New 2021 Peugeot 208 review

Tyler Heatley

15 Nov 2021

1/8
Can the Peugeot 208 really rival the mighty Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo?

YesAuto Score:

79/ 100

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car.

YesAuto’s exhaustive evaluation criteria considers every aspect of a car in terms of how it stacks up against rival models in the same class only. Below are the areas every car is judged and scored out of 10 on, each contributing to an overall score out of 100:

  • Interior quality and design
  • Interior tech
  • Interior space
  • Boot space
  • Engine performance
  • Engine economy
  • Ride and comfort
  • Handling
  • Driving and safety tech
  • Fit for purpose

Electric cars are scored out of 10 in the following areas instead of performance and economy:

  • Battery and motor
  • Range and charging

PROS:

+ Stylish exterior design

+ Choice of petrol, diesel, or EV

+ Nimble handling


CONS:

- Not the most spacious in the class

- Infotainment system could be better

- Tiny glovebox


Verdict: The Peugeot 208 is a real show of strength from the French marque. Sure, a Ford Fiesta handles better and a Skoda Fabia is more spacious, but this hatch possessed real design flair. Beyond just looking good, it’s a rather complete little car.



2021 Peugeot 208 review: the five-minute read


As popular as SUVs are, the hatchback still reigns supreme here in the UK. Fan favourites such as the Mini and Ford Fiesta are everywhere, but Peugeot is continuing its French renaissance with an all-new B-segment hatchback. The Peugeot 208 not only needs to be markedly better than its 207 predecessor, it also has to square up to even stronger competition.


Well, the design department has certainly done its job. What a fantastic looking little car. Not only does it have a distinctive stance, but its rather unique details really turns heads in the right specification. Peugeot’s push upmarket means that it needs to appeal on a more emotive level, and the 208 certainly presents a characterful alternative to other humdrum rivals. 


It’s the same story on the inside where the cabin is far more dramatically sculpted than the dull by comparison Volkswagen Polo. Creases and interestingly patterned surfaces forge an interesting landscape that encompasses passengers and divides driver and front occupant via a high console. Depending upon spec, you can also have fancy customisable mood lighting that really elevates the perceived quality of this cabin. Speaking of quality, short of a few hard plastics lower down, there’s plenty of soft-touch materials about the place.


All cars come with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that plays nice with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. However, we’d heartily recommend upgrading to the 10-inch widescreen system that is a bit easier to use on the move. It’s a shame that these user interfaces aren’t the slickest, but CarPlay is greatly appreciate the added real estate.



Rear space is something of the 208’s Achilles’ heel as legroom comes up short. Headroom isn’t too bad, but those approaching six-foot might find space a little tight. There’s a good 311-litre boot, later than some rivals, but falling short of the latest Renault Clio.


When it comes to what’s under the bonnet, there’s a good selection. A pair of punchy petrol engines are strong performers and are arguably the best suited to this little hatchback, but there’s also a 1.5-litre diesel for those hitting the motorway more regularly. An e-208 is available should you wish to make the jump to electric motoring.


Hitting the road in one of the two petrol cars highlights that the more potent 127bhp model is ideal for a mixing urban with motorway driving, whereas the entry-level Puretech 100 is just a bit less gutsy. These three-cylinder engines possess good-mid-range torque and thrums enthusiastically when you need to get a move on, however, they are hushed at speed. Opt for the diesel and you can expect up to 73mpg.


The Ford Fiesta remains the king of keen handling in the world of little hatchbacks, but that’s not to say that the 208 is a slouch. Its short wheelbase and quick steering gives it a real sense of agility, and body roll is well controlled. It’s the steering’s lack of weight and feedback that detaches an enthusiast from the road that lets it down in this department, but this chassis has certainly got potential. GTI anyone?


Peugeot engineers have done a good job of balancing pleasing body posture with a supple ride. Of course, going for models with larger alloy wheels will result in more pronounced thudding into potholes, but sensible sidewalls concludes in a rather comfy experience.


Looking at things like practicality and handling in isolation sees the Peugeot 208 coming up a little short for class honours, but as a complete package, it is certainly one of the most appealing superminis out there.


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Extended read…



2021 Peugeot 208 interior and infotainment


Car interiors have moved on in a big way over the past decade. They are now packed with tech and far more ergonomic than ever before, however, some cabins are still a bit on the bland side in terms of design – not this 208. Dramatic surfaces with mood lighting make for a sculptural affair.


A digital instrument cluster, something that can be presented in an impressive 3D screen, sits above a small steering wheel. This layout can prove a little difficult for tall drivers, but the majority of people should be fine. Our best advice is to try before you buy.


Every Peugeot 208 comes with a 7-inch touchscreen display, however, it is well worth going for a car with a 10-inch screen. The added size makes it far easier to prod on the move, and it also amplifies the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto experience. Its native software isn’t the greatest, so plugging in a smartphone often becomes the default choice.



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2021 Peugeot 208 practicality and boot space


Obviously, being a small car the Peugeot 208 doesn’t seat seven, however, it’s fair to say that some rivals better package the back seats. Headroom isn’t too bad, but taller passengers might find their knees touching the front seats. These posts are ample for children though and feature those all-important ISOFIX points for car seats.


Open the rear hatch to reveal 311-litres of boot space, which is above average for the class. There’s a good size aperture for loading, but a notable lip that needs to be overcome when hauling heavier items into the back is in play. Something we are very pleased to report is the addition of shopping bag hooks to stop solitary shopping bags from flying around the space. 



2021 Peugeot 208 engines


There is a brilliant all-electric Peugeot 208 on offer dubbed e-208, but we’ve got a dedicated review for that EV, so let’s focus on the petrol and diesel options here.


There are two petrol engine choices, both 1.2-litre three-cylinder units. It's a great engine with good torque and has an enthusiastic engine note when revved hard. In fact, it has collected mutable engine awards over the years. The Puretech 100 is the entry point, but we’d recommend the more powerful 127bhp Puretech 130 with a bit more grunt. The latter merrily transitions from motorway to gridlock traffic, but both are rather refined.


Go for the diesel option and you’ll be pleased to discover that it can really deliver on its claimed 73mpg. This isn’t the most refined diesel engine out there, but it’s far from the worst and it possesses that all-important low-end torque.


Petrol cars can be had with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and while generally competent, it can be caught napping and be slow when engaging reverse. The manual ‘box is much better, not the slickest in its class, but a vast improvement on when came before. Diesel cars only get a six-speed manual option.


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2021 Peugeot driving


The Peugeot 208 really thrives around town. Be it the school run or nipping through traffic on the way to work, its compact size and light steering make running the urban gauntlet a breeze. Parking is easy, too, although a small rear window leads us to recommend Allure Premium trim or above that come with a reversing camera to make life easier.


Something that impresses in the 208 is its overall refinement, all engine options are hushed on the move with just a bit of road noise penetrating the cabin at higher speeds. Its ride has also been well-executed, striking a good balance between composure and comfort. 


On faster-flowing roads there’s a lack of engagement from the car, so the Fiesta is safe in that regard. The steering is just a bit too light and there’s no real feel for what the front wheels are up to. That said, the chassis has real potential with a quick change of direction and plenty of grip at its disposal. It bodes well for a future performance model but isn’t enough to excite those looking for a keen steer in this guise.


The Peugeot 208 is a great allrounder that delivers on a strong engine line-up, distinctive features and an aesthetic that might have you thinking twice about that compact SUV. Sure, there are more practical cars out there, but the Peugeot 208 marks itself as one of the more desirable B-segment hatchbacks out there. 


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Tyler Heatley

15 Nov 2021