Impressive new

Peugeot 208

Peugeot e-208, 2019, front
Peugeot e-208, 2019, front, action
Peugeot e-208, 2019, rear, action
Peugeot e-208, 2019, display screen
Peugeot e-208, 2019, interior
Peugeot e-208, 2019, boot

THE name - or number actually - is the same, but just about everything else is new.

Possibly the best news for Peugeot fans is that latest 208 hatchback captures some of the old magic of the original 205 which won the hearts of so many back in the 1980s with its sheer style and freshness.

Not that there's much retro about the five-door that faces stiff competition from Fiesta, Polo and the new Renault Clio which is set to arrive in showrooms. But there's a purposefulness in its shape and a new muscularity about the hindquarters that's reminiscent of its forebear.

If cars sell on their looks - and that's unquestionable - the reborn in-house designed 208 could be a winner. But there's a lot more to it than that...

For starters, Peugeot is the only maker to offer a supermini with a choice of petrol, diesel and all-electric in a single body shape. Yes, electric, which marketing bosses ambitiously expect to take up to 20 per cent of sales in UK.

Prices start at £16,250 and there will be a choice of body trims starting with the Active and four power units, three petrol (75bhp, 99bhp, 128bhp) one diesel (100bhp, 1.5-litre) and the pure electric with 134bhp. All the petrol models are 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinders.

Order books are now open and the first cars will go out in New Year.

Best seller is expected to be the 100 petrol which blends miserly fuel thirst with a peppy performance that takes the hatch to 62mph in just under 10secs and on to 117mph. Economy is given at 46.6mpg to 53mpg.

Certainly, this unit seems to fit the car a treat offering strong acceleration both from rest and in high gear. It's exceptionally refined with only a distant hum from the three-pot engine, and little wind noise as the clean shape cuts through the air.

Ride is composed and comfortable until you encounter undulations when the suspension begins to feel a little choppy.

No shortage of cornering grip and the tiny leather covered steering wheel that's part of the excellent iCockpit design makes the rack feel pleasantly high geared.

Less impressive is the six-speed gearbox which feels a bit like stirring porridge. It has a long throw action and several test drivers had trouble engaging first gear.

I also sampled the 130 PureTech with eight-speed automatic gearbox. Smooth and relaxing, with a decent turn of speed - 62mph is reached in 8.7 seconds, it feels a much bigger car than its dimensions suggest.

It's a relaxing and competent drive rather than dynamically sporty which will probably suit the majority of owners.

With similar dimensions to the outgoing model, but marginally longer, the newcomer makes better use of its space.

Both the boot and cabin are towards the best in the sector and the styling and finish puts most rivals in the shade.

The facia trim wraps around nicely, the controls and toggle switches feel good and work well. There's a general air of quality and a genuine ambience about the interior that's unmatched.

Front seats are softer upholstered than the German competitors but they offer ample support and proved comfortable over a two-hour journey. Those in the back are fine for two adults and legroom as about average for the class.

Special mention must be made about the all-electric e-208 which at £25,000 with the Government grant is understandably the most expensive model.

What most potential buyers will want to know is its range, which is an impressive 211 miles.

A brief drive proved it to be just as appealing, perhaps more so, than the lively 130 PureTech. The smooth, single gear take-off is impressive not just for its rapidity (0-62mph in 8.1 seconds) but also for its silence.

On twisty sections it feels assured and deft, sitting squattly through the bends with good steering response - if anything it's better than the petrol. The battery pack is situated beneath the rear seats lowering the centre of gravity and benefiting handling.

So will there be GTI version? Although there's no official confirmation of one, I'd happily bet my house on it happening.

Stunning looks plus a revival in charm and chic mean that market-leading Fiesta now has a serious fight on its hands.

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