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WHEELY Fun

There's nothing like a bit of nostalgia.

It can hit you at the most inopportune moment and unleash the fondest of memories.

Time, location or destination bear no relevance to what triggers this journey into the past.

A tight parking spot in a dark underground shopping centre may not be the most glamourous of places but its where I experienced my deja vu.

Firstly, how I got there.

Well, for the previous couple of days I had succumbed to the charms of the new Peugeot 208 -- a welcome successor to the 207.

This handsome little beast shares the same design DNA of its bigger brother, the sleek and quite chic 508 saloon.

Quirky design touches like the double crease in the bonnet which fades and comes back to life again at the rear of the roof make her stand out.

Smatterings of bling like the chrome inserts around the foglights and the scooping flick which runs past the rear window (in the three-door version) compliment the swooping parallel lines from the back light to the middle of the door.

And the clever use of oversized headlights which creep almost half way up the front wings and the deeper grille give it a much more aggressive masculine look to what is a smaller car than the 207.

But it's inside which will blow you away with a cabin layout more at home in a compact executive.

For starters its bigger with extra leg and head room for both driver and passengers while boasting an extra 15 litres of luggage space.

The cabin is dominated by two things -- the position and size of the steering wheel and the central console which features a 7 inch touch screen infotainment system.

It controls the radio/CD/iPod as well as Bluetooth, cruise control and sat nav (options) which can also be accessed through the leather, multi function steering wheel.

But the 'piece de resistance' has to be the chunky wheel.

Reduced to accommodate the main clocks, the lap level positioning is bound to freak out some potential buyers.

It is the 208's Marmite moment and defines this car -- you'll either love or loathe it.

I absolutely adored it.

Memories of my brother's 70's black Austin Mini with grey stripes up the bonnet came flooding back.

Now, the car itself was pretty forgettable bar one feature -- the sports steering wheel.

Sitting in the driver's seat pretending you're David Starsky screeching around corners ... rocking the wheel back and forth, this 9-year-old believed the little rust bucket was a red Ford Gran Torino.

It still makes me smile thinking about it -- just like the 208.

The feel good factor is what this little car has in spades.

Drive-wise, the 1.4 litre, 78bhp diesel engine isn't going to set the world on fire, but it is more than capable around town and coped pretty well on the motorway.

Economy ... you couldn't fault it as this little dynamo was returning well over 60mpg while the emissions on all diesels are under 100g/km -- meaning lowest tax band of €160.

So how does it shape up to its main rivals -- namely the VW Polo and the Ford Fiesta?

Not bad actually.

While the 208 may not be put together as well as the Polo, what it lacks in build quality it more than makes up for in equipment.

And the Ford may have the upper hand on comfort but priced at €14,495, it's a whole lotta fun for a grand less.


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