The very best is yet to come

The Peugeot 208.
The Peugeot 208.
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My Dad owned a Peugeot once. It was red and had a small spoiler, I think. Other than that, I remember very little.

Apart from when we went to collect it. I remember jumping on the train, heading towards Brighton, my dad signing some papers, and then jumping into the Pug. I wasn’t very interested, not because I disliked the car, but simply because my interest in cars had not fully set in.

The 405 was a good car, from what I remember (very little), but a rather common one. You see, the adverts used to sell the 405 were nothing short of remarkable; true Mona Lisas in a dog-turd, modern art world of terrible advertising slogans and false promises of rust free motoring and high performance, exhilarating driving.

And they were adverts, the Peugeot PR team reminded me, that would not be possible to make today. The marketing slogan was ‘Takes Your Breath Away’, and the adverts showed the 405 being battered by a storm on a dangerous coastal road, and driving past a field being set on fire. These situations, if you weren’t in the car, would quite literally take your breath away, as you would either drown or suffocate. Interesting.

Looking further on, you see that, in actual fact, Peugeot has always had a good way of advertising. One advert had a picture of a cucumber, underneath which was written ‘As cool as a Peugeot’. Another, for the Peugeot 205 GTI, said ‘If you want something sensible buy an anorak’. These are quite literally some of the best advertising slogans for any product in the whole of human history.

But where am I going with all this? Well, at the launch of the new 208 in Manchester, we were greeted with the new 208 in a very interesting shade of purple and the new TV advert, and somehow it just isn’t as good as the old ones.

I’ve been trying to work out why I just didn’t ‘get’ the advert, and I reckon it’s all because there were no flaming fields, no rival small cars exploding, or any massive fighter bombers offloading exactly one trillion kilos of TNT onto a shed.

But what of the car? Was the car missing some of that exploding field-spirit? No, not really.

I wasn’t sure about the looks, but today, for the first time since I saw the press images before the Geneva Motor Show, I have looked at the TV advert and said what most of the other journos were saying: it’s actually quite pretty.

It’s not as aggressive as most small cars are these days, but that’s no bad thing. And the interior isn’t bad either. Perhaps it needs a bit more colour, but all in all it is miles ahead of what many say the old 405 used to be, and even the 208’s predecessor the 207.

And to drive? Well, it’s not too bad at all. I had trouble with the gearbox on both cars I drove (the 82 bhp 1.2 litre, three cylinder petrol, and the 92 bhp 1.6 litre diesel), and the clutch is as long as my lower leg, but, in all honesty, I enjoyed both cars. The diesel is fun and surprisingly fast, the three cylinder makes a fun noise that makes you feel like you’re doing at least 1,000,000 mph, when in fact you’re hardly pushing 60. And it weighs about 970 kg, which is preposterously light.

I want more time with those cars, I really do, and I can see why the 208 will sell in big numbers. But what am I most excited about? I think that the 208 advert is a sign of things to come; I think the best 208 is lurking up Peugeot’s sleeve along with the next stonkingly good advert. That car will be the GTI.