Friday 9 December 2016

Cars: Paint your wagon: how 208 shifts to future gear

But real shining lights are hidden

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

Peugeot 208 - shifting up a gear
Peugeot 208 - shifting up a gear

Fads come and fads go but sometimes real change catches us unaware. I think that nearly happened with me this week.

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I don't know if 'textured' paint on cars is going to be a passing phase or part of the future but it was on my recent Peugeot 208 5dr hatchback.

To the touch it was a tad coarse, grainy and, if I'm honest, the matt finish was dull to look at and did the car's contours few favours.

I'll admit I'm not a fan. I don't like it now for its dullness but will probably come to accept it over time. You'd never know; it might grow on me. That has happened me before.

One good thing is that, from €610, it is not much more expensive than metallic (from €465); so something different on your car isn't going to cost a lot - if you feel the need.

It is applied at the factory (as was the 'Lime Green' little inserts that personalised the test car). Peugeot claim it is more durable than normal paint. They say it is going to be all the rave; people did comment favourably on it during my test drives.

And yet as far as I was concerned it was completely upstaged by something as old as motoring itself; something that has caused millions to grimace, or grin, over the years.

The gear-change in the 208 1.2-litre PureTech petrol I had on test brought on a bit of a rave from me. It wasn't even a 6spd transmission; it was a conventional 5spd gearbox. Yet the smooth and agile change-up and down transformed my drive and perception of this revised supermini.

It was, without doubt, the best manual gear-change I've encountered this year. That's a mouthful but I defy contradiction on it.

You know, when you think about the number of times you change gear every trip, every day, week, month year, something that makes it easy is a real blessing. Especially in heavy traffic where you are moving in the lower gears.

It is only when you sample something this good you realise how ordinary some others can be.

Additionally, I would argue, the attribute is all the more important in this car because I think it is one of those little motors that suits younger (first-time drivers, second car families) and mature (downsizing, 'empty nesters') owners in equal measure.

Whether or not they like the small steering wheel that is such an integral part of the car - it is tiny - is a matter of taste.

Its extremely modest circumference and positioning mean you can see information that the top of a conventionally-sized wheel would normally conceal.

That's not necessarily why I like it (though it is a plus). I happen to enjoy it because, like the 5spd gearshift, it suits me, how/where I sit and how I drive.

I am aware it has its critics and is very much an item you need to check for yourself.

I don't think it is a fad, by the way. I think - there are those who will disagree vehemently - it is an innovation. And innovation is the heartbeat of motoring.

Which brings me to the main reason I initially took the car on test: to try out the new 1.2-litre Puretech petrol.

I won't go over old ground about how petrol technology is bridging the gap to diesel.

It still has some way to go but judging by this 110bhp version not a far as you might think.

This is a proper piece of engineering with plenty of poke in it as well as an easy tick-over at lights and quiet work in the middle gears on city routes. The 5spd box and it had a good thing going.

It can be easy to overlook real change and I think maybe I've been a bit guilty of that on this car.

But, you know, the great irony of my 208 test drive only dawned on me as I handed it over to an obliging colleague.

It was that this shone where you couldn't see it (gearbox, engine) and didn't where you could (textured paint).

Isn't that how life goes sometimes?

Facts & figures

Peugeot 208 Allure 5dr; 1.2-litre, 3cyl, 110bhp PureTech petrol, 103g/km, €190 tax, 4.5l/100km. Standard 208 spec includes cruise control/speed limiter, six airbags, front electric windows, spare wheel, two ISOFIX seats. Allure spec adds: LED daytime running lights, auto lights/wipers, auto dual-zone air con, reverse parking sensors, front fogs, multi-function touchscreen, 16ins alloys.

Price from €20,410 ex-works. Range from €14,845. Test car had ‘Lime Green personalisation’ (from €270) and textured paint (from €610).

My side of the road

One afternoon as my daughter and I shuffled along the road parallel with the DART line in Dun Laoghaire we counted seven people on the phone in their car. Women, men, young and old - they were all at it. We were about 10 minutes in the traffic.

What is it going to take to stop this? I knew it was bad but our experience suggests there has been a complete breakdown.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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