Jonathan Crouch is charmed by the all-electric version of Peugeot's 208 supermini
In the future, all small cars will need to be developed on platforms that can support full-electric as well as conventional thermic propulsion. Surprisingly, few currently are but the Peugeot 208 is an exception. The brand wants you to pick a powertrain for this model (petrol, diesel or electric) in the same way you'd select a trim option - and it's the battery-powered variant, the e-208, that we look at here.
It shares all the same engineering we've already also seen in the PSA Group's two other small car battery-powered products, the Vauxhall Corsa-e and the DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE, a pair of designs that share this Peugeot's sophisticated CMP ('Common Modular Platform'). And those same underpinnings allow for a new generation of 'big car'-style camera safety systems. It all sounds promising: let's take a look.
Here, as with this model's cousin the Vauxhall Corsa-e, a 50kWh lithium-ion battery is mated to a 100kW electric motor putting out 136bhp and working through the usual single-speed auto transmission you get with EVs. Like all electric vehicles, this one develops all of its torque at once (there's 260Nm of it) and this car simply hurls itself away from rest (it takes just a couple of seconds to crest the 30mph mark and 62mph is reached in only 8.1s), disguising the fact that (also like all EVs) this Zero Emissions variant has a bit of a weight problem - that drivetrain adds over 300kgs of bulk. That other small battery-powered little hatches manage this issue a little better is evidenced by the fact that the e-208's WLTP-rated 211 mile driving range is easily improved upon by the latest versions of the Renault ZOE and the BMW i3.
Still, all of this does represent a brave new world for forward-thinking supermini buyers looking to make the (still rather expensive) switch into all-electric motoring; it seems like only yesterday, after all, that a fully-charged small EV could only manage around half the kind of range you get from this one. Of course, you certainly won't achieve anything like that kind of operating capability if you get anywhere near this EV's quoted 93mph top speed. Or if you habitually drive your e-208 in the 'Sport' setting that'll be necessary to release to full 136bhp power output just mentioned. The quoted range figure will only be distantly possible if you instead engage a somewhat restrictive 'Eco' mode that drops power output right down to 83bhp. That's the setting you'll use in an e-208 around town, an environment in which it makes a strange polyphonic sound at low speeds to warn unwary pedestrians of its impending approach. Above 18mph, all you can hear is a bit of tyre roar from the eco-moulded Michelin rubber.
Design and Build
The all-electric e-208 is distinguished from what Peugeot calls 'thermic'-powered models by the adoption of body colouring for the front grille and a more unusual 'Dichroic' finish for the lion badge that appears to change colour, depending on your viewing angle. Most versions of this model will be ordered in either 'GT-Line' or top 'GT'-spec, these two top variants recognisable by 'diamond black' roof colouring and glossy black wheel arch flares, which streamline the body, making the wheel diameter of the 17-inch wheel rims appear larger. On these premium versions, those rims are adorned with screw-in customisable inserts which improve the aerodynamics and apparently reduce kerb weight by 3.6kgs.
Inside, there's the usual 208 'i-Cockpit' driving position format, where you view the instrument binnacle over the upper rim of a tiny steering wheel rather than conventionally through the wheel spokes. Plus, as with other versions of this model, the concept's been further developed with the addition of a clever 3D instrument binnacle display. What else? Well rear passenger space is slightly compromised by the need to place the powertrain's battery pack beneath that back seat. But there's no compromise in boot space, which is 311-litres in size just like any other 208.
Market and Model
Peugeot obviously thinks it's going to sell quite a few e-208s (the prediction is 20% of total model mix) because this powertrain is available with every trim level and the top 'GT' spec option is exclusive to it. Even in base 'Active' form though, an e-208 will set you back around £25,500. And that's after the available £2,500 government plug-in grant towards purchase has been subtracted from the mildly alarming initial asking price. At top Gt variant will cost you around £30,000. Most e-208 models will be bought on finance, which from launch, after grant deduction, saw deals starting from around £280 a month, with £5,450 up-front.
On to this car's value proposition. It's significantly more affordable than its identically-engineered Vauxhall Corsa-e equivalent, which in its least expensive form costs around £2,000 more than a base-spec 'Active'-trimmed e-208 and in its priciest guise costs around £1,000 more than a top e-208 GT. As a rival, a MINI Electric makes even less sense; that MINI's priced from around £28,000 and has a much lower operating range, a three-door-only body style and a tiny boot - plus it would probably cost around £3,000 more when equipped to a similar standard. There aren't really any other direct all-electric small hatch options. You can get battery-powered versions of the Volkswagen up! and the SEAT Mii from around £20,000, but they're both smaller city cars. A battery-powered family hatch like a Kia e-Niro would cost around £35,000 and a BMW i3 even more.
Cost of Ownership
Peugeot's aim was for this EV to have a total ownership cost roughly equivalent to what you pay to buy and run an automatic version of the petrol model: well it's some way off that right at present. Its drivetrain claims to be state-of-the-art for a small car, though its WLTP-certified range of 211 miles is bettered in the class by the BMW i3 and the Renault ZOE. It's worth pointing out though, that both these rivals cost significantly more and that a more closely-priced Zero Emission rival, the MINI Electric can offer a WLTP range of only 144 miles. Bear in mind that as with all Evs, the quoted range figure will drop considerably in winter weather or over long motorway journeys - in the case of the e-208 to around 150 miles. If you're an e-208 owner, you'll need to know that getting anywhere near the quoted range figure will necessitate staying in the powertrain's provided 'Eco' mode - activating its 'Sport' mode setting will reduce your range by around 10%.
What about charging your e-208? With a wallbox in place in your garage, a full charge from empty will take seven and-a-half hours. With a public 50kW Rapid Charger, the replenishment time to charge from 15 to 80% is 45 minutes. If you're fortunate enough to find a 100kW Rapid Charger, that falls to 30 minutes. At the other extreme, if you happen to be somewhere you can only charge from a domestic supply using an ordinary 3-pin plug (and the optional 3-pin plug lead that costs extra with this car), the charging replenishment time would be a yawning 20 hours. As an e-208 buyer, your dealer will also give you the option to pay a subscription for a so-called 'Mobility Pass'. That'll enable you to borrow a conventional petrol or diesel-powered car from the brand for those times when you might need to undertake a longer or more complex journey - holiday times for instance.
So how successful has Peugeot been with this e-208 in terms of what it describes as "unboring the future"? Well, we think you'll be impressed. Other sector competitors can go further on a single charge, but we think that this model's operating range will (unlike that of segment rivals like the Honda e and the MINI Electric) be quite sufficient for the average family's needs.
There may be a few supermini buyers who don't like the cabin layout, want something better suited to cornering their door handles or who might prefer a premium brand - but we're guessing they'll be in the minority. Most will recognise that in this e-208, Peugeot has delivered an EV supermini you could really bond with. Glug, glug, glug, plug: bring it on.