Car reviews - Peugeot - 208 - Allure
Impressive three-cylinder engine, dynamic sparkle, ride comfort, airy interior and, ease-of-use
Room for improvement
Limited interior storage, transmission judder at low speed, a VW Polo makes it look expensive
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19 Jan 2016
Price and equipment
It is difficult to find a price and size rival for the 208 Allure. The $25,990 (plus on-road costs) sticker – plus $990 for Perla Nera black metallic paint and $300 for a reversing camera on our test car – puts it in similar territory to an Alfa Romeo MiTo Progression 1.4 ($26,500 as an automatic) but little else, while French compatriot Renault offers the Clio Dynamique Tce 120 at a relatively value-packed $23,990.
Keeping it European, even a fully specced-up Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline ($20,990 before options) struggles to reach $26K, while entry to the Mini 5-door or Audi A1 ranges are available for little more than the 208 Allure, albeit with much slimmer standard equipment lists.
Talking of equipment, the well kitted-out 208 Allure has dual-zone climate-control, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and six-speaker audio, automated parallel parking entry and exit, auto lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, electric door mirror folding/heating/adjustment, an air-conditioned glovebox, a digital speedometer and a folding centre armrest with storage bin.
Allure styling highlights include 16-inch alloy wheels (with full-size steel spare) and additional chrome touches inside and out including two-tone headlights with LED daytime running lights.
Our test car was fitted with the $300 optional reversing camera, which can be bundled with automatic emergency braking for $500. A sunroof costs $1000, heated leather seats are an extra $2000, 17-inch alloys can be had for $1000 and a textured semi-matte paint finish in grey or white carries a $1050 premium while normal metallic paint – as specified on our test vehicle – is a steep $990.
The most modern Peugeots – currently the 208 and 308 – have the small steering wheel and high-set instrument pack combination. Try before you buy, but this author likes it.
Apart from that, the 208 continues to dare to be different by eschewing the fashionable high belt-line and resultant narrow side/rear windows to provide acres of glass for an airy interior feel and great visibility, aided by the standard parking sensors with proximity display and (optional) reversing camera. Replacing metal with glass also saves weight, which is great news for ride and handling.
The diminutive steering wheel has heaps of adjustment, which combined with a height-adjustable, supportive and well-bolstered driver’s seat, made for relaxed and comfortable driving with no numb bums on longer hauls.
In line with its price positioning, the Allure interior treads a fine line between mainstream and premium in terms of material quality and overall ambience.
Brushed chrome highlights in all the right places add design flair and premium panache, while an attractive band of soft-touch, interestingly textured material flows across the breadth of the dashboard. But above and below is all hard plastic, as are the centre console and door trims.
Touch-points are either upholstered in the plush and attractive ‘Techmat’ cloth (seats and armrests) or leather (steering wheel and gear selector) but the door caps are hard, which combined with the poor location and design of front-seat elbow rests, mean tall drivers’ forearms are given an uncomfortably solid resting place.
But despite the reputation for French flimsiness, the 208’s interior never creaked or rattled when faced with rippled or uneven road surfaces and the aforementioned hard plastics largely felt solid and hard-wearing.
Technology wise, we found the Allure’s touchscreen well-positioned and easy to use with simple Bluetooth pairing and sat-nav address inputs. Unlike some PSA Peugeot-Citroen products the system didn’t seem too slow and we were thankful to find the air-conditioning controls had retained their separate toggle-switch operation rather than migrating to the touchscreen.
At this end of the size spectrum we never expected the Peugeot to accommodate tall passengers in the back with similarly leggy folks up front but we found the heavily scalloped passenger-side dashboard enabled a six-footer to sit there in complete comfort with the seat as far forward as it would go, creating heaps of space for someone of even lankier proportions in the back.
Headroom front and rear is plentiful and the central position of the back bench also scored points for comfort. Shame then that the rear lacks air-conditioning vents.
