The new Peugeot 208 has raked in several awards overseas. However, how will it fare on local shores in a segment dominated by the best-selling Polo? We sampled the Allure model in manual guise and it impressed.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Peugeot. My first car was a (pre-facelift) 207. I adored it. Thinking back, there are so many memories I made in it. For example, it’s the car in which I learned to drive. The list goes on. However, although friends — who dubbed it ‘French Fire’ for reasons I’d rather not mention here (no, there were no fires involved) — and I had countless good times in the 207, it did have its faults. 

208

Launched in 2012, the 207’s successor — the 208 — piqued my interest when it was introduced to the world. However, as I was finishing school and still needed to finish a degree in journalism and start my career as a motoring journalist, I didn’t get to drive the first 208. Following a few years in the industry, I finally had the opportunity to drive a 208, the second-generation model. But enough about me, let’s get to the new 208. 

The box-fresh 208 finally arrived in South Africa at the end of 2021. Since then, I couldn’t wait to get my palms around its angular steering wheel and sample the award-winning, small hatchback. (As a reminder, the latest 208 was crowned European Car of the Year in 2020 and Women’s Car of the Year in 2021.) I was handed the keyfob to a mid-tier Allure model in six-speed manual guise and set off for an extended drive ’round town and on the motorway. But we’ll get to that later. 

208

Before climbing in, I had a walk around the 208, admiring its striking bodywork. It’s arguably the best-looking small hatchback on the market, with its ‘sabre-tooth’ daytime-running lights (DRLs) lending it a purposeful appearance. The rear end looked equally good, with the ‘claw-effect’ LED taillamps’ gloss black housing spanning the tailgate. Allure models are equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels (the range-topping GT model gains 17-inch items). 

Opening the front door (the Allure goes without keyless entry) reveals a stylish interior with several soft-touch finishes. For a mid-spec model, it is generously equipped. As standard, the Allure ships with a 7.0-inch capacitive infotainment system, incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Bluetooth functionality and Peugeot’s 3D i-Cockpit instruments. A 180-degree reverse-view camera set-up, supplemented by rear parking sensors, and automatic climate control, are included in the package. The cloth-upholstered seats (leather in the GT model seen below), replete with green contrast stitching, are comfortable. The multifunction tiller is wrapped in leather. 

With my smartphone plugged into one of the two USB ports up front (curiously, the six-speed automatic version of the Allure is fitted with three), I activated Apple CarPlay and pressed the engine-start button. I set off to the endearing drone of the 208’s turbo-triple. 

The 1.2-litre petrol motor in the manual-equipped Allure produces 74 kW and 205 Nm of torque. It’s worth mentioning that, in the self-shifting 208s, the engine has been tuned to deliver 96 kW and 230 Nm to the front axle. However, as it tips the scales at a claimed 1 159 kg, the Allure driven here’s outputs were sufficient, providing ample punch when piloting around town and travelling at the national limit on the highway. The little Peugeot impressed with its immediate and smooth power delivery.

The manual gearbox was slick in its workings, with the sixth gear aiding to keep the fuel consumption as low as possible. The French firm claims an average fuel consumption figure of 5.8 L/100 km. However, during our drive, the three-pot sipped around the mid-6.0 L/100 km. The fuel tank has a capacity of 44 litres. Match the claimed figure, however, and this allows a range of 759 km. 

The ride quality was good, with the suspension set-up and tyres soaking up most road imperfections with aplomb. The handling impressed, too. Riding low to the ground, little to no body roll was experienced in the Peugeot. 

208

There is, however, one aspect of the 208 (and all Peugeots, bar the Landtrek) that may deter customers. That is, of course, the well-documented seating position of the driver. Having driven several other new Peugeots, including the commendable 2008, I have learned to find a comfortable driving position behind the small steering wheel. It does take time to get used to looking over the steering wheel at the instrument binnacle. To achieve this, the tiller needs to be adjusted to a lower position, which, for taller drivers, might be problematic.

208

The verdict

Peugeot 208 1.2T Allure MT

Overall, the Peugeot 208 is an impressive package. During my time with the new 208, I developed a soft spot for it. It has its faults, though, with the most notable being the driver’s seating position. But once you (eventually) get used to it, you’ll find the 208 drives well. In addition, the mid-tier model is generously equipped as standard.

However, it faces stiff competition from the facelifted Polo and its French rival, the new Renault Clio. But if you’re in the market for a 208, the mid-spec Allure is arguably the one to buy.

  • Price: R365 900
  • Engine: 1.2 L, 3-cyl, turbopetrol
  • Transmission: 6-spd MT
  • Power: 74 kW @ 5 500 r/min
  • Torque: 205 Nm @ 1 750 r/min
  • 0-100 km/h: 9.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 188 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 5.8 L/100 km
  • CO2: 130 g/km