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Peugeot 208 GT Line PT130 EAT8

The Peugeot 208 was delivered for testing during lockdown, and made an immediate impression: it’s very yellow, quite nippy and not unreasonably priced. With my own car soon coming to the end of its lease, it was not only the neighbours that were interested to find out more.

Our test model arrived in fetching Faro yellow, with gloss black accents on the wing mirrors, roof and wheel arches. Interestingly, this is the most vibrant colour available and yet comes as standard. Other palettes such as Cumulus Grey or Elixr Red, for example, come at an additional cost of £545 and £695 respectively.

In top GT Line trim, nothing about this car is subtle. Large GT Line badges sit on the rear quarter panels and boot lid, and like other models in the Peugeot range, those signature tiger scratch LED headlights rake across the front of the car. It adds real aggression to an already sporty hatch, and when teamed with various other creases and bulges makes for a seriously handsome little car. Flared rear arches house 17-inch alloys that do seem to stick out slightly, and I felt inclined to take extra care to avoid any unwanted nicks or scrapes.

The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is mated with an eight-speed semi-automatic transmission, and pushes out just under 130bhp. Gear changes can also be made manually via the flappy paddles, but there’s a slight delay that can become irritating. There’s certainly more of a growl to the engine note than might be expected from such a small motor, and it’s surprisingly fast.

There’s a real sense of urgency through most of the rev range, although power tapers off quite quickly toward the upper end. Official figures state that 0-60 is completed in 8.7 seconds, but it feels most urgent between 0-30mph when pulling out of a busy junction or away from traffic lights. No driver will take this car on the track, but the 208 offers an impressive level of cornering grip and is not far off the Suzuki Swift Sport in terms of overall driving enjoyment.

Nippy as it may be, the selling point for me is the interior. The fit and finish is really quite impressive for what is essentially a modern replacement of the tatty old 206 I had in my early 20s. The 308, 508 and larger 3008 and 5008 also impress on this front. The cabin can be trimmed with supple full grain leather as a £1,400 optional extra, but our car came with ‘leather effect’ seats which are available for free. Yellow stitching matches the exterior; I happen to enjoy the pop of colour, but others found it all a little garish. It should also be said that modern faux leather is often indistinguishable from the real thing.

At night, strip lights on the door cards and dashboard make it feel almost like the corner of a nightclub. In other cars this might result in LED overload, but the cockpit otherwise keeps buttons, switches and dials to a minimum. The star of the show is the panoramic sunroof, which brings an extra layer of quality to an already premium package.

On a sunny day, the cabin is flooded with extra light and there is no noticeable increase in road noise. Sitting in the cockpit, you soon forget that you are behind the wheel of a small French hatchback—it simply feels far grander than the badge might otherwise imply. At £500, this is a no-brainer for me.

Peugeot’s familiar i-Cockpit allows drivers to easily flit between driving modes, which include Normal, Sport, Comfort and Eco. Sport seems to sharpen up the throttle response and adds an artificial rasp to the exhaust note. Eco has the opposite effect, and goes almost too far in the other direction. As would be expected, I found Normal to offer a welcome mix of comfort and sportiness. Fuel economy sat around the 45 miles per gallon mark for most of the week, but did nudge 50 on a particularly frugal jaunt on the A420 to Oxford.

As a five-door, I found the 208 to be extremely practical for a small hatch; it even assisted with a small clear out prior to a house move. Space in the rear is hardly cavernous but is more than enough for two adults to sit comfortably on a long journey.

Driver comfort is also a plus; my 80-mile round trips during the week brought no complaints regarding seating position or suspension. The steering is also quite light, which makes city and town driving a breeze. I enjoy the oddly shaped steering wheel which is significantly smaller than most other models—even in this segment—but it won’t be for everyone.

Overall, this should be a serious contender for anyone in the market for a stylish, comfortable and well-equipped hatchback. It certainly makes my shortlist.

Price as tested (including options): £25,535