Pretty tough Peugeot 108 a match for mean streets

Peugeot's 108 is an urban runabout that is more than capable of tackling longer motorway runs.

Peugeot's 108 is an urban runabout that is more than capable of tackling longer motorway runs. - Credit: Peugeot

Peugeot's little 108 city car offers a grown-up look and drive, motoring editor Andy Russell.

The growing city car market is a bit like waiting for a bus... all of a sudden three come along.

With more manufacturers working together to spread development costs, you inevitably get multi-launches – the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii and another trio from Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota.

While Toyota and Citroen have retained their respective Aygo and C1 names, Peugeot's second-generation co-operative city car is the 108 rather than 107 – it's going to stay that way with the whole Peugeot range now finishing '08'.

They share underpinnings and mechanicals but each brand has done a good job giving their model its own character and cosmetic detailing – to my mind, the Toyota Aygo has youthful appeal, Citroen C1 a funky flavour while the Peugeot 108 is stylishly mature. The 108 gets the new family face with the 'floating grille' – used on 208, 2008 and 308 – lots of classy brightwork embellishments and unique compact and advanced bi-focal projector lamp headlights, similar to those in the 3008 HYbrid. And if you want to add more character then dip into the personalisation options of different colour panels and decals.

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Peugeot and Citroen have also launched their versions as three and five-door hatchbacks and open-tops with a full-length electric sliding fabric roof – the 108 TOP! costs £850 more and is expected to account for 20% of the 21,000 sales a year in the UK (an Aygo version will follow).

The French brands also offer an 82hp PureTech 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine in top models instead of the the 68hp 1.0-litre – the only choice in the Aygo.

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The peppy 1.0-litre engine in Access and Active is fine for zipping around the urban scene and can cruise at 70mph but if you plan longer trips regularly or higher mileage consider the 1.2 in Allure and Feline trim levels.

The extra 14hp make a lot of difference, especially for getting past slower traffic, but the three-cylinder is noticeably more audible when you wind it up. Even with the bigger engine expect around 60mpg but, with 99g/km of CO2, there's still no annual road tax.

The five-speed manual gearbox has a light shift, as does the clutch pedal, but there is no automatic version as there is with the 1.0-litre engine – if only in five-door Active.

The 108 may be a compact car but the wheels pushed out to the corners maximises its 'footprint' which pays dividends for ride and handling.

Around town it can nip in and out of tight spaces and, on the open road, handles nimbly with a flat, stable stance through corners. The suspension is well damped too which means asupple, absorbent ride – ideal for soaking up pock-marked, roadwork-scarred urban routes – but at speed on bumpy roads the comparitively short wheelbase tells and it can become a mite choppy end to end.

The cabin is about the same size as the previous 107 so, while it has four seats, legroom in the back is best suited for children although you could squeeze a couple of small adults into the rear seats if those up front came to a compromise over legroom. The sloping roof limits headroom in the back but it's bearable for short journeys which, after all, is what city cars like the Peugeot 108 are designed for.

Where you notice extra space is in the well-shaped boot. Although the 108's extra length over the 107 is at the front to improve crash protection, the boot has grown from 139 to 196 litres – that makes an awful lot of difference when it comes to the weekly supermarket shop which is also easier to load with a 20mm lower sill. Rear-seat backs split 50/50 and lay flat – released with a plastic handle, the only part carried over from the 107, on the back of each – but there is a step up from the boot floor and the painted seat backs could mark easily if not protected from hard items.

I really like the clever load cover. Instead of the 107's solid parcel shelf, the 108 has a fabric cover which raises with the tailgate to lie flat against the hatchback glass to give good access to the boot .

The cabin has a lot of hard plastic on show but the fascia is simple with user-friendly controls and the big speedo is easy to take in at glance – important in urban limits. All but the entry Access model get the 7in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and digital radio.

It going to be tough on the streets as the city car sector keeps growing – with the new 108 Peugeot has risen to that challenge.

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