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Peugeot 208


Holden Spark

Summary

Peugeot 208

In a world of cheap, popular and well-specified Japanese and Korean small hatchbacks, it’s easy to forget the humble French cars that once helped define the segment.

They’re still around, though. You’ve probably seen a few Renault Clios, you might not have seen the tragically underrated new Citroen C3, and there’s at least a chance you’ve seen one of these – the Peugeot 208.

This iteration of the 208 has been around in one form or another since 2012 and is due to be replaced by a second-generation model in the near future.

So, should you consider the aging 208 in a busy market segment? I spent a week behind the wheel of the second-from-the-top GT-Line to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.2L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Holden Spark

Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the updated Holden Spark LT with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The micro-car segment in Australia has driven off a cliff. We are shunning our smallest cars in a way we never have before, and nobody seems to be entirely sure why.

The strength of the second-hand market is one suspected culprit, while another is the tempting price point of vehicles that are one size bigger, with city-car shoppers able to upsize for relative peanuts.

Whatever the reason, the segment is stuck in neutral and halfway along Struggle Street. It needs a spark. And Holden's hoping theirs is just the ticket.

Now you might recognise it as a Barina, but Holden dropped that part of the moniker when this new model launched in March. It is now simply known as the Holden Spark, tested here in top-spec LT guise and wearing a sticker price of $18,990. It sits above only the entry-level, bargain-basement LS ($13,990 manual, $15,690 automatic) in the two-model Spark range.

Designed and built in Korea, the Spark seems to have little to do with our unique marketplace, but Holden promises us this new model couldn't be more dinky-di if it ran on vegemite. Australia had crucial input into its design in Korea, while Holden's Aussie engineers put the new model though its paces on the company's proving ground, tweaking the suspension and steering for Australia's road surfaces.

So the question now is, is the Spark bright enough to lure buyers back to the micro-car segment?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Peugeot 2087.1/10

The 208 GT-Line is hardly a car purchased on its value offering; it’s an emotional purchase. Fans of the brand know it, even Peugeot knows it.

Here’s the thing, though, the GT-Line looks the part, is true-to-its-roots in how fun it is to drive, and will surprise most with its spacious dimensions and decent spec level. So, while it might be an emotional buy, it’s not necessarily a bad one.

Have you owned a Peugeot in the past? Share your story in the comments below.


Holden Spark7.6/10

The marvels of local engineering strike again: the Spark LT definitely feels a cut above some of its budget competition from behind the wheel. It is well-equipped, too, and packed with connectivity and technology features. In short, it could be just the spark Australia's city-car segment needs.

Would you consider a small city-car like the Spark? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Holden Spark LT pricing and spec info.

Design

Peugeot 2087/10

It might not be for you, but I had come around to the 208’s design by the time I handed the keys back. It’s a bit more upright and frumpy than the slick, conservative design of the Volkswagen Polo, or the swish, cutting-edge lines of the Mazda2.

It’s undeniably a European city car in its short and upright stance, but blazes its own path, even compared to French competitors. I grew quite fond of its weird, slopey bonnet, unconventional face and tough rear wheel arches. The way the rear light clusters clasp the rear to bring the design together is quite satisfying, as are the aluminium-brush alloys, recessed lights and the single chrome tailpipe.

It could be argued that this is a path well-travelled, with this 208 mirroring the design cues of the 207 that came before it, but I’d argue it holds its own, even in 2019. If you’re after something radically different, the styling on its replacement, due next year, is one to look out for.

On the inside, things are… unique.

There are cushy, deep seats for front occupants, with a super vertical dash design, leading up from the deep-set shifter (an older look) to the top-mounted media screen, which is slick, with its chrome bezel and lack of buttons.

The steering wheel is awesome. It’s tiny, strongly contoured and covered in nice leather trim. Its small, almost oval shape is super satisfying to wrangle, and enhances the way you interact with the front wheels.

What is extra strange about it is how far separated it is from the dash cluster. The dials are perched way atop the dash in a layout Peugeot refers to as the ‘iCockpit’. This is all very cool and aesthetic and French if you’re my height (182cm), but if you’re particularly short or particularly tall, the wheel begins to obscure vital information.

Other strange things about the cabin mainly involve little bits of plastic of varying quality strewn about the place. While the overall look is very cool, there are some odd bits of chrome trim and hollow black plastics about that probably don’t need to be there.


Holden Spark7/10

There's only so much that can be done with a car in this bracket (there's hardly an abundance of surface metal to play with), but Holden's Korean design team have done an admirable job of inserting some excitement into what is traditionally a fairly bland category.

A powerful front end, with two fog lights sitting below the headlights, is dominated by a vaguely Kia-esque grille. And when viewed side on, the Spark looks to be sitting low, courtesy of standard 15-inch alloys that fill the wheel arches and tarmac-kissing side skirting that runs front to back. Two fairly heavy body creases also break up the metal monotony, running along the front and rear doors.

