Peugeot’s baby hatch is small but safe
Six airbags and electronic stability control give this little French car an edge in a competitive segment
Part of Xavier Gobille’s strategy to revive Peugeot sales in SA was to ditch slow-selling models and launch new cars in market segments where the action is happening.
The new MD of Peugeot-Citroën SA (PCSA) has launched the 5008 as Peugeot’s new flagship in the popular midsized SUV market, and at the other end of the scale the subject of this test, the Peugeot 108, has been introduced as the French brand’s contender in the competitive sub-R200,000 mini hatchback segment.
At R179,900 the five-door French hatch is one of the more expensive vehicles in a playground that includes the Kia Picanto, Suzuki Swift and the new Hyundai Atos, but the price tag comes with the best safety package in the class.
Where most rivals make do with just a pair of front airbags, the Peugeot 108 has six of them, and it also comes with ABS brakes, and electronic stability control — the only car apart from the Toyota Aygo to have this latter feature.
THE RIDE IS SOMEWHAT CHOPPY, BUT HIGH-PROFILE TYRES DEAL COMFORTABLY WITH POTHOLED ROADS
The car is also specced at a more premium level than most rivals, with standard fare including LED daytime running lights, front electric windows, aircon, central locking, and hill-start assist.
The modern infotainment system includes a mirror-screen function that allows drivers or front passengers to operate their smartphones from the car’s touchscreen, and there are USB and aux ports for charging and connection.
Like the rest of the Peugeot line-up, the 108 is sold with a new five-year/100,000km warranty and service plan — the brand previously offered a three-year/100,000km warranty with an optional service plan.
As part of his turnaround plan for Peugeot, Gobille has also implemented improved customer service and aftersales efficiency at dealers, and the network will grow to 30 dealers by the end of this year.
With its daytime running lights and chromed grille the Peugeot 108 presents a more upmarket facade than most segment rivals, and its extrovert design will appeal to young first-time buyers. The claw-style tail lamps (to go with the lion badge, geddit?) also create a stylish signature.
The French car shares the same platform and engines as the Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo, and is moved along by a 1l three-cylinder engine with outputs of 53kW and 93Nm, powering the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.
These are modest outputs, but with the car tipping the scales at just 840kg it has a useful power-to-weight ratio. It is mostly suited to urban commuting but the little hatch was able to stretch its legs on the open road without too much complaint, even with four adults on board.
THE LITTLE HATCH WAS ABLE TO STRETCH ITS LEGS ON THE OPEN ROAD WITHOUT TOO MUCH COMPLAINT
However, the aircon has a very power-sapping effect on the performance, and it’s also a reasonably vocal engine, with the three cylinders getting quite buzzy when the revs rise.
At just 3,475mm long, the tiny five-door hatchback (along with its Aygo cousin) is the smallest car in its class and more interior space is to be had in its rivals (listed below).
But it offers enough room for four adult passengers at a squeeze. The 196l boot, which carries a space-saver spare wheel, accommodates a couple of tog bags and expands to a roomy 780l with the 50/50 split seats flipped down.
The simple, unfussy controls include audio and phone buttons on the multifunction steering wheel, which is adjustable for height.
The car’s tiny size comes into its own in the urban environment. The ’lil Peugeot scurries through the suburbs with the agility of a squirrel, and it’s the easiest thing to park. The light steering and slick-shifting gearbox also make minimal physical demands of the driver.
With the short wheelbase the ride is predictably somewhat choppy, but the high-profile tyres deal comfortably with scarred and potholed roads.
After posting modest sales in recent years, Peugeot faces a challenging task to grow its customer base in SA, especially in a compact hatch segment as competitive as this.
The 108 is a charismatic little city car that’s definitely worth a look if interior space isn’t one’s primary concern. It may be one of the tiniest cars in its segment, but with SA’s atrocious road safety record, the 108’s best-in-class safety makes a persuasive argument.
Type: Three cylinder petrol
Type: Five speed manual
Type: Front wheel drive
Top speed: 160km/h
0-100km/h: 13.1 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 4.3l/100km (claimed); 5.3l/ 100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, six airbags, electronic stability control, hill hold assist, LED daytime running lights, audio system with Bluetooth and mirror link to smartphones, trip computer, multifunction steering wheel, electric front windows, aircon, cloth seats, 165/65R14 tyres
Warranty and service plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R3,917 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Peugeot 108 Active 1.0
WE LIKE: Safety, styling, fuel economy
WE DISLIKE: Cramped interior space, vocal engine
VERDICT: Smallest but safest mini hatch on the market
Motor News star rating
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Economy * * * *
Safety * * * * *
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Datsun Go 1.2 Lux, 50kW/104Nm — R170,200
Hyundai Atos 1.1 Motion, 52kW/99Nm — R159,900
Kia Picanto 1.0 Street, 49kW/95Nm — R169,995
Renault Kwid 1.0 Dyamique, 50kW/91Nm — R150,900
Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL, 50kW/90Nm — R159,900
Suzuki Swift 1.2 GA, 61kW/113Nm — R164,900
Toyota Aygo 1.0 X-Play, 53kW/93Nm — R177,200