a bit different.

The payoff for the low steering wheel position, as well as reminding you you’ve gone Gallic (rather than, say, restrained German or techy Japanese), is that you can see the speedo and tacho dials easily, without taking your eyes off the road.

The bulky A-pillars, on the other hand, obstruct vision, particularly to the right at roundabouts and at intersections.

The small steering wheel guides the nose of the 208 with alacrity – the Peugeot really responds quickly to the wheel, which makes it fun to drive.

The handling is more measured, with a lovely smooth and fluid feel into and out of corners. This, with the supple ride, ensures the 208 remains swift and composed even on lumpy roads.

The turbo 1.2 has a charming off-beat sound – makes for far more effortless acceleration, and contributes to more driving fun. It works well with the smooth, decisive six-speed automatic.

While the 208 GT-Line looks sportier than Active and Allure versions, its engine and suspension is unchanged. So, aside from having front seats with extra lateral support, 17-inch wheels and tyres, and a sporty feel in the cabin, it’s not that different to drive.

This is where the 208 GTi comes in. It is a powerful, performance-focussed little car – a totally different proposition aimed at the enthusiast driver. The turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder makes it a little rocket, and the compact proportions, quick steering, manual gearbox and firm suspension make it brilliantly rewarding in the bends.

How is life in the rear seats?

The 208’s back seat is relatively softly cushioned, and provides good head and leg room. It’s not as roomy as the practicality-focussed Honda Jazz, but it offers more space than most alternative light cars.

The seat base offers good under-thigh support and a slightly elevated position that affords occupants a good view over the front seats. The angle of the backrest has been judged just right for long-haul comfort. And like the front, the rear compartment is a fairly quiet place to ride.

The GTi’s three-door body means back-seaters have to flip one of the front seats forward and climb in via a front door, which makes it a bit more difficult than the five-seaters to get in and out of.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The 208’s boot is usefully bigger than those of most light hatchbacks, at 311 litres. Of the main alternatives, only the Honda Jazz (350 litres) can carry more luggage.

With the 60-40 split rear seatbacks folded the 208 can carry 1158 litres of cargo, which is again generous for a car of its size.

Where does Peugeot build the 208?

Peugeot builds the 208 in several countries, but the ones sold on the Australian market are built in France.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps the option of city-speed auto emergency braking, if you are looking at a 208 Accent or GTi. (It is available on the 208 Allure and GT-Line.) You can add AEB to any Mazda2, for example.

If you’re looking for a little car with van-like qualities, you might appreciate the generously spacious (and versatile) Honda Jazz, or the roomy-beyond-its-size Skoda Fabia wagon.

Perhaps a longer warranty: the Renault Clio is covered for five years.

Among other cars worth considering are the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. Or, if you’re considering a 208 GTi, you could also look at the Clio Renaultsport, Fiesta ST or Polo GTI.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers like the 208 Active automatic. The extra power of the turbo 1.2 engine that comes with the auto gearbox makes both urban and highway driving more relaxed. Choosing the least costly way to get this engine helps contain the price of the 208, which is already a bit higher than that of many alternatives.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

The current Peugeot 208 went on sale in September 2012, superseding the Peugeot 207. It was joined by the 208 GTi in August 2013.

In October 2015 the 208 was updated for the 2016 model year. The styling changes were subtle. The big change was the introduction of the more economical Euro 6 emissions-compliant three-cylinder engines and six-speed automatic gearbox, which replaced an outdated non-turbo four-cylinder and four-speed automatic. Outputs of the 208 GTi engine were also slightly increased.

The 208's base price went up in 2017 when the Access was dropped from the range, making the more costly Active the most affordable model, albeit priced above $20,000.

Equipment levels were also raised in 2017, with the touchscreen and reversing camera becoming standard across the range, and automatic emergency braking, which was an option in the Allure and GT-Line, becoming standard in those variants.

Expect to see a new 208 in 2018, which will be built on all-new underpinnings developed jointly by Peugeot and its Chinese manufacturing partner Dongfeng.