The diesel 208 that debuted in 2013 struggled in terms of local sales, but could this updated petrol version change Peugeot's luck?
Photos by Azfar Hashim
Peugeot’s not a newcomer in the compact car segment, and everyone should probably know that already; the sheer success of their 206, with the 207 carrying on with the torch spoke volume in a market like ours where it’s the Japanese who normally take top spot.
2016 Peugeot 208 comes with a reworked face - bumper, foglamps and grill are nicely updated
But between the 207 and the 208, there was a rather long pause for a successful Peugeot model. And during that period, two generations of the Honda Jazz hit our market and succeeded, COE prices went up and 10-year loans are no longer possible.
Redesigned tail-lamps are enough to tell the new from the old
It looks tantalizing, this new 208. Well, not really ‘new’ considering it made its local debut three years ago; to refresh your memory a little, it debuted with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine and a hopeless 6-speed ‘EGC’ automated manual transmission that’s best driven with you shifting gears via the paddle shifters instead of letting it run on its own. That said however, you could drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, go around Kuala Lumpur and drive back to Singapore with more than a quarter tank of diesel still left. On top of that, Peugeot’s diesel engine’s the only which could accept Malaysia’s - ahem - lower-grade diesel without any issues. And oh yes, how could I forget the $20,000 CEVS rebate it was eligible for.
Response for the car was rather lukewarm though; maybe because it’s a diesel. It could also be the price; made the Polo a more compelling choice.
Now Peugeot is hoping this petrol variant could change the brand’s luck in the compact hatchback segment.
Under the bonnet lies a 3-cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged engine that’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission; binning the EGC ‘box was the best decision ever, dear Peugeot. And with that, power output stands at 109 bhp while maximum torque some 205 Nm. For comparison’s sake, the VW Polo 1.2 produces 89 bhp and 160 Nm while the supercharged Nissan Note DIG-S 97 bhp and 142 Nm; the premium MINI One whips out 101 bhp and 180 Nm. A sub 1.1-tonne kerbweight ensure it’s also the fastest among its 1.2-litre peers: 0 to 100 km/h take only 9.8 seconds with the rest taking more than 10 seconds.
With one cylinder less, well, the 208 do show its weakness.
Although fine while accelerating without a rush, when you do decide to stretch the engine anywhere near its 6,200 rpm redline, there’s that inescapable strain and equally stressful note coming from beneath the hood. In this respect, Ford’s equally 3-cylinder but smaller 1.0-litre EcoBoost comes across as the more robust lump.
New stylish alloys come standard
Handling wise, this French hatch doesn’t disappoint by delivering brilliant weight and feel. You can hurl it into a corner without the need to shave off much speed; the chassis, suspension and 195/55 R-16 Michelin tyres all work together as one to leave you giggling as you exit fast corners. Also, bodyroll is kept to a minimum and you need to be very, very silly to actually allow the understeer gremlin to make an appearance.
The 208’s interior is simple and uncluttered, with build quality among the best in its class. Attention to details deserve a round of applause here; Peugeot have done their best to not leave it all dark and grim. There are textured soft plastic on the dashboard along with piano black and matte silver plastic inserts throughout the cabin, to make things more aesthetically pleasing.
The rear bench are well sculpted and getting comfortable back there isn’t a tall order. Leg and headrooms are adequate and even if a third passenger enters, shoulder room remain acceptable.
At the end of the day, this new updated 208 offers all the badly needed changes and improvements its predecessor had needed: Significantly, would be the new engine and gearbox. The handling prowess is also sure to impress.
Engine refinement though, still needs a wee bit improvement.
285-litres/1,152-litres boot bigger than Polo; Jazz and Note offers more, still
On top of that, the pricing strategy is something else the local dealer needs to relook. At $102,900 with COE, it’s $2.5k pricier than the Polo, a whooping $10.5k more than the Note and significantly, commands a $2k premium over the popular Jazz 1.5 RS.
Do not forget how buyers in this class are highly particular about price. The price difference between the 208 and the Polo/Jazz could pay for a year’s insurance premium.
Next to the Note, you could actually do a whole lot more.