(Pocket-lint) - So, you’re in the market for a small car. You want to stand out a bit and show the world you’ve not given up and gone for the default option. After dismissing the Japanese as too old fashioned, the Fiesta as too try-hard and the Polo too dull, you vaguely remember that - way back when - the French were the real kings of making small hatchbacks.
Well, the good news is that, it seems they’ve remembered too. For a couple of years, the Citroen DS3 has been a huge market success, and now its cousin, the Peugeot 208, has been launched at the Geneva motor show.
Get inside and you’ll be even more surprised by the fact that the driving position – or, more pertinently, the relationship between you and everything in the cabin - feels different from any other car you’ve ever sat in.
Peugeot spent a load of time doing research on the 208, discovering that today in cars, people want to keep a constant check of their speed at all times and hate taking their eyes off the road to do so.
Unlikely to be able to get people to stump-up for a head-up-display (the natural, tech solution) in a ten grand Peugeot, instead they moved the instruments on to the top of the dash, right under the windscreen. But that meant the top of the steering wheel obscured them. So they dropped the position of the wheel, and shrank it, to the size of about a racing steering wheel. So you look over - and not through - it to see the gauges.
Get in, and this is instantly noticeable. It does feel odd at first, but Peugeot says in tests most people get used to it very quickly and love it. We’ll find out if that’s true when we drive it in the summer.
Next up, and a biggie for anyone remotely interested in tech, is the centre touchscreen. Looking more like an iPad that someone’s half inserted into the top of the center stack than an in-car infotainment screen, this is a full large-diameter unit and the big news is it’s standard, even if you buy the absolutely basic 208.
Of course, you won’t get Nav as standard until you move up the range, but it can do a host of other - entirely predictable - connectivity things. Best of all, it physically projects into the cabin meaning both you and your passenger can reach it with ease, and the quality’s high.
This is all wrapped in some really high quality textures – stuff like piano black gloss, and soft-touch dash plastics, that you probably wouldn’t expect in a small car. The whole architecture makes it feel very spacious.
Outside, there’s a lot going on in this design, but we much prefer it to the outgoing 207. Use of chrome and some high-quality details like the rear lamps, really boost the premium feel and the chrome strip which extends back, off the rear window, is a nod to the Eighties Peugeot 205.
The 208 will bring to the market a new set of small, frugal, turbo-charged engines from Peugeot, so it should be good at the petrol pump, have low CO2 (diesels will start at 87g/km) and cheap tax. It’ll cost from around £10,000.
We’ll let you know whether you should consider it once we’ve driven one at some point in the next few months, but for now, it’s great to be able to get excited about a small Peugeot again. The 208 appears genuinely, innovatively different in a class of me-too small cars. Now we just wait to find out if different is better.