Peugeot has opted for a smooth transition to electric power. This is evidenced by its e-208, which is very close to a thermal equivalent.
When it comes to electromobility, Peugeot has a clear strategy – unlike its German competitors. While we’re seeing a little too much of the big, all-electric SUVs blossom a little too optimistic in terms of range, the French manufacturer prefers to start from the bottom up. In his view, it is more appropriate to offer small 100% electric cars – suitable for short journeys – and to opt for the in-between hybrid on the larger ones – those that generally rhyme with versatility of use. This is why Peugeot is now offering all-electric versions of the 208 and 2008 in its catalogue.
When Peugeot made its e-208 official, we were immediately seduced by the proposal, in this case the idea of having a serious alternative to Renault’s Zoé. And as the 208 is one of the best-selling cars in France each year, it is best to keep the main lines of the car so as not to rush drivers in France. We literally braved the winds and tides – we’ll come back to that – in an extended test of this e-208, which has almost everything to please. The 208 second-generation model, introduced in 2019, is already a success, with a 15% share of sales volume for all engines combined.
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Front of the Peugeot e-208 (GT finish) // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
“Peugeot is making its 208 electric car official (and we already love it),” we wrote at the time of its presentation. We were talking about its very nice look, with a confident feline look (it’s not the lion’s mark for nothing), the elegance that goes with it, the curved rear end, the two fangs under the headlights and this very convincing three-clawed light signature (optional). It could be argued that the risk taken is minimal in the face of certain designers who go to great lengths to mark the rupture. Peugeot preferred to bet on a winning team. Apart from a few minor distinguishing features (the colored grille, the letter ‘e’ on the back), the e-208 looks exactly like the 208. The same goes for its habitability. The company did not want to sacrifice its flagship model on the altar of 100% electric, which requires a completely different layout.
The e-208 looks exactly like the 208
The success on the outside – the e-208 lacks only lateral visibility – is also found on the inside, with quality finishes (the carbon fibre imitation inserts make a strong impression on the GT variant). We especially like the cockpit with 3D display inspired by the Quartz concept. In concrete terms, it superimposes a conventional digital screen and a slightly sloping glass pane on which an image is projected. This gives a very successful feeling of overprinting (unfortunately impossible to appreciate on a simple photo). It’s just a shame that the top of the steering wheel hides the bottom, except for spending time adjusting the seat to get around it. Another flaw is that this 3D display is such a visual success that it gives the interface dedicated to infoding a bit of an old-fashioned look. Not only is the design unwelcoming, but the navigation is scattered, for little else.
Interior of the Peugeot e-208 // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
All the more so as Peugeot has opted for a mix between a screen/touch surfaces and physical buttons – arranged like a piano – as found in classic passenger compartments. For ergonomics, this is not always relevant: for example, tactile surfaces lack a real haptic feedback to be totally convincing, while their position is not always judicious. All in all, Peugeot still has room for improvement since its legitimate caution sometimes plays tricks on it. You still get the feeling he’s moving in the right direction.
- Read: Our impressions of the Peugeot e-2008
Before giving our opinion on the driving experience, it is appropriate to go back over the conditions under which we tested the e-208. Manufacturers usually choose sunny places for their tests – to be able to make beautiful pictures and avoid weather bursts. For its Move to Electric event, Peugeot chose Sitges, near Barcelona. But that was not counting the storm Gloria that hit the place on our trip. On the first day, driving conditions were on the verge of apocalyptic (heavy showers and, above all, endless gusts of wind) and, in about twenty kilometres, we were blocked by trees that had run aground on the road four times (until we had to resign ourselves and turn back). Luckily, the next day everything went back to normal.
Peugeot e-2008 and e-208 facing a tree // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
We were not always serene at the wheel, considering the power of the wind to make a bus shake. At least these hellish conditions have allowed us to test one thing: the handling of the e-208. Experience has shown that electric cars have a very low centre of gravity, a feature linked to the installation of the batteries on the floor. In essence, an electric vehicle is pulled to the ground – a real plus for safety. The e-208, which also benefits from an excellent chassis (Peugeot’s know-how) and effective traction control, is no exception to the rule, and at no time was there any fear that the car would roll over. She never deviated once from the trajectory despite the external chaos.
