There are millions of people throughout the world - New Zealand included - who will be familiar with the lineage of the the Peugeot 208.
It all started back in 1983 with the 205, which proved so popular that more than 5.2 million of the little superminis were
POWER PLANT: 1.2-litre three cylinder DOHC petrol engine, 60 kW at 6000 rpm, 118 Nm at 2750 rpm. 1.6-litre four cylinder DOHC petrol engine, 88 kW at 6000 rpm, 160 Nm at 4250 rpm.
FUEL ECONOMY: 1.2: 4.5L/100km, 1.6: 6.7 L/100km.
Exhaust emissions: 1.2: 104 g/km, 1.6: 154 g/km.
RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Base model has five- speed manual transmission, the remainder a four-speed auto. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear. ABS brakes with brake force distribution, electronic stability control.
HOW BIG: Length 3965mm, width 1739mm, height 1460mm, wheelbase 2538mm.
HOW MUCH: 1.2-litre Active five-door manual $23,990, 1.6-litre Active five-door auto $25,990. 1.6-litre Allure five-door auto $28,990, 1.6-litre Allure three-door auto $29,990
WHAT'S GOOD: Fresh new looks, impressively designed interior, excellent roadholding and handling.
WHAT'S NOT: Four-speed auto will soon show its age.
OUR VERDICT: The fact this new 208 is arriving with the same prices as the 207 makes this little car appealing.
Click photo at left for more views of the Peugeot 208.
That was followed by the 206, which was even more popular, selling 7.7 million. Then there was the 207, which also didn't do too badly in an increasingly competitive supermini market, with 2.3 million sales to establish it as the most popular European model in its class.
Now there's a new model - the 208, launched in Europe just a couple of months ago and already the recipient of a number of awards.
A big point about these awards is that some of them are not necessarily for the car itself, but for its interior - which was the big talking point at a media function in Auckland last week.
That's because the area up front is a little different to anything else seen thus far, and it reflects the fact that ease of use and full connectivity are vital to today's motoring needs.
"It's a total rethink on interior design," said Peugeot New Zealand divisional manager Simon Rose.
"With this 208, you sit in a different position.
"It's all to do with the theory that, just like with desktop computers, if you can sit with your hands below your heart and the better blood flow reduces stress on your body while you are driving."
What the Peugeot designers have done is reduced the size of the steering wheel and made it oval in shape. That, in turn, has allowed them to position the instrument panel so it can be "heads up" and viewed over the steering wheel rather than through it, which lessens the need for the driver to take her or his eyes off the road.
Not only that, but the centre console features a large 7-inch colour touch screen which is within easy reach and at eye level, giving easy access to a number of functions including radio, Bluetooth, or the playing of music files via USB connection or audio streaming.
This touch screen won 'Comfort Innovation of the Year' award by an international jury of motoring journalists at the Automotive Interiors Expo in Germany.
It is all very well designed, and instantly gives this little 208 a special sort of appeal.
Also appealing is that despite the 208's exterior dimensions being shorter, lower and narrower than the 207 it replaces, it has superior interior space.
There is more than 5cm more leg room for those in the rear seats, and there is 15 litres more cargo space with all seats in use. The 285 litres of space still isn't a lot, but it's pretty good for a small hatch.
In addition, the new 208 is also considerably lighter.
A variety of weight-saving measures have resulted in some of the models having more than 100 kg shaved off their kerb weights, which is important for any small car.
The new range begins with a five-door model powered by a three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, and it enters the market at a very attractive $23,990.
All the other members of the 208 fleet - including one three-door model - are powered by a four- cylinder 1.6-litre engine that is carried over from the 207 range, and they all have a four-speed automatic transmission.
Prices range from $25,990 to $29,990, which are the same as the outgoing model despite a lot more specification, which reflects exchange rate improvements.
Peugeot New Zealand believes it can achieve annual sales of more than 550 with the new 208, with 80 per cent of it conquest business.
That's a big call, because there is some very good product in the supermini class. But the Peugeot people believe that the fact these are new models being offered at unchanged prices, will carry a lot of marketing weight.
The entry model is a cutie, with its PSA-designed 12-valve engine happy to sing a distinctive three- cylinder note as it works hard to deliver the 60 kilowatts of power on tap.
The car is fun to drive, too, with the five-speed manual easy to operate.
Naturally, the 1.6-litre is more powerful via its 88 kW four- cylinder engine, but the drive segment of last week's media day quickly showed the car up for its lack of transmission ratios.
Asked why the model doesn't have a five- or even six-speed auto, Simon Rose had a simple answer - it was because that's how the car comes from France.
"While we'd love to have a six- speeder, we haven't," he said. Fair enough!
However, while the 208 might be lacking a little in transmission ratios, it certainly isn't lacking in on-road ability.
This is a lovely car to drive, with excellent handling balance. In this regard, it is clearly one of the best cars in its class.
The new 208 is also one of the safest cars in its class, having recently been awarded the 5-star Euro NCAP, the highest rating possible.
At last week's event, Simon Rose said his company expects the 208 range will become the favourite European light vehicle in the country.
"It'll repeat the success we had with the 206 and then the 207," he said.
It should do, too.
Apart from the inadequacies of that four-speed automatic, this new 208 is a lovely new car in every way.
That's particularly the case with its freshly designed interior which helps make it particularly easy to drive.
- © Fairfax NZ News