Finally, fun little pugs that you can love for their intelligence as well as their spirit

One of the best-selling cars in the UK is the Vauxhall Corsa, it’s usually right up there in the top two jostling for the top spot with the Ford Fiesta. The chances then, are high, that you might be considering getting one. Before you do that however, read this!

Why, because the French car reviewed herein is actually a very important car for the UK. Not least because it shares most of what’s beneath its skin with the new Vauxhall Corsa.

But how has that happened? You’re thinking: Vauxhall is owned by Opel, which is based in Germany and itself a part of the US General Motors group right? Well you got the first bit corrent, and you would have earned full marks for the later too, if you’d answered the question pre-2017. You see that’s when the PSA group – which owns Peugeot and Citroen (and last year also merged with FCA – that’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) took over Opel.

The current Corsa/Peugeot 208 sisters are a result of that, and don’t be surprise to see a future Fiat also derived from the same platform as these two. I’d wager some cross-fertilisation into some forthcoming Dodge too, and talking of which can we have a Dodge Charger rebadged as the revived Vauxhall Senator, and how about a Vauxhall Frontera based on the Jeep Wrangler?

I digress, what about this Peugeot. Well it’s neither German nor American, it remains as French as a baguette – I would’ve said Brie, but the smelly cheese is not suited to the desi palate. Oi don’t get angry little pug, I see your front light bar fangs suddenly light up – or are they claws? And did they come on because you’re happy to see me approach, or was it merely activated by the presence of the keyfob in my pocket?

You’re cute though aren’t you? In a plump puppy-fat sort of way. Slashy DRLs aside, the 208 sits bold and proud, a bit of a balled-up cat. In fact on first impressions it looks bigger than any of its predecessors. Actually it’s only fractionally wider and only a few inches longer than the previous 208, although about the same dimensions as the 207 before that.

Nonetheless it all translates to excellent cargo space in the back. Rear passenger space might be a little tight for taller passengers like me at 6ft 2in, but it remains tolerable and should be reasonably comfortable for average-sized humans.

And on the car tested, which was admittedly well-specced, there were two USB plugs in the back. As well as superbly finished seats with protruding leather-trimmed centre ribs. Speaking of which, this was the (deep breath now…) Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2 PureTech 100 EAT8 S&S Automatic, to give it it’s full name which is indeed longer than the car itself.

It’s priced from £22,000 and is equipped with a three-cylinder petrol engine putting out 100bhp. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, reach 117mph, while achieving up to 50mpg (although I managed a lot less, and I’ll explain why shortly) with CO2 emissions at 99g/km.

For the 208 prices range from £17,000 (with a 75bhp version of the same engine) to over 30k for the all-electric version with 136bhp. There’s also a 100bhp 1.5-litre diesel the price of which I didn’t bother to look up, because surely no one cares about diesels now?

I wanted to get all that out of the way before moving to the front cabin, because that alone deserves a full paragraph at the least. It employs the ‘steering below the line-of-sight to the instrument panel’ configuration seen in other Peugeots (and which you must try before you buy, because it can be disorientating for some and encumbering for the long-legged). Plus it has a 3D holographical display ahead of the driver like something out of Star Trek. Graphics dance in resplendent colour within a complex pod to level up digital displays like never before. The rest of the dashboard, with sweeping contours and decks, toggle switches, touch-sensitive buttons and soft carbon-effect trim, simply looks like something out of a far more expensive supercar – I’d say a Lamborghini actually.

It may not entirely drive like a Lambo, at least in terms of performance, but don’t get the wrong impression here. In regular modes it’s easy to pilot, with decent visibility, compact dimensions making it ideal to manoeuvre around city-centres, a pliant ride and a smooth auto (a manual can also be had).

There is not much to be gained from employing the flappy paddles on the car, even in Sports mode, because the transmission is so competent and effective if left to its own devices. However the Sports mode on this car is different from other cars in that, there is actually a significant difference in the whole attitude and personality of the car once selected.

Everything tightens up, it becomes more responsive, the steering satisfies more, and it seemingly wants to dart about everywhere, belying the average sounding performance figures with the eagerness of a hot hatch. This resulted in the poorer economy alluded to earlier, but a bigger grin on my ugly mug.

With the new 208 we have a cuddly cutey with an exoticar interior and a split personality. It’s quick-witted at the helm, frisky around town and engaging to peddle. As versatile and usable as you’d expect but will it hold together long enough to get to its first service – yes, I know you were thinking that. Well that can’t be answered without a longer-term test, but what can be reported is that the traditional feeling of French fragility previously present in small Peugeots has been banished and I’d dare state that there have never been more tightly constructed and more upmarket offerings from the firm than the latest models.

Fun, stylish, engaging and reasonably priced. What’s not to like?


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