A feeling close to a thermal experience
All the characteristics of electric driving are found in a different way, starting with the frank and fluid acceleration, accompanied by faultless comfort (especially for urban journeys). On this point, we still recommend switching to Sport mode to really take advantage of all the engine’s power (100 kW) and maximum torque (260 nm), flanged in normal mode (80 kW and 220 nm) and eco mode (60 kW and 180 nm). Between these three possibilities, the mapping of the accelerator pedal is modified (less need to press in Sport). The direction, very frank, is also different with more firmness as one wishes to increase the pleasure.
Rear of the Peugeot e-208 // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
However, there’s something surprising about the e-208: regenerative braking, which is much smoother than the competition. For example, there is a Brake mode that increases the power of the engine brake to recover more energy. Except the e-208 will never be a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla. Not only does it only engage when the battery is sufficiently depleted, but it will never be abrupt. During our test, it was only after 10% of the autonomy consumed that we began to feel the benefits of regenerative braking – which raises questions about efficiency. At no time will it be possible to drive with only one pedal. Why did Peugeot make this choice? Simply to offer a smooth transition, with a feeling close to a thermal experience.
The Peugeot e-208 (side view) // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
The e-208 shares its development platform with the e-2008 – a compact SUV version. This means that a 50 kWh battery is nestled in his entrails. Peugeot announces a range of 340 kilometres in the WLTP cycle, which appears to be more than sufficient to meet the needs of daily commuting (include: going to the office). Only snag? The car’s pessimistic algorithm never predicted more than 210 kilometres with a full battery. In reality, and after discussion with Peugeot, the real range would be more around 250 kilometres, knowing that we will go below 200 on a fast lane and that it is possible to tickle the 300 with a very, very economical driving style.
The actual range would be more around 250 kilometres.
The e-208 is compatible with fast charging at 100 kWh thanks to its liquid cooling technology. On an obviously compatible terminal, 80% of the autonomy can be recovered in less than 30 minutes. On a classic plug, like the one you use for your smartphone, you’ll need to be patient (100% in 16 hours). Always at home, a stronger – more powerful – grip will be faster (100% in 7 hours) and an even faster Wallbox (100% in 5 hours). “We have to accompany our customers in this energy transition,” explains Peugeot. That’s why there are so many options for refuelling.
Front of the Peugeot e-208 (Allure finish) // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama
As far as driving aids are concerned, we won’t have to wait for Peugeot’s “monts et merveilles”. Worse, the e-208 proves to be less well endowed than its thermal counterpart. It will be necessary to wait a few more months to benefit from the lane positioning assist (the car keeps itself in the lane with hands on the steering wheel mandatory) and the intelligent speed adapter. Today, the e-208 still benefits from lane keeping assist, which helps maintain the trajectory that starts at 70 km/h.
To improve user comfort, Peugeot naturally offers a mobile application available on iOS and the Play Store Thanks to it, you can check its level of autonomy and activate certain functions remotely (e.g. air conditioning). Supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the e-208 also features a USB-C (!) port and a homemade voice assistant (of questionable relevance).
The Peugeot e-208 is available in four trim levels, starting at 32,100 euros (excluding the ecological bonus).
Indicative note: 4/5
“We don’t want our customers to be bored behind the wheel,” Peugeot says loud and clear as it embarks on its real move towards electric mobility (we prefer to forget about the 106 Electric and the iOn). With the e-208, the French automaker wants above all to avoid too abrupt a transition, both in terms of design and driving.
The e-208 is therefore a fairly wise 100% electrical variation of the 208. Nevertheless, it’s still a very well designed car, with an exemplary chassis, a handling that’s hard to fault and a range that’s more than enough for a daily user (who would go on holiday in 208? ). In conclusion, it has its rightful place in the range for those who want to discover electric mobility at the wheel of a proven best-selling car.
- A very nice car
- The comfort of electricity
- Exemplary handling
- Regenerative braking a little timid
- Old-fashioned interface
- Recessed Pilot Aids