It's an energetic-looking package, and even more youth appeal arrives courtesy of a huge array of personalisation options, with Holden promising 33 different changes a buyer can make, including the wheel inserts, wing mirror caps and roof rails.

Inside, the focus is more on connectivity than luxury, so you can expect fake leather, hard plastics and fairly ordinary seat cushioning, but it's all nicely put together, and the basic feel is broken up by some well-placed style elements, like the coloured insert that runs the length of the dash.

Practicality

Peugeot 2087/10

The 208 hit me with some surprises here. Firstly, don’t drink and drive this car. And, by that I mean, don’t even begin to think you’ll find a good spot for a decently sized coffee. There are two cupholders under the dash; they are about an inch deep, and narrow enough to accommodate maybe a piccolo latte. Place anything else in there and you’re asking for a spillage.

There’s also an odd little trench there that barely fits a phone, and a top-box arm-rest thing that’s tiny and bound to the driver’s seat. The glovebox is large and also air-conditioned.

The front seats offer heaps of room, though, for arms, head and especially legs, and there is no shortage of soft surfaces for elbows.

The back seat was also a surprise. I was expecting it to be an afterthought, as it is in many cars this size, but the 208 delivers, with excellent matching seat trim and generous legroom.

Sadly, that’s where back-seat amenities end. There are tiny trenches in the door, but no air vents or cupholders. You’ll have to make do with just the pockets on the backs of the front seats.

Don’t be fooled by the 208’s cropped rear, the boot is deep and grants a surprising 311 litres to the shelf, and maxes out a 1152L with the second row folded down. Also surprising  is the inclusion of a full-size steel spare, stashed under the floor.


Holden Spark7/10

Nope. This is a pocket-sized car, namely because it has the same cargo capacity as your pocket.

Holden has stretched the space between the wheels to maximise passenger space, and as a result there's actually plenty of room in either row. But to add space somewhere, you need to take it from somewhere else, and that somewhere else is the boot, where you'll find a mere 185-litres of luggage space. The situation is improved by dropping the 60:40 split rear seats, but you'll be forever choosing between passengers and luggage.

Front seat passengers share a pair of cupholders, but rear seat passengers get none. They don't get room for bottles in their door pockets. Or door pockets at all, for that matter. The backseat does, however, get two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat.

Price and features

Peugeot 2086/10

This Peugeot is never going to be as cheap as a Mazda2 or Suzuki Swift. The current range spans from $21,990 for the base Active to $26,990 for the GT-Line, and that’s all before on-road costs.

Safe to say you’re looking at a $30k hatch then. For the same money you could be hopping into a decently specified Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla or Mazda3, but Peugeot bank on the fact that this car appeals to a special kind of customer; the emotional buyer.

Perhaps they had a Peugeot in the past. Perhaps the quirky styling calls out to them. But they aren’t interested in value… per se.

So do you at least get a decent standard spec? The GT-Line comes with a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, built-in sat-nav, 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in some seriously low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, panoramic fixed glass roof, dual-zone climate control, self-parking function, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, rain sensing wipers, sports bucket seats, auto folding mirrors and GT-Line specific chrome styling touches.

Not bad. The styling is certainly turned up a notch over the regular 208 range and the spec list makes it one of the better-equipped cars in the segment. However, there are some notable omissions which hurt on a car at this price. For example, there’s no option for push-start or LED headlamps.

Safety is okay, but it could use update. More on that in the safety section.


Holden Spark8/10

While the cheap and cheerful entry-level Spark, the $13,990 LS, plays smack-bang in the middle of the micro-car segment, the top-spec LT has bigger, and considerably more expensive, shoes to fill. At $18,990, the LT sails perilously close to its bigger and equally well-equipped competition.

For that money, the Spark needs to arrive wanting for little, and in most respects it does exactly that. For a start, a CVT automatic is standard, and is joined by some stand-out features in this segment, like cruise control, keyless entry with proximity unlocking, push-button start and a fake leather trim that Holden calls Sportec.

While navigation isn't standard, the Spark LT's seven-inch touchscreen is both Android Auto and Apple Car Play equipped, so phone maps fill the blank with ease.

Engine & trans

Peugeot 2088/10

The regular (that’s non-GTi) 208s are offered with just one engine now. A 1.2-litre turbo petrol three-cylinder, which produces 81kW/205Nm. While that doesn’t sound like an awful lot, it turns out to be plenty for the little 1070kg hatch.

Unlike some notable French manufacturers, Peugeot has seen the light and dumped single-clutch automatics (aka automated manuals) in favour of a six-speed torque converter auto, which does its best to have you not notice it.

It also has a stop-start system, which might save fuel (I couldn’t objectively prove that it did) but will definitely annoy you at the lights.


