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Brilliant new Peugeot E-208 is a serious contender in supermini class

First drive by Paul Connolly

Peugeot has dived into the electric car market with the excellent e-208 supermini. We check it out in GT trim.

What's new?

Peugeot has taken the plunge and entered the EV market with two stylish offerings - the e-208 supermini and the e-2008 crossover.

The French manufacturer has taken a different route from rivals like Renault and Volkswagen, making the electric version just another option in the range, rather than a specialised vehicle like the Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf or VW's forthcoming ID.3.

It's fair to say this is definitely not tokenism from Peugeot; the e-208 is an excellent car that's been clearly made with the belief that the day of the zero-emissions car has finally dawned.

It fits brilliantly into the new 208 range and makes a strong statement that not only is Peugeot committed to electrification, but that electric vehicles are actually its very future.

In short, if you're interested in a smaller electric car, the e-208 should be at the top of your consideration list: it's stylish, fast, bursting with tech and has an excellent official range of 211 miles - more than enough for most drivers. Should you need juice away from home, it will charge to 80% in half an hour.

Plus, it has Peugeot's brilliant 3D iCockpit system that brings everything into the driver's eyeline in a fabulously innovative way.

What does it look like?

Impressive, actually - just like the new 208 in general. It will appeal to a range of buyers, young and old, with or without families.

As mentioned, Peugeot has integrated the e-208 into the range so there's little apart from some detailing to tell it from the standard cars.

The second generation 208 range launched last year with a brilliantly executed re-design. Out went the rather rounded and tired look of the first generation (2012-19), and in came carefully sculpted curves and a long bonnet. (Peugeot is on a roll - check out their other models.)

Click the fob and the sharp front-end lights up, with triple lion's claw lights and sabre tooth-like daytime running lights. These add a sleek, sporty air, which is enhanced at the back with three more triple claw rear lights.

GT Line and GT models have artfully-executed gloss detailing like black wheel-arch extensions and window surrounds, and a rather fetching black cluster strip that connects the rear lights.

You'll recognise the e-208 over its combustion-engined cousins through subtle touches only: a monogram "e" on the rear quarter panel, the dichroic Lion which changes colour from different angles and a body-coloured chequered front grille.

What's under the bonnet?

Naturally being pure electric and not a hybrid, there's no engine or gearbox - which means lower running/servicing costs and less to go wrong.

Power is derived from a 100kW (or 136bhp) electric motor powered by a 50kW battery that provides an official range of up to 211 miles.

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To help sway any concerns over battery malfunction or degradation, Peugeot offers a battery guarantee for eight years or 100,000 miles.

Owners will receive a certificate after each service informing them of the remaining battery capacity - this should help residual and resale values.

What's it like to drive?

This is an engaging and involving car to drive, and a huge improvement on the old 208.

The review model I drove, courtesy of Charles Hurst Peugeot, was a high-spec GT version in stunning Vertigo Blue.

It's fast, fluid, grippy and impressively quick even for B segment electric car.

The sprint from 0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds, which is very good if not market-leading. (The metric should really be 0-30mph these days, anyway, in my opinion).

There are three drive modes - Eco, Normal (the default), and Sport - and you can choose to add high battery regeneration with a B mode that uses regenerative braking.

One of the joys of driving it is to feel the car adapt when you change the modes as you drive.

Stick it in Sport mode and the throttle will sharpen under your right foot, and you'll literally feel the change to the driving dynamics in your fingertips. Take off in Sport mode and it's will like the proverbial bat out of hell; it can be hard to stop the wheels spinning.

The ride is as it should be: firm but not harsh, and cornering is excellent given the low centre of gravity thanks to the location of the batteries underneath.

You'll notice some wind noise, but this isn't because of any flaw; it's because there is no engine roar to cover it.

Electric cars have come a long way since the likes of the original Leaf with just 70 miles of range.

The e-208's official range is 211 miles. In winter driving, with the heater and lights on, or, if like me you can't resist sport mode, this will come down. But you should still expect 175 or so, unless you're really testing it (which is very tempting).

What's the cabin like?

If you haven't sat in a Peugeot in recent years, you really should. The company has found its mojo again and is making quality cars across all grades.

The e-208 is no exception. Even lower-spec cars offer well-specced cabins with lots of kit and tech as standard.

The front end is spacious and has sufficient headroom, although rear leg-room is on the tight side.

Boot space is typical for this class, although it would be nice if Peugeot would add a little com- partment for storing the charging cable. There's an adapter available that allows you to use a standard domestic three-pin plug. Handy if you're visiting someone else's house.

Peugeot is currently offering for no extra cost a domestic 7kW Pod Point wallbox charger, the recommended type for home, that will get you to 100% in eight hours. At faster commercial chargers, you'll get to 80% in the time it takes to have a coffee somewhere (30 minutes).

What's the spec like?

Unlike many manufacturers, Peugeot hasn't succumbed to the temptation to offer electrified versions only at the top end of the 208 range. All trim levels come with an EV model.

Even in lower-specification models, the cabin quality is high, good materials are used and the 3D i-Cockpit instrument binnacle offered throughout.

Incidentally, the 3D i-Cockpit is a thing of joy; through a combination of brilliant graphics and double-screen layering, the car's configurable dashboard comes to life. Other dashboards seem a bit, well, drab.

The trademark Peugeot small steering wheel is nice and sporty, although you have to be careful to set your seat correctly to see over it and into the iCockpit.

There was a beautiful 10-inch touchscreen on my GT review model that offered sat nav and live traffic updates. This is available as an option on lower spec cars, which feature a 7-inch screen.

The upshot of Peugeot's spec policy is you can get an e-208 for circa £25k including government grant. This will be an Active trim model with cruise control, traffic-sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance, for example.

The rest of the range is standard Peugeot fare, too: Active is followed by Allure, GT Line and then GT topping out at circa £29.5k with grant.

As an example, Active trim features 16-inch steel wheels, Active Safety Brake with pedestrian detection, electric and heated door mirrors and LED daytime running lights, pre-heating functionality and automatic air con.

GT Line models feature front and rear parking sensors and 180˚ reversing camera. Also included are 17-inch wheels across petrol, diesel and EV models, Active Safety Brake with Night function, cyclist and pedestrian detection, eight-colour ambient interior lighting, and full LED headlights with Smartbeam Assist. Additional styling cues include gloss black wheel arch extensions and a Diamond Black roof.

For what it's worth, hot hatch fans, it looks like more powerful Peugeot Sport Engineered e-208 with a bigger battery is coming down the line.

Verdict

I love Peugeot's view that electric is, for now, just another drivetrain like petrol or diesel. I suspect they've called it right, and most manufacturers will follow this until internal combustion engines are largely eliminated at some stage by the 2030s.

The Peugeot e-208 is a very, very good car. It has to be, of course, because the opposition like the latest Renault Zoe is very good as well.

However, with its assertive and eye-catching looks and that brilliant 3D iCockpit, it's a car that should be at the top of your shopping list. Even if you were originally in the market only for a standard petrol or diesel car, you should give it a go.

The initial extra investment will be paid back over time, and I genuinely believe that, all things being equal, electric cars will hold their value better as the end of the internal combustion engine starts to heave into sight.

When the official history of the transition from combustion to electric cars is written, it will be everyday models like the Peugeot e-208 that will stand out as key moments in the story.

The Peugeot e-208 is available from Charles Hurst Peugeot and other Peugeot dealers

Belfast Telegraph