independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Steering a course to the 208

NOT JUST A GIRLIE CAR: The Peugeot 208 is comfortable and pleasant to look at

It's not just size that matters for Campbell Spray, the Peugeot also offers a funky infotainment touchscreen

DODGEMS, perhaps fittingly for a latent motoring correspondent, were one of my favourite activities. I adored it when the fair came to town and I could show off my prowess in two areas, air rifle shooting and driving the little cars full pelt -- which was probably not more than a trot -- across the rink.

I loved throwing the little steering wheel around so I could escape the attentions of the bullies who were determined to bump the boarding school boy out of existence. In my car, I was master of my own fate.

I thought of those happy times and that small steering wheel when I picked up the Peugeot 208 for its test earlier this month. The 208's dinky little steering wheel also reminded me of a couple of go-kart sessions that back in the early Sixties were really something new and special.

Despite driving very precisely, this aspect of the Peugeot took a little getting used to, as did the rather close together foot pedals, especially when I was wearing trainers; but then I have often thought of this small Peugeot's predecessors as very much a female car in many of its attributes. However, the 208 -- and this time the number is to stay through all upgrades and new models -- is remarkably roomy with enough leg and height space to fit me behind me, if you get my drift.

In fact, the car might be smaller outside than its predecessor but is and feels much bigger inside.

Despite the high spec of the model I was driving, it still had wind-up rear windows. Which is all very well if you go into the sea and want to get out but is damn tricky if you are a big black and white dog and want some air.

It also was the first car, of what is likely to be many, that does away with the CD player. Instead in the higher trims it has a very a funky connectivity touchscreen through which you will get all your entertainment and information and also play everything from your smartphone.

Pity I don't have one and instead carry around a medley of CDs. Never mind, I will catch up eventually.

The 208 is a very thoughtful car with masses of storage space, cup-holders and the like. It is comfortable, adaptable and extremely pleasant to look at although the allure of the test car's metallic washed-out pink, actually called Blossom Grey, would wane.

The test car was the highest (Allure) spec and with the 1.4 HDi engine the five-door hatchback came to just under €21,000 before dreaded delivery charges. A much better bet might be the 1.2 petrol engine with Active trim which comes in the best part of €3,000 cheaper at €17,295. Very tasty, but those looking for a bargain can get the 1.0 petrol model with Access trim (no AC, alloys or touchscreen but good safety equipment and full-size spare) for €14,995 three-door, €15,595 five-door plus DDC. All the 208 engines are in the lowest tax band

There is an amazing competency about the new 208. It deserves to do well and build on the massive success of its forbears. It is a pity that there aren't enough young people out there with available money to let it reach its potential. Yet it is a car that older couples, singles and downsizers can be really happy with. It drives well and is already picking up the awards.

* * *

I am off for a couple of weeks during which I'll be driving the Volvo V-40, Ford Focus with the Eco Boost engine and a medley of Minis. Sunday Independent LIFE Editor Brendan O'Connor and Photographic Editor David Conachy will be filling in with some style.

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