A new Peugeot 208 / e-208 before the great comeback of the GTI ?
If you clicked on this article, it’s already a victory. Why? Because I know Petrolheads well and when you don’t talk about naturally aspirated engines, slick tires or top speed record, they don’t care. But they make a mistake.
Today, something crucial is happening in the hatchback range: the launch of a new model. Indeed, you may have noticed it, the Peugeot 208, we knew since 2012, has disappeared from the catalogue. But more importantly, we have been living without Peugeot 208 GTI since mid-2018 (I know that deep down in your heart hot hatches affects you, we were all children or teenagers who dreamt in front of them).
Anyway, a new Peugeot 208 is (if everything goes well), the prospect of a new Peugeot 208 GTI… So, I went to Portugal to try the latest Peugeot 208 and e-208 regular versions to know what the French manufacturer was cooking. I did my best to read between the lines and try to guess the future of French driving pleasure.
The DNA of a Lion King : Peugeot 208 / e-208!
Since 1984, Peugeot has chosen to turn its little city car into a real rocket. It all started with the famous Peugeot 205 GTI, which was launched almost two years after the presentation of the classic Peugeot 205. Personally, I love this car. Indeed, it contains everything you need to make a good sports car, despite a rather conventional line but perfectly in tune with its times. It’s simple, light and lively. My uncle had one when I was a kid, I keep a great memory of it (except its red carpets). All this car exudes the driving pleasure, with a healthy chassis, a crazy front end, and a raging 4-cylinder engine (with 105 HP for the 1.6L and 130 HP for the 1.9L) You’ve understood that the 205 GTI (and its red headband on bumpers) is a true Madeleine de Proust for me, but also for at least 3 French generations. Result: 294,514 GTIs out of a total of 5,300,000 cars sold. It’s the founding father of the GTI dynasty.
In 1998, Peugeot took risks! To renew its best seller, the 206 is launched. One more number for a real revolution. In addition to the technical improvements of the time, the bodywork is beautiful, really beautiful. The Peugeot 206 is modern and makes all its competitors look like cars from the past. One fine day in 1999, probably to reward the French people after a magnificent victory in the World Cup final, Peugeot produced the 206 S16. So yes, we lost the famous GTI logo (in France, elsewhere it was called GTI), but it gained in confidence, comfort and flexibility (but also weight) thanks to a 138 HP 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. Finally, we have a healthy and efficient car but less exuberant than the 205 GTI. Actually, no one cared much at the time, the 206 was cool. Peugeot have sold 12,000,000 cars (yes, I checked the number of 0), including 13,436 16S, alias “the beloved one”.
The Peugeot 207 appeared in 2006. And that’s it, that’s all, nothing very exciting. It looks like the 206 but more modern, coarser too and with big black plastic bumpers. For the sporty version it’s the same, we get a 207 RC which, despite a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine upgraded to 175 HP, is rather insipid. With 4,100,000 cars sold and 9,474 RC version, it’s the fallen Prince of the royal family.
Finally, the 208 succeeds the 207 in 2012. Ultimate restyling of the 206 (well, yes, we noticed it), it’s smaller, finer, more assertive, more technological and more bourgeois. A few months after the presentation of the Peugeot, the web was ignited with the announcement of a new GTI version. With a 208 HP 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the Peugeot 208 GTI honors its ancestor. It’s lively, fast and efficient, like the sum of 30 years of French-style sports cars (even if we lost fun in the meantime). However, Peugeot made 2,140,020 cars including 20,400 GTI: it’s clearly the King’s return.
King Peugeot 208 is dead, long live the king!
As you know, combustion-powered cars aren’t really at the top of their popularity. Finally, you may not realize it among your friends who drive classic or sports cars, but Western public opinion isn’t really positive about it. That’s how it is : in the spirit of the times and political priorities. Well, well…
To meet the expectations of this new market and the new standards, Peugeot has decided to produce three versions of its new Peugeot 208. The first one is equipped with a 4 cylinders turbocharged 1.5L diesel engine (that’s definitely not modern). The second one has a 1.2L turbo 3-cylinder engine (ark, 3 cylinders really?). The latest and all-new one features a 100 kW electric motor (I don’t even know what that represents).
Let’s try it! Even if at first glance, it doesn’t seem to be a winner for a new 208 GTI….