People may be well accommodated in this car but their possessions and refreshments less so. Culturally the French might like to stop their journey and have a roadside picnic or cafe visit but much of the world wants conveniently placed bottle- and cup-holders aplenty.
Peugeot, Citroen and DS are all offenders when it comes to interior storage, especially for drinks. Hopefully they will one day see the light.
Front and rear, the 208’s door bins are deep and broad, but without any bottle-securing mouldings. That said, they strangely held our water vessels upright regardless. Less successful are the twin cup-holders beneath the central stack. They don’t accommodate much more than the smallest of takeaway coffee cups and are too close together to accommodate two side-by-side. You and your passengers had better like espresso shots on the move.
Continuing our whinge, the air-conditioned glovebox is tiny and could not store more than a small pot of yoghurt. Tellingly, Peugeot had placed our test car’s glovebox guide in the door bin.
Winning back the storage fight is the Allure’s central armrest, which has a slim and shallow storage area – we fitted a digital camera and a smartphone in there – plus cubbies behind and above the cup-holders along with another by the driver’s knee and two map pockets in the front-seat backrests.
Another upside is a decent-sized 311-litre boot (with plenty of tie-down points) that expands to a useful 1152 litres with the 60/40 split rear bench folded. This is an easy process that unlike some cars, did not require the removal of headrests or unreasonably positioned front seats to achieve. When folded the rear bench causes a step preventing a completely flat load area but the entry point is low and reasonably flush with the hatch opening.
We were pleased to find a full-sized steel spare wheel beneath the boot floor.
Engine and transmission
PSA’s three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is a gem and provides additional premium veneer to the 208 with its smoothness, refinement, linear power delivery, chubby 205Nm of torque from just 1500 rpm and characterful note under load or when revved toward its 81kW power peak at 5500rpm.
In the 208 Allure, weighing in at just 1070kg, it provides peppy performance for effortless urban work and motorway cruising while delivering enough urge to entertain on country lanes.
However the official combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres seems ambitious considering we achieved only slightly better than the 5.7L/100km urban figure during motorway driving and averaged 6.7L/100km with urban, suburban and back-road driving sandwiched between two 100km motorway stints.
Automatically opting to keep cabin occupants cool by disabling the idle-stop system in Queensland summer heat and the hard work of its air-conditioning system in these conditions may have contributed to the 208’s higher than expected fuel figures. Like many European cars, the 208 prefers premium unleaded.
PSA is gradually – and thankfully – weaning itself off jerky automated-manual transmissions and the three-pot 208 has a generally slick Aisin six-speed torque-converter unit. On the move it blends into the background with perceptible but smooth shifts, although at manoeuvring speeds it causes the engine to judder like it is about to stall. Other PSA vehicles with this drivetrain combo exhibit similar traits. Who signed off that this is good enough?It also has an old-fashioned staggered gate with a too-light action and manual mode – easily selected by accident by the driver’s knee due to the lack of resistance – is the wrong way round, being back for down and forward for up.
Manual mode is not fully manual, kicking down automatically if enough throttle is applied and shifting up at the redline. Funnily, these automatic upshifts are much faster than manually activated ones, which are still acceptably quick but not dual-clutch instant as found, for instance, in a VW Polo.
With a couple of transmission tweaks, PSA would turn this into a world-beating driveline package, and one that indicates that the French company is finally cresting a hill on its road to renewed global relevance and success.
It certainly nudges the 208 – already a good car – into the realms of greatness.
Ride and handling
When the 208 first arrived Down Under in September 2012 it was a ride and handling revelation that ended a decade-and-a-half of lumpen, disappointing Peugeots. The brand did a great job of tuning the suspension to hit a goldilocks zone of suppleness and driver satisfaction.
The new three-cylinder engine has saved weight compared with its 1.6-litre naturally aspirated predecessor, aiding the ride and agility of what is already a light and nimble car. Braking performance is helped too, and the 208 is seemingly unique among French cars in having beautifully progressive pedal travel without too much initial bite.
