Peugeot 208 VS Toyota Prius C
- Unique styling
- Sporty drive
- Spacious and comfortable
- Missing advanced safety
- Barely any cabin storage
Toyota Prius C
- Miserly fuel use
- Eye-catching exterior design
- Surprisingly quick away from lights
- Feels record-player old in places
- Some cabin materials feel cheap
- Standard safety is underdone
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.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Toyota Prius C
See if you can guess the name of the world's first ride-sharing app. You're thinking Uber, right? Nope. It was a company called Sidecar. It's broke now, shuttered for good in 2015. What about the first video-on-demand service? Netflix? Nope. Amazon beat them to it, for starters, but so did many other, now-defunct companies who tried it even earlier.
The point is, being first on the scene is no guarantee you'll be the best, or the most successful. I mean, just look at electric cars; plenty of manufacturers were doing all-battery models before (and arguably better than) Tesla, and every one of them is now parked in Elon Musk's gargantuan shadow.
Before full-electric there were hybrids, and first to arrive on that particular scene in any meaningful way was Toyota and its awkwardly shaped Prius, back in 2001. And they had that field to themselves for a while, but soon enough the other manufacturers trotted out hybrid and plug-in hybrid models of their own.
And so Toyota shook up the Prius offering, launching the seven-seat Prius V, and the bite-sized (and Yaris-based) Prius c we've tested here, in 2012, hoping to broaden the appeal of its hybrid offerings. Problem is, 2012 was an awfully long time ago, and so Toyota has waved its wand over the ageing Prius c for 2018, changing its design, tech offering and interior in an effort to keep it fresh.
So, is the Japanese giant still head of the hybrid class? Or has it been beaten at its own game?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Toyota Prius C6.6/10
It's as if the the future is firmly rooted in the past at Toyota. The Prius is still undoubtedly clever, frugal and easy to drive, but it is feeling so old in places that the bad had begun to weigh on the good. If you're a tech-head or have a right foot crafted from lead, then there's nothing to see here. But if the thought of saving money at the bowser sets your heart aflutter, then step right this way.
Does a Prius c make you feel green, or just queasy? Let us know in the comments below.
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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
The good news is that it doesn't look quite so quirky as the full-size Prius. The not-as-good news is that it's still no beauty-contest winner. Not helping matters was the fact our test vehicle was painted in a retina-burning yellow (they call it Hornet Yellow, and it's new for 2018) that looked almost nuclear.
Viewed front on, the blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end, while the headlights climb both upwards and back into the body, lending a sense of sportiness to this very unsporty hybrid. From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design.
Inside, you'll find a small but premium-in-places space, with a gloss-black stereo surround that angles the main controls toward the driver, while the digital driver's binnacle is pushed toward the centre of the car, displaying speed, fuel and other key info above the stereo, rather than in front of the steering wheel.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Not very. This is a Yaris-based city car, let's not forget.
That said, it never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers, where you'll also find two cupholders, and an infuriating USB connection housed in the touchscreen - so your cord dangles from the dash when connected.
Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. Sitting behind my own (5ft-8inch) driving position, it's only the scalloped back of the driver's seat that affords me any clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and the space behind my head and the roof lining is minuscule, too. But again, we're talking city car space here, so you can't expect to lounge about back there.
The ambience in the backseat leaves a little to be desired, though. The door trim pushes into the passenger space, and the plastics used in the rear are rock hard. There's a single cupholder to share, and a seat-back pocket on the rear of the passenger seat, but that's it; there's no vents, USB or power sources. There's no bottle-room in the rear doors, either.
Price and features
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
We've just spent a week behind the wheel of the Prius c i-Tech; the top model in the two-variant range, sitting above a cheaper model known simply as the Prius c.
At $26,540, it ain't cheap for a city car (and it's $4k more than the most-expensive Yaris on which it is based; more worryingly, it's only $1500 cheaper than an Audi A1), and the standard features list is more a novella than War and Peace.
Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheels, remote unlocking, LED headlights and front fog lamps, while inside you'll leather-look seats (they're actually vinyl), sat-nav and climate-control.
Tech is covered by an (old-school feeling) 6.1-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Engine & trans
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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. Toyota lists combined outputs at 74kW at 4800rpm and 111Nm at 4000rpm.
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.
Toyota Prius C8/10
If that last section didn't impress, this one surely will. The little Prius c will sip a claimed 3.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
That's very low, and the fact it accepts cheaper 91RON fuel makes it a very affordable car to run. Except... the onboard computers revealed a slightly less-impressive 5.1L/100km after my time with the car.
Emissions are a claimed 90g/km of CO2, which is very good.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
In much the same way that you don't buy an exotic performance car for its ability to run to the shops, you're unlikely to be buying the Prius for its ability to set your pulse racing.
But happily, it doesn't feel wobbly or disconnected, either. It's aided by being such a small package, and when you're not wafting silently about in electric mode, and you've coaxed that little petrol engine into life, it serves up more than enough poke to navigate the city, and even to leave the slow-reactors in your rear-view mirror at traffic lights.
The ride is good, too, feeling connected to the road below without feeling uncomfortable, although the little Prius does tend to track with the corrugations in the road, leaving you to wrestle it back into line. That's a job made easier by light and surprisingly direct steering, which feels tailor-made for the city.
Finally, the leather-look seats are comfortable, even over long distances, the razor-thin A-pillars make forward vision easy and it's a very simple thing to drive and manoeuvre into parking spaces. And all of those are good things.
Not so good? Well, the entire drive experiences feels a little beige and emotionless, it can get noisy and there are parts of the cabin that feel downright cheap. Worst of all, though, is that for a car that once heralded the future, it's feeling very, very dated.
But there are some amazing quirks attached to driving an (almost) electric car, including the delivery of eco awards for using the least amount of fuel (they were awarded for 2.6, 3.2 and 3.6L/100km over as much as 25km - none of which occurred during my tenure). The hardest thing to get used to was the absolute silence served up in electric mode. I counted four seperate occasions when I walked away from the car with it still turned on.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Every Prius c arrives with seven airbags, along with a reversing camera and... wait, that can't be it, can it? Oh... Forget AEB, lane-departure warning and the like, this future-focused Prius has a safety package firmly rooted in the past.
It was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but was tested back in 2014.
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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the batteries are covered for eight years or 160,000km. The car's six-month service intervals might sting a little, though, but with each service capped at $140 for the first three years, even taking two trips to the dealership a year isn't too expensive. Just annoying.