Peugeot e-208 on long-term test: the car to finally convince you that electric is the way to go?

Peugeot e-208 electric car on long-term test - with Vicky Parrott
The battery-powered 208 is virtually indistinguishable from petrol or diesel variants Credit: Christopher Pledger

Peugeot believes that it won’t be long before electric car (EV) driving is normal, so it’s offering its new battery powertrains in very familiar models. So, is the electric 208 the entry-level electric car to sway the masses? 

  • Our car: Peugeot e-208 GT
  • List price when new: £30,275 (after Government plug-in grant
  • Price as tested: £30,820 (after Government grant)
  • Official range (WLTP): 217 miles

The Peugeot approach to electric cars (EVS) seems like common sense to me. While I like the extrovert, deliberately unusual EVs such as the Volkswagen ID.3 and BMW i3, which shout very loudly that they’re a bit different, Peugeot thinks it won’t be long before electric power isn’t ‘different’ at all.

Hence the e-208; virtually undistinguishable from the Car of the Year-winning 208 models with petrol or diesel engines, but with a pure electric powertrain underneath. The 50kWh battery delivers a range of 217 miles and, given that you can get the e-208 from less than £27,000, that all seems very tempting. 

The e-208 looks good on the move as well as when it's standing still Credit: Christopher Pledger

Especially because it looks fantastic. Maybe the best-looking small Peugeot since the 205? I’ll let you be the judge of that, but we went for our top-spec GT car in metallic Cumulus Grey – a £545 option. 

As you’d expect of a 208 costing more than £30k, the GT gets everything you’d want. LED lights, keyless go, adaptive cruise control, heated part-leatherette seats, touchscreen with nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto… It really has got everything you’re ever likely to want. The only luxury that some might be tempted by is the panoramic glass roof; a £500 option that’s not fitted to our car. 

Range wrangling?

Of course, the first thing that anyone wants to know about any electric car is how far it goes, even more than how efficient it is. Well, the e-208’s official range is very promising, and after a week or so of fairly mild weather and a fair few motorway miles, as well as some pottering around town, I’m seeing some 160 miles to a charge. 

A wallbox at home to charge your EV definitely helps Credit: Christopher Pledger

Cold weather reduces the range of any electric car, but some are more affected than others so it’ll be interesting to see how the Peugeot’s range fares as winter creeps in. I’m expecting around 130-140 if there are motorway miles involved, but we’ll soon find out. 

I haven’t needed to use a public charger yet since I have a PodPoint wallbox at home (somewhere among the greenery) that does a great job of my routine charging needs. 

On the road

The e-208 is definitely a grower. I started out feeling that the fast steering rack and tiny steering wheel made it feel a bit neurotic at times, even while I enjoyed the stream of electric power and excellent refinement. But with a few miles covered in the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided that I actually rather like the darty steering. It’s far from an organic or terribly involving steering set-up but it is quite fun the way the Peugeot tips eagerly into a corner. 

The e-208 is enjoyable to drive thanks to its refinement and responsive steering Credit: Christopher Pledger

In fact, there’s more fun about the e-208 than you might expect. I’ve even stuck it in Sport a few times and the drive mode lives up to the title more than it does on any other ‘affordable’ electric car I’ve driven. It’s properly responsive and disguises its weight quite well, too. It really is a fun little car. 

The ultimate ‘starter’ EV?

But being fun is one thing – in the coming months what I really want to find out is whether the e-208 really is the best option for a ‘starter’ EV.

That first jump into pure electric ownership is really scary for anyone, and the familiarity of this being a 208 in every recognisable way besides the plug socket on its flank could well make this a reassuring option. Not only that, but the combination of that long(ish) range, fantastic interior finish and the general lustre of the e-208 could also make it the most desirable, too. 

The interior is nicely finished, although Peugeot's small steering wheel isn't to all tastes Credit: Christopher Pledger

My typical motoring existence isn’t restricted to about-town hops, so with plenty of long journeys and rapid charges on the cards, not to mention a four-year-old and a large dog to lug around, mine is a more extreme lifestyle than most e-208s will deal with. It’ll be a great chance to really find out if this is the best affordable small EV out there. 

Small car, big ability

The Peugeot doesn’t just have to be a good electric car, it needs to be a good small family car as well. On that front, it’s done well. I recently had my daughter and nephew – both four years old – in the back seats, in chunky car seats and perfectly happy. I would say that the Peugeot’s rear legroom means that you’ll have little feet scuffing the seats in front, and I had to slide the drivers seat forward to get Reggie out of his seat easily. 

But this is a small car and, given that the e-208 routinely deals easily with our large dog and little people with relative ease, I’d say it ticks the boxes. Proper cable storage underneath the boot floor should be a given in every EV, I reckon, but other than that the e-208 is doing a fine job of fitting our family in, despite its compact size. 

Super for car seat-mounted children in the back

More than that, the e-208 just doesn’t feel like a little car in the way it drives. On the motorway it is absolutely unflappable even in crosswinds and rain, the cabin is so well appointed that you’d be happy with it in a car from many classes above this, and everything about it feels confident and grown-up despite its stubby length.

