Peugeot 208: Sexy hatch takes the smooth line

By Liz Dobson

The new Peugeot 208, pictured at its swanky launch in Lisbon, will land here in September. Photo / Supplied
The new Peugeot 208, pictured at its swanky launch in Lisbon, will land here in September. Photo / Supplied

It seemed fitting that at the international launch of the Peugeot 208 that my room number at an exclusive resort in Portugal is 208.

What isn't fitting is that when the hatchback's interior designer, Adam Bazydlo, goes to sign a bar tab he puts his room down as 208.

"Um that's my room," I tell the affable Bazydlo, who is "shouting" some motoring writers to a post-press conference drink.

Shocked, he apologises, puts his correct room number down and explains, "After speaking about the 208 for more than a month that's the only number I remember."

We're the last group of around 1000 international journalists who are at the coastal resort of Cascais, 40 minutes out of Lisbon.

For six weeks, Bazydlo and the team from Peugeot HQ have talked about the hatchback they're hoping will attract the same adoration as the beloved 205.

The company wants to revitalise the marque with what they are calling "the most ambitious specification overhaul ever undertaken to create a vehicle which marks a true generation leap".

Lagging behind competitors in Europe, the company's plan is, among others, to introduce more women to the hatchback and next year have 10 per cent share of the B-segment, in which the 208 sits.

It's main competitors in Europe are VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio while in New Zealand the 208 will also be taking on the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai's i20 and Kia's Rio.

Although just launched in Europe, we won't be seeing the hatch in New Zealand until September - but it will be worth the wait.

The models to be sold in New Zealand will all have a 1.6-litre petrol engine with auto transmissions and come in three variants: the five door Active, and three- and five-door Allure.

Standard across the range will be six airbags and ESP, bluetooth and cooled glovebox while the Allure models gain such features as sports seats and LED lights.

Peugeot's local distributor, Sime Darby, hopes to sell 300 models of the 208 over a 12-month period to help the French brand hit 1000 sales of its vehicles here.

Key to that overall increase is the price of the 208, with the present 207 retailing from $25,990.

"The objective ... was the new 208 launches at the same price as the 207 range it replaces, which we are pleased to say we expect to achieve," said Simon Rose, divisional manager of Sime Darby.

"The new 208 delivers superb experience for the drive in terms of feel and handling, reminiscent of the GTi and 205 era."

And the 208 achieves that. Forget about the middle-of-the road looks of the 206 and 207, this hatch is a one sexy beast - thanks in part to Bazydlo.

The interior is a simpler affair - gone is the clutter of the dash and bland fascia - instead the car gains a clean look with the "heads-up" instrument cluster's contents sitting just over the top of the steering wheel. That means the speedo and rev-counter can be seen an easy glance.

The dash gains a pop-up screen, with the air conditioning vents and and controls angled below it.

But it's the steering wheel that dominates the cabin's style. It's smaller than previous models and its flattened rather than rounded base produces a sporty look. It's smaller size also helps direct and precise driving control, as demonstrated It's at speed that the 208 shows its dominance in the B-segment. around the windy mountain roads outside of Lisbon.

The 208 is 7cm shorter than the 207, but the new car has more rear legroom because of thinner front seats.

The exterior continues the refined styling cues of the interior with a floating front grille and a compact overhang that gives the bonnet shorter lines.

The body gains sculptured lines while the boot has a subdued curve as the dominate look is instead the C-shaped rear lights that really make the car stand out on the motorway when you're following it.

And it's at speed that the 208 shows its dominance in the B-segment. Testing the manual five-speed petrol and six-speed diesel through Lisbon's motorway system then into the mountains, I admire the hatch's smooth handling and ease of maneuvering - thanks in part to the small steering.

Though the car bumped through the cobbled roads of villages, so too would many of its competitors - those 500-year-old roads were made for hooves not hoofing it!

- NZ Herald

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