Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Peugeot 208

Years built: 2012 to 2020

Bodystyles: Three-and-five-door supermini

What is it?

There’s a new Peugeot 208 just gone on sale, so this seems like a good time to take a look back at the outgoing model, which makes for a surprisingly sturdy, and certainly fun-to-drive, affordable small car. The replacement for the rather unloved old 207 was a big change-up for Peugeot in 2012, and it saw the French brand return, at least in part, to the glory days of its classic small cars, such as the 205 and 106. Pert, perky, and cute, the 208 is an ideal second hand choice today if you’re looking for a small, affordable hatchback that’s still spacious enough for family life.

Which one should I buy?

The 208 was initially launched with a choice of 1.0 and 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines, plus 1.4 and 1.6-litre four-cylinder units, and 1.4 and 1.6 diesels. Diesel engines may have fallen out of fashion, especially amongst small car buyers, but the Peugeot engines were never implicated in any emissions cheating, and if you cover a lot of miles, and want to maximise your fuel economy, then a 208 diesel might still be a good choice. You could, potentially, get 70mpg out of it on a gentle run.

Probably the more sensible choice, though, is the 1.2-litre ‘PureTech’ three-cylinder petrol engine, which came in a choice of outputs from an 82hp naturally-aspirated version to a turbocharged 110hp version. Obviously, the turbo model is very fleet, and has exceptionally good mid-range acceleration, but the 82hp model is hardly left standing, and the fact that it’s both smooth-revving, and sounds good when you do so (emitting a delightful, raspy, three-cylinder exhaust note) means that, subjectively, it feels quicker than it is.

Inside, the 208 was one of the first cars to get Peugeot’s occasionally controversial ‘i-Cockpit’ cabin layout, which pairs a small, low-set steering wheel with instruments mounted high-up, above the rim of the wheel. Not everyone gets on with this layout especially well — some find that the wheel sits too close to their knees, others find that the small size of the wheel makes the nose of the car feel too ‘darty’ in corners, so try before you buy.

You’ll also want to find a 208 with decent specification, as otherwise you end up with no central touchscreen, and the cabin ends up looking rather too bare and plain. An Active, or better still, Allure model would be the best to go for, as you get the screen, and also other items such as air conditioning (especially on later models, as the 208 became steadily better-equipped throughout its life).

Just avoid the ‘Ecomatique’ auto gearbox option — it’s an automated manual, rather than a proper automatic, and so the gear changes are slow and ponderous, and generally feel pretty sluggish.

Five-door models are generally easier to sell on than three-door models, and in 2015 the 208 was given a small facelift, that saw lower Co2 emissions for some engines, improved cabin quality, and lightly tweaked exterior styling.

How much should I spend? Circa €11,000 will get you a 2017 208 with high spec levels.

Here’s one we found:

2017 Peugeot  208 1.2 PureTech Allure, 40,000km, one owner, €11,950 from a main dealer.

What goes wrong?

Remember that touchscreen we said you needed? Yeah, about that… It can prove a weak point, as not only is the menu layout a bit fiddly, but the screen can sometimes freeze and refuse to co-operate. Switching the ignition off and on again will usually un-stick it, but not every time.

Brakes can be an issue, not in terms of their actual stopping power, but in terms of the 208 getting through discs and pads quicker than you might expect. The handbrake can also stick in the ‘on’ position.

The top mounting bushes of the shock absorbers can fail, and that’s an NCT failure point, so listen for knocking noises over bumps, and be suspicious of a 208 that doesn’t ride smoothly. Clutches are also rapid-wear items, for some reason, so budget for regular replacement. A wet boot from a split rear windscreen washer is a common issue, too.

The good news, though, is that a Peugeot is rapidly becoming one of the most reliable cars you can buy — the French brand topped last year’s JD Power independent vehicle quality survey, which is great news for owners and prospective buyers.

Anything else?

Let’s not forget the GTI. The 208 GTI certainly managed to rekindle some of the old magic of the classic 205, and the good news is that its 1.6-litre THP turbo petrol engine is both surprisingly economical, and has reasonable emissions figures, so it’s a practical and affordable choice if you’re looking for a fun performance car. With 200hp, it’s also very quick, and if you really shop around you might be able to find a rare 208 GTI By Peugeot Sport model which had more power (210hp) and a chassis, steering, and brakes tweaked by Peugeot’s in-house racing team.

And when you’ve found your perfect Peugeot 208 don’t forget to get it history checked by motorcheck.ie.