Peugeot 208 II : royal profile of a bestseller
Let’s start with the positive, the new Peugeot 208 is really splendid. Contrary to what we have known since 1998 (restyling of 206s that has made a caricature caricatured over time), Peugeot has dared to present a car with a new, strong and identifiable visual identity, which asserts a modern, young and dynamic character. As you can see, the common point between the 205, 206 and new 208 lines is that they’re in line with the times.
Indeed, the 208 is a car that you notice (and this is what the customer is looking for in 2019). From a distance my eyes are irresistibly attracted by the minimalist and straightforward design of the headlights. The overall shape is reminiscent of the 206, but they are much more angular and placed lower on the front to make it more aggressive. On the outside of the headlight, 3 led claws cross the optics to give it an indisputable badass look. But even more badass, a lion’s tooth, also in led, goes down on each side and up to the underbody. It’s original, very pretty and a nice tribute to the latest Peugeot 508. On the rim side, there is a simple but cool 17” that changes slightly between the petrol and electric versions.
Some will notice inspirations from Audi, Porsche, Mazda, Suzuki, Hyundai or an air of Citroën C3 (yes it’s true, seen from 3/4 rear), but the whole is typically Peugeot. For example, on this angry cat we have black lacquered wheel arches that remind us of the wing wideners of the 70s and 80s, personally I think it’s very cool. There is a black band that joins the tail lights, a subtle reference to the 205 (and the ultimate detail of all automakers today). Tail lights look like claws (you shouldn’t have pissed off the kitten). Finally, there is a side badge slot that evokes the 205 and the last 208. Perfect for a GTI logo, even if today it is usurped by a GTline or an E…
This new Peugeot 208 has changed shape. It has a rear windscreen, which makes its hood longer, less curved and therefore sportier. It’s 3 cm lower (yeaaaaaaah!), 9 cm longer (ohhhhhhh!) and obviously heavier (but why?). To give you a comparison order, the last 208 weighted between 975 kg and 1,148 kg. The new 208 is between 980 and 1,455 kg! Yes, it’s not obvious, excepted for the electric version which exceeds 1,400 kg (thanks to the batteries). However, the most serious thing about all this is the two extra doors. To meet the requirements of the market, Peugeot will produce its 208 in 5 doors and that’s all. You will have to explain to me who really needs 5 doors on a city car when you are under 30 years old… The main target market, if we refer to advertising campaigns. Anyway, we figured out why it’s so long.
Anyway, a very particular attention has been paid to the design of this new 208. I love the work that has been done, especially with the yellow, blue and red presentation shades.
Three Peugeot 208 for one throne
During my test drive, I started with the Peugeot 208 1.5 litre BlueHDi. As you know, or as you might expect, diesel engines are not really my favorite. With its 4 cylinders and 100 HP, the car does the job, but nothing more. To make it short, by driving a little bit I realize that the pretty 17” wheels make the car quite noisy and uncomfortable. Okay, let’s move on, the diesel engine. It’s just super noisy (in the wrong sense of the word) and clunky. The manual gearbox is not bad at all.
I’m upgrading to version 1.2 PureTech 130 HP. At that time, I thought I was fully satisfied with the car. Well, no. The car shares the same defects with the diesel version except that the engine is hollow and not very expressive. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is slow, really slow and when I started trying to test the car’s limits I felt suspensions that were really too soft (even for a daily drive), a steering that was too uncommunicative and a slightly leaking front axle (in a Peugeot?). In short, it feels like just a regular car. So I’m really disappointed and it’s a shame, because inside the car I feel really good.
Indeed, the atmosphere on board is very pleasant even if I’m being challenged by the imitation carbon! Unlike other car manufacturers, Peugeot has found the perfect moulded plastic to give this characteristic relief of carbon fibre without producing a cheap and rough material. In fact, all the plastics are well chosen, pleasant to look at and touch. The design of the dashboard is angular but minimalist. Small lacquered touches give a little life (and dust), yellow topstitching boost the overall quality impression. We find flat piano buttons that we already liked in the 508 (although with a physical feedback it would be better), a wireless smartphone charger and a touch screen that does the job well too. Actually, the screen is fine but the software is complicated and not very ergonomic. The GTline’s seats are beautiful, tone-in-tone stitched, hold well and the leather smell good. The steering wheel is still as small but pleasant to use. Finally, we find the i-Cockpit… So yes it’s beautiful, but when you’re tall and like to drive with a rather low position, you have little chance of seeing the speedometer. By the way, the i-Cockpit is now 3D! On paper it looks like a gadget but in reality it’s really cool. Thanks to the superposition of two screens, the i-Cockpit can transparently superimpose information and create a smart hierarchy of information. It’s really great and very useful. In addition, the software has been particularly well worked on, which makes the i-Cockpit 3D one of the best speedometers I have ever had the chance to try on a modern car.
