Peugeot 208: First drive review
In the glory days, Peugeot shifted 7.7 million 206s and the iconic 205 before that found 5.2 million homes. However, the lacklustre 207 never caught buyers' imaginations - flopping with just 2.3 million shifted during its lifecycle.
Now the French firm is hoping the all new 208 can bring back the glory days and sales success to its dealers once again.
However, things are a lot tougher these days. Back in 2001, the B segment in which the 200 series models compete, there were just 16 rivals. Fast forward ten years and now there are 27 direct rivals vying for car buyers' cash.
But Peugeot hopes its new challenger can tackle the market leading Ford Fiesta head on. Aimed squarely at the sector sales leaders the French firm hopes cute looks, competitive pricing and higher spec than rivals will be enough to tempt buyers to turn French.
Sales of the 208 will ultimately make up a third of Peugeot dealers' volume too, and in 2013 the firm hopes to shift 45,000 units, so there's some serious weight on this little hatch's shoulders.
But is it any good? Well, yes and no. Firstly there's an impressive choice of engines. There are five petrol units and five diesels to choose from and with sales expected to be split 50/50 between the fuel types that comes as little surprise.
We tried the petrol 1.6-litre 155bhp, diesel 1.6-litre HDI with 115bhp, and the 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol. The diesel was excellent, but our pick has to be the characterful 1.2-litre with 82bhp and 118Nm of torque. It's both great fun to drive yet economical too, returning 62.7mpg on the combined cycle and emitting just 104g/km.
On the road it's really rather good. Dynamically it's composed and even in the lesser powered models it's good fun to chuck around bends. The ride quality is impressive, but we did find the steering very light in town.
The driving position is also strange with a tiny steering wheel that's hard to position without obscuring the clocks. Overall, though, it drives like a little French hatch back should do - and we mean that in a positive way!
The sales clincher is really on the spec sheets. Peugeot has aimed for all trim levels to be just that little bit better than Fiesta - and in this market that's vital.
The most popular trim, taking 40 per cent of sales, will be the Active. As standard on this model you get that all important air con, a touchscreen display, 15-inch alloys, cruise control, Bluetooth with audio streaming and USB. There are plenty of options too, notably sat nav which unfortunately is a little fiddly to use.
Overall, we can't help but like the 208 and it's clear there's a very good car in there waiting to escape (that'll be the GTI). However, the design is a little fussy inside and out and the Ford Fiesta is a well established and popular rival.
Pricing won't be announced until April 18, and that will be key to its success. We were promised it will undercut Fiesta while still bettering it on spec and that will be crucial if this 200 series is to bring back the glory days to Peugeot once again.