Peugeot e-208 review

The electric Peugeot 208 is a smart, grown-up package, but a better ride comfort and some cable storage would be welcome improvements

£28,550 - £33,150
£25,050 - £29,650
Electric

Pros

  • Great, high-tech interior
  • Decent passenger space
  • Tidy handling and performance
     

Cons

  • Fussy nav interface
  • Restless ride quality
  • Renault ZOE goes further
     
Car type Electric range Wallbox charge time Rapid charge time
Electric 211 miles 7hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW) 30mins (10-80%, 100kW)

This does not look like a momentous car, but it is. Because this isn’t any Peugeot 208, it’s an electric Peugeot 208. A car that every household has heard of, and that rings with an aura of familiarity and dependability. It’s electric power gone mainstream like never before.

When deliveries start at the beginning of 2020, you'll pick your colour and which of the four trim levels you’d like, then you'll pick your powertrain – petrol, diesel or electric. As ordinary a choice as deciding on ketchup or mayo with your chips.

Go electric, and the Peugeot e-208 is what you get. Almost indistinguishable from its siblings – save a blue-green tinge to the lion badge, body-coloured highlights to the grille and the ‘e-208’ moniker – it’s a smart-looking five-door hatchback that’s pitched as an upmarket yet affordable rival to the Renault ZOE and Vauxhall Corsa-e (which shares the Peugeot’s platform and powertrain).

Under the stubby bonnet is a 134bhp electric motor that powers the front wheels, fed by a 50kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Official driving range is pegged at 211 miles, and charging happens through a CCS and Type 2 port that’s tucked into the flank where the fuel filler cap would normally be.

Plug the e-208 into a 7kW home wallbox you’ll have a full battery in under eight hours, at a cost of around £7 on an average domestic utility tariff in the UK. Or, you can set the e-208 (and nearly every any electric car) to charge up within certain hours to make the most of cheaper off-peak tariffs, which could see that cost more than halved.

Conveniently, the e-208 comes with an app for your smartphone that allows you to check on the car’s status, control charging, pre-set the climate control and more. Less convenient is that it doesn’t come with a standard cable to allow you to plug into a three-pin socket at home, nor does it have any proper cable storage in the boot or cabin.

These are small, niggling annoyances given that we don't recommend you rely solely on a three-pin socket to routinely charge an electric car, yet it's still annoying to pay extra for a three-pin cable as an accessory and then have nowhere to store it in the car.

Mind you, the e-208 does set the standard for rapid charging in the small-car class. Plug into a CCS 100kW rapid charger and it’ll gain 100 miles of range in around 20 minutes, which no comparable rival other than the Vauxhall can offer, while a 50kW charger will do the same in 40 minutes.

It’s assertive-feeling to drive, too, the e-208. A 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds doesn’t sound overly gutsy, but it feels more than potent enough, whether you’re launching away from the lights or making use of the mid-range response. Sport mode sharpens up the throttle response and weights up the steering, giving the car appealingly zealous turn-in even if you’re navigating a suburban roundabout rather than tackling a decent country road.

In Normal or Eco modes, the steering is light but precise and ideal for winding through town, and the light regenerative braking is subtle and doesn’t intrude on progress unless you snick the gearshifter into ‘B’ to increase the force. Even then, it bleeds in smoothly and remains easy to judge. 

What’s less ideal is the ride comfort. Our test car had 17-inch alloy wheels, on which the e-208 feels a bit restless, rarely settling over the scruffy rural Portuguese roads we drove it on. Tyre noise, too, is quite noticeable, although the coarse road surfaces didn’t help. It’s a shame, as the well judged handling and performance of the e-208 combined with such a slick, high-tech interior make it feel like a downsized executive car, but that’s spoiled by a rather unresolved ride.

Still, if the chunky, urban-cool styling isn’t enough to make up for a knobbly ride, the tactile, comfortable, tech-heavy interior might well do it. A seven-inch 'floating' central touchscreen is standard and you also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range, while a 10-inch version with TomTom navigation and live traffic updates is £650 extra on most trim levels, and standard on the top-spec GT.

It can be a bit of a faff to figure out some simple actions on this system. Things like turning off the navigation announcements could be easier, and it seems counterintuitive to have to leave the navigation screen to change the temperature, but otherwise the standard kit and graphics are great. You even get multiple USB charging sockets in the front and back, and in all but the cheapest model there’s wireless phone charging and a snazzy configurable driver’s readout with ‘3D’ graphics that are clear to read and look very cool.

Space in the e-208 is exactly the same as in the ‘normal’ 208, so there’s plenty of room in the back for average-sized adults to get comfortable. It’s certainly a more comfortable rear seat than you get in the ZOE, and a 60:40 split-folding rear seatback is standard, too. Meanwhile, the 311-litre boot is a good size by class standards; it’s just a shame about that lack of cable storage, plus there’s no room for a space-saver spare wheel and no storage space under the bonnet, either.

The Peugeot does have masses of safety kit, though. Even entry-level cars get cruise control, traffic-sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance, although adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous mode is optional on all but the GT trim.

Given the four trim levels offered on the e-208, it’s easy to get bogged down in spec details, but Allure strikes the best balance of price and comfort. It gets LED headlights, keyless entry, climate control and most of the other features you'd want, as well as 16-inch wheels that'll likely deliver the best ride comfort (we’ll have to wait until we drive it in the UK to find that out for sure, however).

The standard battery warranty lasts for 160,000 kilometres (just under 100,000 miles) or eight years of use; Peugeot will refurbish or replace the batteries if the car’s range drops below 70% of its as-new performance during this time. Of course, with company-car tax for the next three years being so low that these more affordable electric cars are virtually free to business users, the e-208 promises to be a hit in the business and fleet markets.

Overall, it’s the style, on-board technology and generally sophisticated feel of the e-208 that marks it out. There are clearly already some jobs for the facelift, not least a more forgiving ride, some cable storage and perhaps an even longer range given that the Renault ZOE has rather shown the Peugeot up with its 245-mile capability. Even so, the Peugeot has a more youthful, exuberant feel and look than the woollier-handling ZOE, so if you’re looking for a small electric car right now, your options just got a whole lot better.

For more on the Peugeot e-208, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.