The Peugeot 208 is the latest small car from a brand whose smaller models have failed to live up to their 1980s heyday.
But the Peugeot 208 could turn the tide for the brand after a lukewarm response to the capable but uninspiring Peugeot 207 and before that, the Peugeot 206.
Peugeot has worked hard to update the design to bring back the old 'French chic' cliché, while interior quality, engine technology and equipment have all been the subject of an overhaul as Peugeot chases runaway successes such as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa in the lucrative small car segment.
Nearly one third of all new cars sold are small hatchbacks and, if early figures are used, the Peugeot 208 is the rising star in the segment, creeping into the top ten best sellers across the entire market in January 2013.
We decided this was enough to warrant a closer look at the stylish new Peugeot 208 as part of our latest test drive.
Introducing the Peugeot 208
Prices for the Peugeot 208 start from £9,995, which puts the supermini in exactly the same price bracket as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
All three come with models below £10,000 although these will be at the more basic end of the range. The Peugeot 208's price rises to a staggering £17,845 for top-level models - although demand for these is likely to be extremely low when a well-equipped Ford Focus is priced at a similar level.
At lower price points the Peugeot 208 looks like good value on paper. It certainly looks the part with extensive styling updates giving it a modern, classy feel.
There's heavily stylised headlamps, a rakish, sloping roofline and hints of chrome on the front grille to move the car upmarket.
It arguably looks better than the new Fiesta and signals a return to form for the brand. It certainly whets the appetite for a new Peugeot 208 GTi hot hatch, which could be the first to bring back the old magic of the stunning Peugeot 205 GTi.
Under the bonnet
While we will have to wait until later in the year of the performance-packed Peugeot 208, the range is kitted out with plenty of engine options.
These include the now ubiquitous 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine setup introduced to the likes of the Fiesta. Peugeot's version comes in 67bhp variation but a 1.2-litre, 81bhp option is also available. The less powerful of the two offers sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions for the first time on a petrol Peugeot 208 model.
More powerful petrol options include a 1.4-litre and a 1.6-litre in two power outputs including a 154bhp range-topper.
The diesel range offers three options including a 67bhp 1.4-litre unit and two 1.6-litre powerplants.
The former is the most efficient, delivering an impressive 87g/km and subsequently is eligible for free UK road tax and exemption from the London congestion charge.
Inside the Peugeot 208
There is a marked improvement in the quality of the 208's interior over the 207 model. Higher quality plastics and a more ergonomically-designed cockpit ensure the interior feels more upmarket than ever before.
Entry-level models are fairly basic with electric windows, central locking and a radio amongst the spartan equipment levels, but Active models (starting from £11,695) add 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, Bluetooth connectivity and a colour touch screen.
At the top, and more expensive, end of the range you will find sports seats, a panoramic sunroof, body kit such as rear spoilers and larger alloy wheels which, although looking good, give the car a firmer ride than you would like for such a small car.
On the road
Driving the Peugeot 208 is a more pleasant experience than many small cars thanks to the sharp steering and comfortable driving position.
Around town the Peugeot 208 excels and it is in built-up areas where the new 208 really makes sense. At higher speeds it can be a little bit bumpy and the steering can be a little light but that is not really what the Peugeot 208 is for.
However, wind and road noise are well insulated in the cabin and the car is capable of travelling on the motorway with ease, particularly with the more powerful engines.
Is the Peugeot 208 enough to challenge the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa at the top of the sales charts? It's certainly the best-looking of the three and as an all-rounder it won't let you down.
Choose the correct engine and trim choices and the 208 is an excellent small car option - we can highly recommend it.http://www.youtube.com/watch0?v=S_eGolRwsq8
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