First drive: 2015 Peugeot 208

Peugeot 208

Peugeot has given the already good-looking 208 a design update and some interesting optional extras that you never knew you wanted, which might just have buyers lining up for this stylish little number.

What is it?

The 208 is the most popular car in Peugeot's range and it's been given a well deserved freshen up. The small hatchback seats five and is available with either three or five doors. If you like the 208 but it's never been efficient or high quality enough for you to want to buy one, this is your lucky day.

Not only has the Peugeot been given a wider grille with a new 3D pattern, two-tone headlights and reworked chrome, but it's also received engine updates that provide best-in-class economy and incredible emissions of just 79g/km for the most efficient diesel. Plus, there's Peugeot's new textured paintwork, which truly makes the 208 stand out.

What's under the bonnet?

Peugeot has introduced a new range of engines for the 208, which provides even better claimed efficiency for this little car than the previous model and in 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel form the 208 boasts not only best-in-class economy but best-ever emissions figures of only 79g/km. As all of the diesel engines - in 74bhp, 98bhp and 118bhp guises - fit into the sub-100g/km of CO2 band, this means nothing to pay when it comes to taxing your car. Even better, the 74bhp engine with Stop/Start offers claimed fuel economy of 94.2mpg with the more powerful units achieving 83.1mpg and 78.5mpg respectively.

The 208's petrol counterparts are also impressively efficient, with the most frugal being the new 1.2-litre model which achieves 67.3mpg in the official economy test and emits only 97g/km of CO2, warranting free car tax. Petrol engines are also available in 1.0 and 1.6-litre form, with everything from an economy-focused 67bhp motor to the 205bhp GTi hot hatchback.

What's the spec like?

On the outside, the new 208 gets some special features, such as textured paint and two special colour personalisation packs – menthol white and lime white. The personalisation packs are available on mid-range Active and Allure specifications, and include coloured markings on the 3D grille in either white or green, colour trim on Peugeot badge and a black grille and mirrors. Inside, these versions gain sports seats and contrast stitching throughout, along with chrome air vents.

Textured paint might sound like a strange option, but when you see the car in the sunlight it looks pretty good. Available in grey and silver, the car is given a matte effect but still shines in the light. It does, however, make you want to touch the car all the time, as it feels a lot like high-grade sand paper. Another plus side is that it's super hardwearing and scratch resistant.

A sporty new GT Line trim has recently been added to the 208 range. The GT Line models gets larger alloy wheels, a red interior scheme for the touchscreen and LED rear lights.

First drive: Peugeot 208

First drive: Peugeot 208

Any rivals?

This Peugeot's main competition will come from the Ford Fiesta - the UK's bestselling car. Although the 208 is reasonable value with prices starting from £11,695, the most affordable Fiesta is still slightly cheaper. The sharp new Mazda 2 is also a tough rival. However, the 208 still retains the fun of the previous model which will likely make it a popular option with supermini buyers. The personalisation packs, upgraded looks and added paint options are sure to breathe new life into this model range.

What's it like to drive?

We took the 208 out on the rural roads of Austria, which it lapped up without fuss. Climbing the steep hills around the vineyards, even the smallest engines were able to cope – just. The grunt of the diesel was needed in some situations and we'd definitely recommend the automatic gearbox, which is smooth and copes well when worked hard.

The 208 comes with a small steering wheel, which might feel unnatural for those not used to it, but it makes driving really easy for many drivers and the car feels extremely responsive and glides through the corners. Potential buyers will want to make sure that they can find a comfortable driving position where they can see the dials before signing on the dotted line, though. Engine noise also remains at a minimum even on rougher roads.

AOL Cars verdict

Fortunately for Peugeot, the 208 has retained the characteristics which won it fans in the first place. It's pleasant to drive, has great kerb appeal with the funky new extras and, even in the lower specification models, quality is good.

Those willing to spend a little extra will definitely benefit from the upgrades available. Attractive interiors and the new exterior look with special touches, such as coloured grilles and distinctive lights, will definitely appeal to many supermini buyers.

The new engines make this an even more attractive car, and most buyers will struggle to argue with the fantastic economy figures Peugeot are boasting. How close they will get to the official figures, however, remains to be seen...

The Knowledge

Model: Peugeot 208, 1.2-litre PureTech 110
Price: £15,495
Engine: 1.2-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Power: 108bhp
Max speed: 118mph
0-60mph: 9.6 seconds
MPG: 62.8mpg (combined)
Emissions: 103g/km