On the 208 Allure’s comfy 55-section 16-inch tyres, potholes and poor surfaces are soaked up like Bordeaux on Bastille Day, while mid-corner dips or bumps are brushed off with the nonchalance of a Parisian waiter.
Meanwhile, the texture of the road surface is transmitted to the driver’s derriere – and to a lesser degree their fingertips – as the 208’s smooth, sharp and well-weighted steering guides it accurately from corner to corner.
Given the comfort on offer there is an understandable, but perfectly measured, degree of body roll.
With its eco-friendly Michelin Energy tyres a modest 195mm wide, the limits of grip are easily found at legal speeds. Where the 208 delights is in how neutral and balanced it is when this happens, and how much it rewards gentle, measured inputs. For example, the front end only starts to push when you you’re taking liberties or the wrong approach.
It all adds up to a lot of fun threading the 208 along a twisty road, with that same nimbleness making the Peugeot satisfying around town too, in addition to the easy manoeuvrability and great visibility that make it a joy to live with.
Few cars can keep a keen driver entertained like this while being so user-friendly on more mundane journeys.
There is more good news. Road noise is conspicuously absent, even on the coarsest of coarse-chip surfaces, adding to the 208’s premium appeal.
Safety and servicing
Considering Peugeot’s sister brand Citroen – operated in Australia by the same importer – offers a six-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on all passenger vehicles, the 208’s three-year/100,000km cover feels a bit tight.
The capped-price servicing scheme is at the expensive end of the market too, with annual/15,000km maintenance intervals averaging $500 a visit during the first five years of ownership (prices current at the time of writing).
In 2012 ANCAP gave the 208 range a maximum five-star safety rating with 34.04 points out of a maximum 37 based on data from Euro NCAP’s test of a left-hand drive, four-cylinder diesel variant. It scored 14.22 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, 15.81 out of 16 in the side impact test, a perfect 2 out of 2 in the pole test and both whiplash and pedestrian protection were judged ‘acceptable’.
Standard safety gear comprises dual frontal, side chest and side curtain airbags, along with front seatbelt reminders, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control.
Priced as it is, the 208 Allure is a bit of a funny customer when it comes to like-for-like competitor comparisons. It is far and away better to drive and sit in than the Alfa Romeo MiTo, while the equivalent Renault Clio provides some cheap chic, being sharper priced to the tune of $2000.
Other premium European rivals from Audi and Mini that Peugeot would love to be considered in league with can be had for similar money but in miserly base-variant spec.
Stepping down to the $21,990 Active – the most popular 208 variant for good reason – would lose little in terms of the 208’s driving experience, especially if you can persuade the dealership to throw in a reversing camera for free.
Integrated sat-nav is nice, but not enough to justify the $1250 option cost.
An elephant in the room is the Volkswagen Polo, which gives Japanese and even South Korean rivals a run for their money in the value stakes, let alone fellow Euros.
Perhaps VW’s scandal-soured image can be Peugeot’s gain, because the 208 is a remarkably fun and useful little car. It’s easy to fall in love with, so make sure you do the maths before you test-drive one.
Alfa Romeo MiTo Progression 1.4 automatic from $26,500 plus on-road costs
You’d have to really want an Alfa to buy this. Outdated and out-manoeuvred in this company. But the price, size and spec are close to the Peugeot tested.
Renault Clio Dynamique Tce 120 from $23,990 plus on-road costs
A big dose of French style and chic with an impressive equipment list, lively dynamics and decent on-board tech. But the fresh interior design is let down by low-rent materials.
Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline from $20,990 plus on-road costs
Class-leading refinement and technology, classless appeal and heaps of thoughtful practical touches but with a badge currently suffering image problems. You could turn this to your advantage by giving a lonely VW dealer a cuddle in return for a large discount on the Polo’s already aggressive pricing.
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