Holden Spark7/10

There's just the one engine available across the Spark range, and that's a 1.4-litre petrol unit that'll generate 73kW and 128Nm.

Fuel consumption

Peugeot 2087/10

The claimed/combined fuel number for the 208 GT-Line is a slightly unrealistic-sounding 4.5L/100km. Sure enough, after a week of city/highway combined driving, I produced a number of 7.4L/100km. So, a solid miss. Slightly less-enthusiastic driving should see that number drop, but I still don’t see how you could get it down to 4.5L/100km.

The 208 requires a minimum of 95RON mid-range fuel, and has a 50-litre tank.


Holden Spark8/10

Spring for the LT, and that's paired with a CVT automatic transmission, with Holden promising that combination will sip a claimed/combined 5.5L/100km (though we recorded a less impressive 8.0 litres on our test).

Driving

Peugeot 2088/10

The 208 is good fun, and lives up to its heritage of making the most of its lightweight dimensions and small figure to make for an agile city-slicker. The engine outputs might look like just any other hatch in this class, but the turbo comes on nice and strong in an impressively linear fashion.

It makes for reliable and strong acceleration, with the peak 205Nm of torque available at 1500rpm.

A featherweight at 1070kg, you’ll find no complaints from me about its performance. It’s no GTi, but it will still be warm enough for most.

Despite its upright figure, handling is fantastic, too. The low-profile Michelins feel planted at the front and back, and, unlike the GTi, you never really feel at risk of understeer or wheelspin.

This is all enhanced by the intense helm, with the small steering wheel giving it a thoroughly engaging feel. You can chuck this car into corners and down alleyways with enthusiasm, and it feels like it loves it as much as you do.

The suspension is stiff, especially at the rear, and the low-profile rubber makes it noisy on coarse-chip surfaces, but you’ll barely hear a peep out of the little engine. Other notable downsides include the slow-to-react stop-start system (which you can turn off) and the lack of active cruise, which would be nice at this price.


Holden Spark9/10

Holden's Aussie engineering team say they were able to get their hands all over the new Spark pre-launch, launching lap after lap of the company's proving ground as they tweaked the steering and suspension tune to better suit local conditions. And the results are very good.

The 1.4-litre engine doesn't generate a huge amount of power (though it is good for its class), but it's delivered in a way that makes the Spark feel like it's punching well above its weight, rarely feeling underpowered in everyday situations.

The Aussie magic sprinkled over the suspension and steering transforms the way the Spark LT drives, both in the city and further afield. The ride nudges the firm side of the spectrum (but not enough to bother you over inner-city ruts and bumps) which translates to a low, flat feeling through corners.

All in all, the little Spark more than holds its own on more challenging roads. The steering, too, helps the Spark outshine the regular city commuters, with a naturally engaging set-up that always feels connected to the road below.

There is a certain skittishness to the way it drives at times, though, with the gearbox wanting to continue lurching forward for a split-second after you take your foot off the accelerator, which takes some getting used to.

Safety

Peugeot 2087/10

On the topic of active cruise, this car is showing its age in the safety department. Available active safety is limited to a camera-based city-speed auto emergency braking system (AEB). The lack of a radar, even optionally, means no active cruise or freeway-speed AEB. There’s also no option for blind-spot monitoring (BSM), lane-departure warning (LDW) or lane-keep assist (LKAS).

Sure, we’re talking about a car which largely dates back to 2012, but you can get cars a full size up with all those features for close to the same money from Korea and Japan.

On the more impressive side, you get an above-average set of six airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and rear ISOFIX child-seat mounting points, as well as the expected set of electronic braking and stability aids. A reversing camera is also now standard.

The 208 previously held a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2012, but that rating is limited to four-cylinder variants, which have since been phased out. Three-cylinder cars remain un-rated.


Holden Spark8/10

Standard safety fare comes courtesy of six airbags, along with hill-hold assist, ABS and ESC, but it does miss out on more advanced technologies like autonomous brakes.

Springing for the LT will add rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and cruise control as standard fare, though the lot can be added to the entry-level LS as part of Holden's Driver Assistance Pack.

The Spark range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested early this year.

Ownership

Peugeot 2087/10

Peugeot offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on its entire range of passenger cars, which is up-to-date and in-line with most segment competitors.

The 208 requires servicing at yearly or 15,000km intervals (whichever occurs first) and has a fixed price to the length of the warranty.

Servicing is not cheap, with yearly visits costing between $397 and $621, although there’s nothing on the optional extras list, that price is all-inclusive.

Total cost over the five-year period is $2406 for an (expensive) average of $481.20 a year.


Holden Spark7/10

The Spark range is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty and requires servicing every 15,000kms. The Spark range falls under Holden's lifetime capped price servicing scheme, with trips to the dealership capped at $1,145 total for the first five services.