_CONSIDERING _ its reputation for producing quality small cars such as the iconic 205, a new Peugeot release brings with it a certain level of expectation - and the 208 largely hits the mark.
With a range of body and engine types and spec options, the French car maker has aimed to make the 208 attractive - and affordable - to a large variety of buyers.
Engines, all petrol, start with a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder and go up to a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder and a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo on the three-door Allure Sport.
I had the chance to test the opposing ends of the 208 range - the economical 1.2-litre and the zippy 1.6 turbo - and the results were as diverse as expected.
The 1.2-litre is available only as a five-speed manual and only in the entry-level Active spec range.
At $18,490 plus on-road costs, it's aimed squarely at buyers looking for a cheap car to buy and run, and it succeeds, claiming to get a low 4.7L/100km combined fuel efficiency.
While I got more in the 7L/100km range doing the to-and-from-work commute, it would get close to its claimed efficiency rate with the odd longer drive in non-peak hour traffic.
Despite Peugeot appearing hellbent on cheap efficiency with the 1.2, it doesn't dawdle. Being a manual means you have a feeling of control over the car's acceleration, as opposed to similar automatic models where one plants the foot and waits/hopes for a response.
The turbo, as you'd expect, is a different proposition. In fact, considering its different body-type and tweaked interior, it feels more a distant cousin to the 1.2 than a sibling.
As the 1.2 is only available in the Active range, the three-door 1.6 Sport turbo is only available in the top-spec Allure.
Performance-wise it's great; it responds well when you put your foot down and there's enough engine noise to satisfy most drivers.
It may not be as visceral a drive as its Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo rival, but at $26,490 it is also about $5500 cheaper while lacking little by way of interior space or features.
Much like the Veloster and sporty Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, the Allure Sport is decidedly slanted towards younger drivers; the blue LED lighting on the interior roof feels almost nightclub-ish. A small racing-style steering wheel is in all models, partly for aesthetics and also to allow drivers to see the tacho display which is set high on the dashboard.
Steering on both models is fantastic; so soft a toddler could turn the steering wheel full-lock.
A schmick seven-inch touch- screen comes standard on all spec models, which is great, but it has issues - particularly during a Perth Christmas heatwave.
First, even in the top-range model, there's no sat-nav.
But the main issue is its usability - there's often a serious lag between tapping the screen or using the steering wheel controls and the unit responding, while using an iPod through it, connecting a phone via Bluetooth and a hot Christmas Day each caused the screen to freeze or turn off completely at various times.
These inconveniences wouldn't be too big a deal but Peugeot is forecasting the imminent demise of the compact disc because there's no CD player.
Summer in WA proved problematic in other areas too - the alloy gear shifter and pedals in the Allure Sport became scaldingly hot after being parked in the sun for a few hours.
I actually stalled it reversing it out of my driveway one time as I couldn't leave my bare feet on the scorching metal any longer.
Still, as a whole, the interior is a winner.
Hard plastics are passable in the Active models and the Allure spec range offers handy perks like automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, rear parking sensors and soft-touch finishes which are quite impressive in a car in this price range.
Impressively, there's ample space in the front and back in both the three and five-door versions, despite the 208 being smaller on the outside than its 207 predecessor.
While filling the five seats with adults would be a tight fit, running around with the kids in the back would be no problem.
The exterior is a lot of fun and nods to Peugeots past - it's sporty, modern and has a hint of individuality to it thanks to the marque's "floating" front grille.
Overall, Peugeot has tried to cast a wide net with the 208, from hip young things to suburban parents and wannabe racers, and it has every chance of snaring many of them.
208 five-door hatch - 1.6-litre, four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol
Active (four-speed auto only) $21,490
Allure (auto or five-speed manual) $21,990 for manual
Allure Premium (auto only) $26,490
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