THREE-MONTH AFFAIR: We settle in for a long-term test of Peugeot's 208 compact offering in mid-spec Active guise.
THREE-MONTH AFFAIR: We settle in for a long-term test of Peugeot's 208 compact offering in mid-spec Active guise.

Enjoying a French test: Peugeot 208 Active long term review

A SHINY new car, a full tank of fuel and some magnificent driving roads cherry picked to show the vehicle in its favoured environment.  

Such is the typical way of things when cars are launched in Australia, where we journos get a very small snapshot of what living with the new model would be like.  

But what's it like to rreally live with these cars? It's only possible to know by having a long-term test, so we've secured a Peugeot 208 Active for a thorough three-month assessment.  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry

The 208 hatchback is the French brand's second best-seller here (behind the larger 308 hatch), and has sold just over 500 units in Australia in 2016 according to latest new car sales figures.   

That makes the little Pug a left-field choice. Rival Renault Clio has managed over 1300 sales for the same period, while VW's Polo outsells the 208 by about ten-to-one, and Mazda2 and Hyundai Accent by about 20-to-one. 

The compact car segment - where these models reside - is a competitive and busy one chock full of value. Most have starting prices well under $20,000, quickly rising when you add auto gearboxes and some desirable spec.

Cars such as the Peugeot 208 also have appealing halo models, in this instance the fun-filled 208 GTi.  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed

Mid-spec choice

The current generation 208 launched here in 2013, and received an update last year to bring a cheapy entry-level model, fresher styling and tech updates.  

Our car is the mid-range 208 Active which comes with an auto gearbox, 81kW three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine and optional sat nav ($1250), metallic paint ($990) and rear camera ($300). It costs $21,990 (or $24,530 with those options) before on-road charges.  

The 208 range starts with an Active model with 60kW 1.2-litre engine and manual gearbox, costing just $15,990 before on-roads, making it the most accessible price point for a Peugeot in the marque's 80-year Australian history. 

This entry-level choice is to tempt you in to the showroom though: it's almost comically skinny on kit, using steel wheels and missing out on an infotainment screen, leather steering wheel and power rear windows. Its lack of a turbo also means it takes a rather pedestrian 13.9-seconds to reach 100kmh.  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry

The compact life

So what are my first impressions? I'm smitten by the 208's sleek exterior looks. It is an elegant thing of good proportions: the French do stylish compact hatches very well (they've had plenty of practice), and the 208 certainly stands out more than many compact rivals. Highlights are the deep front grille, two-tone headlights and attractive 16-inch wheels.  

Ours comes with a black finish which dulls things down somewhat. Metallic paint costs $990, so for added verve, stretch to pay an extra $60 to get what Peugeot says is the world's first Textured Matte Premium Paint - previously only seen on the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary model, These Ice Silver or Ice Grey colours have a matte and satin finish, and promise to be more robust and resistant to micro scratches than conventional matte paint.  

MATTE FINISH: Very cool flat matte finish is available on normal 208s, before it was only found on the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary model (pictured).
MATTE FINISH: Very cool flat matte finish is available on normal 208s, before it was only found on the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary model (pictured). Mark Bean

Cabin-wise it's a bit too littered with hard plastics - not unusual in the compact segment though - cloth seats are firm but supportive, the grained-effect dashboard looks funky and the centre console simple with all but the heater controls accessed through a 7-inch touchscreen. Cup holders - as I always find in French cars - are better suited to espresso cups rather than proper drink bottles.   

Arkamys digitial sound processing means the audio system sounds great once it gets going. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto sadly (standard now on the likes of compact VWs, Skodas and Holdens), so skipping through tunes in your music library takes a tad longer in the Peugeot.  

For a compact car it does feel roomy enough up front, not least thanks to a small steering wheel and driver instruments mounted high up so you can watch your speed above rather that through the steering wheel. I'm a fan of this setup - your eyes don't need to divert off the windscreen as much as normal, but my wife has grumbled that her preferred steering wheel position obscures the speedo.  

The rear seats are occupied by two child seats at the moment. The little dears are locked in place so don't want for leg room, but being a compact car it is quite tight for space out back.  

The boot - at 311-litres - is good for its class, and I've had no problems fitting in the baby's buggy plus my four-year-old's bike. I also only needed to split-fold one of the seats to squeeze in my road bike too. It's a compact car, but practical enough for family life.  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed

On the road

Journeys so far have been mainly motorway commutes, so I'll save the full road test report until next month.  

In a nutshell, the three-cylinder turbo is a fun and revvy little thing that I'm really warming to; I just wish I had a manual gearbox to control it as the auto, as smooth as it is, does need a moment or two to waken up after I prod the throttle.  

Highway cruising is comfy and quiet at 110kmh (compact cars have come on leaps and bounds in this area in recent years), while the chassis feels playful enough in the turns, showing decent balance and poise.  

I'm returning under 6L/100km so far which is impressive (albeit well over the quoted 4.5L/100km figure), but pump prices are costlier thanks to the 208 needing at least 95 octane jungle juice.  

My next Peugeot report will see tests across a range of city and rural routes, and decide whether these compacts really can cut it as genuine family cars, despite being aimed at first-car buyers.  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Iain Curry

Vital statistics  

Model: Peugeot 208 Active.  

Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive compact hatchback.  

Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 81kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 205Nm @ 1500rpm.  

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.  

Consumption: 4.5-litres/100km.  

Performance 0-100kmh: 10.9-seconds.  

Bottom line: $21,990 before on-roads (as tested this car adds $1250 sat nav, $990 metallic paint and $300 rear camera).  

2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed
2016 Peugeot 208 Active.Photo: Contributed

Running report

Kilometres this month: 3991km.   

Fuel economy this month: 5.9-litres/100km.   

The good: Lovely exterior design, innovative dash setup, funky Matte and Satin Premium finish colour choices (though sadly not for our test car), fun three-cylinder engine.  

The not so good: Not as value-packed in terms of spec-for-your-dollar as some key rivals, a manual gearbox in this Active model would be appreciated, too many interior hard plastics, takes some urging to get up to speed.  



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