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The Peugeot 208 is one of the most joyous hatchbacks we have driven. With a rather simple exterior style, Peugeot hopes the clever interior touches, such as the raised instrument panel and smaller steering wheel, will help to make the driving experience more satisfying - but has it worked?
The new 2013 Peugeot 208 is a whopping 110 kilos lighter than the Peugeot 207 and also boasts much better aerodynamics. These developments have benefits in terms of CO2 emissions and fuel economy, but the changes are perhaps most notable in the car's handling.
The ease with which the 208 corners, both around town and on longer trips, is helped by the variable assist power steering, which is exceptionally smooth and the best available on a supermini. The handling is coupled with excellent ride quality that ensures journeys are comfortable for the driver and passengers alike.
Opt for the 208 Allure (which we drove in this test drive) and it features a 1.6l VVT four-cylinder engine, capable of developing 120bhp and 160Nm of torque. It can effortlessly handle everyday driving, although you will need to work it hard when overtaking at speed.
The four-speed auto tiptronic gearbox is very user-friendly, which contributes to the overall feel of the car being a straightforward and enjoyable drive. There is also a useful cruise control feature with speed limiter.
The Peugeot 208 benefits from a high driver's seat, which helps to improve the view of the road, and a steering wheel that is adjustable for both reach and rake. The combination works well with the unusual raised instrument panel, which is visible over the wheel rather than through it. Looking at the dials in this way takes some getting used to, but it does make it easier to see them without removing your gaze from the road.
There is plenty of legroom in the front and enough in the rear seats to be comfortable. The boot is quite adequate for a supermini and, if you need extra space, there is a 60:40 split folding rear seat.
As you would expect with a Peugeot, the 208 is well-equipped, with gadgets including bizone automatic air conditioning, electric windows and central locking with keyless entry. There are also a host of safety features, such as driver and passenger airbags, auto headlights and wipers, and ABS.
The highlight of the interior though is not technology but design, which is very simple and intuitive. There are minimal controls so it's a very clutter free environment, almost as if designed by engineers from Apple.
It was a pleasure to drive this hatch and it's likely to give Volkswagen Golf a run for it's money. While it's not the most stylish hatchback from an exterior design perspective, the comfort and driving performance more than make up for it.