It is the chief aspect of the Peugeot that could sway me in favour of this over the slower and more ‘city car’ feeling alternatives like the Renault Zoe and Fiat 500e.

The more grown up feel of the Peugeot puts it at an advantage when compared with city cars such as the Renault Zoe

For that big car feel in a small car package, and for those brilliant looks that still have me glancing back at it when I walk away, life with the 208 is only solidifying my belief that this is one of the best cars in its class.  

Erratic range

I’m 2,500 miles and three months down in the Peugeot e-208 and I’ve gone from quite warm Indian summer weather to chilly and wet winter. And I still can’t really get my head around the real-world range that the Peugeot achieves. Most of the time, it averages around about 150 miles, almost regardless of how and where you drive it.

That’s a fairly middling efficiency of 3.2 miles/kWh given the car’s usable battery capacity of 46.2kWh (total capacity is 50kWh). Nothing special, but nothing terrible either since I generally see similar average efficiency from cars like the Nissan Leaf and VW ID.3 in the moderate mix of motorway, suburban and country roads that I typically cover.  

This display shows efficiency, which is a better indicator of a car's ability than range alone

Yet, the Peugeot definitely favours free-flowing 40-to-50mph use. I’ve seen 4.1 miles/kWh (totalling a range of 189 miles) from it a number of times in this sort of use, even in heavy rain and wind. 

I’ve also done loads of solid motorway journeys, when you can expect more like 130 miles, or in the interests of blunt honesty, you will even see it drop to around 110 miles or less if you are something of an outside-lane warrior. Don’t forget that nothing kills range in an electric car like sustained high speeds. They are single-speed cars so, in simple terms an electric motor is working twice as hard (actually more, factoring in wind resistance) at 60mph as it is at 30mph – unlike a geared petrol or diesel car.

Eco drive mode certainly helps to improve these figures, which I’ve achieved using Normal mode, but it’s annoying that Eco turns off the heater. The neutered throttle response it also introduces I don’t mind at all, but on a chilly day I can only last a few minutes on Eco before it gets uncomfortably cold. If I could keep the climate control and heater functioning to at least some extent, I’d be perfectly happy to use it all the time.

The range is consistent at about 150 miles - but, as ever, batteries don't take well to sustained high speeds 

Without it, I genuinely think that most people will – like me - find the Peugeot’s most efficient mode too much of a compromise in anything but clement weather. 

A user-frustration interface

I hate the word ‘infotainment’. It’s such a middle management term, but it does sum up the systems that are increasingly the most important thing about how you interact with a car on a daily basis. Touchscreens, of course, are now standard fare even in budget cars, and the Peugeot is no different. 

Our GT trim car is the range-topping model, so you get the biggest 10-inch touchscreen that Peugeot makes, although it’s worth pointing out that you get a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Still, the 10-inch widescreem does look fantastic, as do the gloss black ‘piano’ switches and touch-sensitive buttons underlining it. 

You get a touchscreen, naturally, but the user interface isn't among the best and it's difficult to dim the screen at night

If only it were more logical to use. It responds quickly enough, and the graphics are fine if not class leading. But even after a few months and some 2000 miles in the e-208, there are a number of things that really frustrate me about it.

First, it is almost impossible to find the setting to dim the screen at night. I did find it once, after parking and spending more than 15 minutes digging through endless menus, but I tried again recently and gave up in the end. I can find the screen off option, although even that is well hidden. I suspect that the screen dim menu moves around the Peugeot’s menus to ever more unexpected places every day, like an ever-moving target. It’s infuriating, since even after it’s automatically switched to night-mode I often find the screen too bright. 

I honestly believe that screen off and screen dimming settings should be instantly findable on every touchscreen for genuine safety reasons. 

While we’re on the subject of safety and screen distractions, it is still annoying - even after becoming very familiar with the Peugeot – that the cabin temperature has to be changed via the screen. Even more annoying that it doesn’t then reset to whatever screen you were on before. 

Other niggles include a camera warning beep that appears to be impossible to turn off. No matter which of the safety driver aid settings I turn off it continues to dim the radio in order to beep as you approach and again as you have passed a camera. Which, on the camera-infested M25, is less than enjoyable. 

I’ve not finished the moaning yet, either... There is no home page on the Peugeot’s system – you just hop between nav, media, climate etc via the touch-sensitive shortcut buttons. I understand the thinking behind this but I still miss having a ‘go-to’ hub, not least because I still have to pause and look at the shortcut buttons to figure out which one I need.  

Electric is the new normal. There's no discernible difference between the 208 EV and its petrol- or diesel-powered stablemates (left)

With the rant over, I would add that the system is just fine much of the time – particularly since I nearly always stick it in Apple CarPlay and forget about it. There is no doubting that the Peugeot has all the music, nav and smartphone connectivity features that you could possibly want. I also love the 360-degree birds-eye view parking camera that it displays (as standard on this trim), and while not terribly user friendly the whole screen and its surrounding architecture – digital drivers readout included – looks fantastic. Touchscreen rage is just a change of temperature away, of course, but there is still a lot to like about the system if you can forgive its many flaws.  

 

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