Good: attractive inside and out, great new petrol engine
Not so good: long-winded gear shift, new engine not cheap
I don't like to focus too much on the specification or colour of a particular test car in a review, as it may or may not be relevant to most buyers. That's certainly the case here in the (almost) range-topping Peugeot 208 Allure, but there are a few aspects of it that warrant more attention. First up, which you'll have noticed, is its colour scheme. It features textured paint, one of the new options marking out the facelifted 208 line-up. This costs €610 (metallic paint is €465) and it gives the car an incredibly unique look. Not only that, but it 'feels' good to touch too. How many cars can you say that about? On seeing it for the first time my kids actually ran over to it and stroked the car. Apparently it's hard-wearing, presumably to withstand all that tactile attention it demands...
In my time with the car I caught a lot of people gawping at the 208, and though the revised model gains twinkly new lights front and rear, plus a restyled radiator grille, I'm thinking it was more to do with the paintwork. Of course, it works particularly well with the Lime Green pack also fitted (a €270 option), which gives the 208 green badge lettering, a green insert for the door mirrors and a highly distinctive grille with green accents. I wasn't sure about this on first acquaintance, but I grew to like it a lot. Whether I'd be daring enough to spend my own money on this colour scheme with the worry of resale value hanging over my head, I'm not so sure, but then again, if it's on a PCP and comes with a guaranteed future minimum value, it's worth having a little fun, right?
Same can be said for the engine. Petrol power still reigns supreme in small cars, for good reason, and Peugeot has several options to suit all budgets. At the lower end of the scale is a 68hp 1.0-litre unit, while the company's excellent new 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech engine is available in 82- and 110hp guises. We tested the latter and it's a hoot. That's plenty of power to haul around 975kg of Peugeot supermini and the gearing works well whether you're nipping around town or cruising on the motorway. The five-speed manual gearbox has an excessively long 'throw', making it less than satisfying, but there's plenty of torque so you never need to rush changes. The 208 impresses most in an urban environment, where its compact footprint, good visibility and quick steering help it feel at home, but it's perfectly capable of longer journeys. Indeed, the engine is all but inaudible unless you explore the upper reaches of the rev counter.
That rev counter (and the speedometer) is viewed, as before, above the rim of the dinky steering wheel. Some still don't like this layout, and many will have to adjust their seating position and the height of the wheel to ensure that they can see all the instruments, but I found it fine and it does mean the dials are closer to your line of sight. The steering wheel itself is very small, making the 208 feel even more agile. In the Allure model it's trimmed in lovely stitched leather. The seven-inch touchscreen is close to hand and works acceptably well rather than impressively so.
More importantly, the cabin is comfortable and pretty spacious for the class. This underlines how Peugeot has done the basics right in the 208, even if we've tended to focus on the superficial aspects of the updated model.