IT'S au revoir to our little Peugeot 208 Active after three months and 6440km of family use.
Family use? But it's a city car I hear you cry! Very true, but let's not forget it's perfectly possible for a family of four like us to survive without a dual cab ute or massive SUV in our lives, despite what the car commercials tell you.
We tested the $21,990 208 Active five-door hatch with auto gearbox (the entry-level manual 208 Access is just $15,990) over 12 weeks to get a truer ownership experience. Time enough to really get familiar with its pros and cons.
Lots to love
Ok, here's the good. It's a beautiful exterior design in my eyes, certainly trumping many of the vanilla shapes ubiquitous in the compact car segment.
Peugeot's colour palette for the 208 gives the opportunity to jazz it up further, so while our test car was black, interested buyers should definitely ignore the dull hues and look at the metallics ($990 extra) like Rioja red, Virtual blue or my favourite, Orange Power. Or drop an extra $1050 for the very cool Ice silver or Ice grey matte paints.
The overall drive experience was impressive too.
The 208 Active employs a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine good for 81kW and 205Nm, which is a fun and revvy little thing that delivered an excellent real-world 5.9L/100km over its 6440km.
Gearbox here is a six-speed automatic which did hunt for the right cog at times and proved somewhat tardy, having me wish this three-cylinder was mated to a nice short-throw manual gearbox, as a small French car should be. I'm aware I'm a bit of a dinosaur in thinking this these days though.
General drive comfort was always very good, with the cloth seats firm but never causing complaint over long journeys; steering and chassis balance showed it's a well set-up thing and it was genuinely fun to punt along a country road.
It also served well enough as a motorway cruiser, and how nice to be in town with a small car rather than a cumbersome SUV: they're called city cars for good reason.
The cabin was roomy enough for a compact car, and the kids (both under five years old) were accommodated fine in their car seats on the rear bench. Boot space too, at 311-litres, isn't half bad for the class.
Baby buggy and child's bike squeezed in, while I split-folded the rear seat and my road bike went in with its front wheel off. Practical enough.
There are some nice cabin features such as a lovely small steering wheel (helping you see the dash dials over rather than through it), a grained-effect sweeping dash and some piano black finishes.
The touchscreen and Arkamys audio system too were hard to fault, but there are many cars in this segment with desirable smartphone-mirroring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a rear camera as standard. (the latter cost $300 on our 208 Active). Such things could be deal breakers for compact car shoppers.
The not so good
Negatively the cabin on the whole was awash with hard plastics; the cup holders were laughably small and the glovebox tiny: it wouldn't even accommodate the owner's manual (can you imagine a German car company allowing this?!), but the result is comfortable leg room for the front passenger.
The A-pillars and B-pillars were also so huge they occasionally blocked my view at junctions and roundabouts.
But overall I came away from the 208 Active experience with a smile. It proved easier to live with as a family car than expected, and showed off a fun and polished side when we broke out of the city and headed for the hills.
At present Australians are buying over twice as many Renault Clios, ten times as many VW Polos and twenty times as many Mazda2s and Hyundai Accents as Peugeot 208s, many offering a tad more spec for your money - specifically rear cameras and collision warning systems.
But option your 208 well, choose a funky body colour and it's easy to forgive such things.
After all, who wants to be a sheep when shopping in the fun-packed city car segment?
Model: Peugeot 208 Active.
Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive compact hatchback.
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 81kW and 205Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Performance 0-100kmh: 10.9-seconds.
Bottom line: $21,990 before on-roads (as tested this car adds $1250 sat nav, $990 metallic paint and $300 rear camera for a total of $24,530).
Total test kilometres: 6440km.
Fuel economy as tested: 5.9-litres/100km.
The good: Lovely exterior design, innovative dash setup, funky Matte and Satin Premium finish colour choices (though sadly not for our test car), fun three-cylinder engine and chassis.
The not so good: Not as value-packed in terms of spec-for-your-dollar as some key rivals, a manual gearbox in this Active model would be appreciated, too many interior hard plastics, takes some urging to get up to speed.
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