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.