Inside the Peugeot e-208 nothing changes except the GTline finish, which is more modern. Indeed, the seats are covered with Alcantara and very pretty grey stretch fabric. I love this risk-taking, which is reminiscent of the BMW i3 and will certainly appeal to cool and dynamic young people.
I press “Start” and nothing happens, I’m in an electric car. The first thing I’m trying to do is of course to get a standing start and this is a revelation! Finally the 208 I was waiting for. It starts strong for a city ride. With electricity helping, power and torque are delivered right now all the time, and that’s really cool especially when you don’t have a huge engine and a heavy car. With the equivalent of 136 HP (6 more than the gasoline car) and 260 Nm (10 more), you feel like you’re driving a dynamic car. However, soundproofing problems persist. Indeed, without engine noise, we notice even more the rolling noise due to the 17” rims. Not to mention the relative discomfort that makes you jump on the big imperfections of the road. By driving a little more sporty, I find a more balanced and healthy car than the ones with combustion engines, probably weighted by batteries. The chassis looks good, it’s almost playful actually (despite its weight). Plus, you got a front grille with bodywork color spots and specific Peugeot lion logo, chrome and blue.
But what went well in the minds of Peugeot gods?
I turned the problem around and at first, I couldn’t understand why Peugeot had produced such disappointing combustion powered engine versions. In the end, I think the answer is quite simple: Peugeot is all about electricity.
By producing a sexy and modern electric car, Peugeot hits hard. Unlike all the other manufacturers before, you don’t have an electric car, you have the new 208 and not just any 208, the best 208 on the market today, the e-208. This strategy to restore the image of electric cars is very interesting and very clever, I sincerely believe that the new e-208 will be a bestseller.
So yes, the 340 km range will thrill more than one potential customer, but when you go to the dealership, try a gasoline car and then the same one in electric, and the experience is really incomparable, you buy the electric version. That’s for sure. Or almost, despite the much higher price.
I think Peugeot has designed a very good electric car that they have duplicated in combustion versions to cover all uses and markets. Except that the requirements of manufacturing an electric car are very different from those of a gasoline ones. Result: the electric car is complete, the combustion cars are (how can I put it gently) basic. Peugeot has deliberately produced combustion cars that are less efficient and cool than electric cars? Maybe, nothing proves it, but after this test I wonder.
#FunToDrive Score: 62/100
The smartest thing about that? They designed an electric car that looks like a regular one. Until now electric cars were different cars, so it was easy to make fun of those who drove them and therefore not very attractive to potential buyers (on top of that they were ugly and weird named). Thanks to Peugeot, it’s no longer a claiming or political act, it’s just normal to buy an electric version because it’s the best version offered in the range.
Indeed, the Peugeot e-208 is a good electric car, probably one of the best I have ever driven, but it’s above all a good car. It’s beautiful, well thought and efficient. What more could you ask for? You can ask for small rims, you will gain in comfort (tested and approved during the test), but it’s true, they are less pretty. You can also wait for Peugeot to release a sporty version of the e-208, because I’m sure they will. Their current slogan is “Unboring the future”, so they’ll do it undoubtedly.
Peugeot 208 GT-e, that sounds good, doesn’t it? Let’s face it, we will no longer have an GTI as we have known them, it’s sad but that is the way it is. The lion will no longer roar, but it will hiss, we have to know how to move on. We had already lost the GTI logo, remember the 206 S16. Was it really bad? No, what would be more serious is to lose the GTI philosophy. Anyway, should we really complain if Peugeot produces the most beautiful, funnest and fastest hot hatches in the near future? Probably not. The rest in a few months, we are counting on you Peugeot Team…