Open-top city car works well on the open road, but a frustrating about-town experience damages its appeal
What is it?
Peugeot’s smallest, least expensive model is now on sale, with this second-generation Peugeot-Citroën-Toyota-developed city car now a little more sophisticated, better equipped, slightly longer and about 55kg heavier than the previous generation.
However, its drag coefficient falls from 0.34 to an impressive 0.29, and this, along with the availability of stop-start and a fuel-saving automated manual gearbox, means CO2 emissions drop to as low as 88g/km. All models come in at 99g/km or below to qualify for zero road tax.
That includes the new three-cylinder, normally aspirated 1.2-litre Peugeot Puretech engine now offered in addition to the Toyota 1.0-litre triple carried over from the outgoing 107. This same option is also provided for in the near-identical Toyota Aygo and Citroën C1 versions.
The extra capacity gets you 81bhp instead of 67bhp and, more importantly, 86lb ft rather than 71lb ft. It appears usefully earlier, too, at 2750rpm rather than a late-in-the-day 4800rpm, the result being a 0-62mph time of 11.0sec rather than 14.3sec.
The 1.2 is available only with the top two trims Peugeot offers, which means that you must pay £1250 for the power boost along with some extra equipment. The additional trim over the Access, Active and Allure offered on the 107 is Feline, the appearance of this new range-topping version evidence of Peugeot’s new, upmarket ambitions.
As is the option of a large electric fabric sunroof called Top (a choice oddly not available on the priciest Feline), a selection of optional dashboard finishers for higher-end models and a variety of decal customisation packages.
The 108 itself is little changed dimensionally compared to the 107, not least because it rides on the same platform as the previous model. It’s now 40mm longer, slightly lower and shares an identical width, but its proportioning has changed in that it has less of a cab-forward look, with the result that it has a longer bonnet. Wearing its maker’s rather traditional corporate façade gives the 108 the most conventional face of the Peugeot/Citroën/Toyota trio.
Inside is an all-new dashboard whose core structure looks fuller and more sculpturally sophisticated, besides including a 7in touchscreen with all but the base Access trim. Bizarrely, this screen can’t be had with sat-nav – you’re supposed to use Mirrorlink and a smartphone – although the Aygo offers it.
What is it like?
You certainly know when this car has started. It’s not that it’s noisy, but you can feel the subtle thrum of the 1.2-litre triple through your seat, a vibration that evaporates as soon as you touch the accelerator.
Doing so renders the engine much smoother, but unless you’re especially delicate with both clutch and throttle, urban stop-go progress threatens to be anything but smooth. The culprits are a late-clamping clutch that only fully engages as the pedal nears the top of its travel and an engine mounting system that allows a surprising amount of driveline shunt.
Factor in the triple’s shortage of very low-end torque – you need to feed in more power as the clutch bites if the engine isn’t to falter – and you’ll be reminding yourself of what it was like to be a learner driver.
This is a flaw that Peugeot and its co-conspirators need to sort now, because it significantly undermines your enjoyment of a car that will se a lot of urban clutch action. It’s all the more a shame when you discover how enjoyable the 108 can be once on the move.
The 1.2’s extra thrust is evident whenever some mid-range urge is required – often, in other words – and it’s delivered with a smoothly enthusiastic warble that encourages you to make the best of its game B-road manners.
That the Peugeot rolls a bit matters little, its willingness to slice through curves enhanced by steering that’s accurate and of decently consistent feel. On twisting backroads you can soon develop a satisfying rhythm, and all against the backdrop of the triple’s game gurgle.
The relatively soft suspension allows the Peugeot to ride pretty well, too, although it sometimes gets choppy at speed. Cruising is subdued, the minor controls are easily manipulated and the front seats remain comfortably supportive unless you’re cornering hard.
The rear seats are a different matter, not because of their cushioning but because there’s so little space ahead of them. Unless you plan to regularly cart kids in the rear, there’s little point in ordering a five-door 108, this car being little more than a 2+2. It’s a shame the wheelbase wasn’t lengthened for this second-generation edition, especially as the boot is a relatively compact receptacle despite useful enlargement to 196 litres from just 139 litres.
Should I buy one?
Although the 1.2-litre version of the 108 is decidedly peppier and a less frustrating machine when you’re pressing on, the difficulties of pedalling it smoothly around town do a lot of damage to the pleasure of driving what is otherwise a pleasingly characterful car.
If most of your driving is on back roads and motorways it’s worth the extra. But if your 108 will be town-bound, then the 1.0-litre Toyota motor is the choice despite its weak mid-range pull given that this driveline so much more manageable in traffic. It’s a smoother revver, too. Such issues do not plague the 108’s well-rounded Volkswagen Up alternative, incidentally.
On the move the 108 is a much happier car, and a better finished, more convenient, more colourful and more civilised one than its predecessor. If Peugeot can sort the 1.2’s driveline, it will give the VW a harder run.
Peugeot 108 Allure 1.2 VTi Top 5dr
Price £12,245 0-62mph 11.0sec Top speed 106mph Economy 65.7mpg (combined) C02 99g/km Kerb weight 865kg Engine 4 cyls in line, 1199cc, petrol Power 81bhp at 5750rpm Torque 86lb ft at 2750rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual