The new 208 feels punchy and comfortable but there are niggles.
“That’s a little more like it,” I said aloud as I pointed the Allure Sport's nose out into the traffic. Leaving the Peugeot dealership in the (for-now) 208 sporting flagship, the little three-door immediately feels to have the pep and panache to bring back some credibility to the brand. It's obviously a cut above other 208s sampled to date. Curvy, sculpted and stylish, the new 208 in its Allure Sport guise feels punchy and comfortable.
The new 208 range has a pair of Allures at $26,490 -- a five-door Premium model or this three-door (only) manual (only) Sport. The little French machine has dual-zone climate control, partial leather trim for those very comfortable and supportive seats, Bluetooth phone and audio link, auto-dimming rear-vision mirror, 17-inch alloys and fixed-glass roof (not ideal in this climate). There's a touchscreen controller for the infotainment system -- but the big screen is wasted without satellite navigation. Another “but” -- it's priced toward Polo GTI territory and that comes with three doors or five and standard with a seven-speed twin-clutch auto.
The 1.6-litre turbo four -- shared with its Citroen cousin, BMW and Mini -- has been around for a while. In this guise it produces 115kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm from 1400rpm. The large touchscreen, set high in the dash for visibility, doesn't do well in full sunlight. The menu is a little convoluted, as well as being hesitant to comply with some instructions and temperamental when connected to an iPhone. The latter is not an isolated incident between the Apple phone and the French marque.
The only three-door 208 has sculpted flanks and a brattish stance -- it is certainly a snappier look than the five-door. The LED running lights up on the new closed-mouth, tight-lipped snout work, as do the lion-claw patterned LED tail-lights. Light of kerb weight, the new car has improved interior space and a reasonable load-space. The driver is well accommodated in a comfortable and supportive sports seat -- one of the better places in the new car market to park your butt -- but the driving position is still not quite ideal.
High and close-set pedals are still set up for little Gallic feet, but it's an improvement over earlier Pug hatches. The centre stack is laid out for easy use, dominated by the touchscreen, with a narrow instrument binnacle only just visible above the tiny steering wheel.
It's rated five stars under NCAP's toughened rules. There are six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes (with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist) and a full-size spare.
The little 208 instantly impresses with ride quality that belies the sport tag. The first series of corners shows the company has handling back on its radar, although not at the cost of compliance. Commuting on our pockmarked roads is no magic carpet ride, but it borders on comfortable. Much of the occupant comfort can be attributed to the seating -- the front seats in particular are easy on the rump and hang on to your ribs in the bends.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a little grippier than the plastic version in the 1.2, but it is very small. The steering itself is sharp in the way the car dives into corners with gusto, but it lacks feel, something that is hopefully rectified in the coming GTi. This engine has had some issues in the past with crank gear slippage causing problems, but when it's working properly it's a great little powerplant. It can rev if you so choose, but it's the meaty mid-range that means plenty of in-gear fun, hitting 100km/h in a claimed 8.1 seconds.
The six-speed manual is notchier than the five-speed box on the lesser models, but once you're familiar with the narrow pedal set-up the Sport can be hustled along at an amusing clip. When you're not making the most of forced induction, fuel use is decent, too -- Peugeot claims a reasonable 5.8L/100km, although the enthusiastic nature of our week's driving pushed that (laboratory-derived) number past 8.0L.
The French brand regains its ride and handling mojo, but there are still niggles.
Peugeot 208 Allure Sport
Price: From $26,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 43 per cent
Service interval: 12 months/20,000km
Safety rating: 5 stars
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; FWD
Thirst: 5.8L/100km, on test 8.1L, 135g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4m (L), 1.7m (W), 1.5m (H)
Volkswagen Polo GTI
Price: from $28,990
Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cyl turbo/supercharged, 132kW/250Nm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch, front wheel drive
Thirst: 6.1L/100km, 95 RON, CO2 142g/km
Suzuki Swift Sport
Price: from $26,990
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl petrol 100kW/160Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; FWD
Thirst: 6.5L/100km; 98 RON; 153g/km CO2
Skoda Fabia RS
Price: from $27,990
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cyl petrol 132kW/250Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, FWD
Thirst: 7.7L/100km; 148g/km Co2