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The New Peugeot 208 Hatchback Exploits Our Love for French Forbidden Fruit

Photo credit: Peugeot
Photo credit: Peugeot

From Car and Driver

UPDATE 2/26/19: The Peugeot brand will be coming back to North America, its parent company announced today. No specific models were announced but vehicles coming here will be built in Europe and China, at least initially, the company said. Peugeots have not seen sold in the U.S. since 1991.

Let's just get this out of the way: There's no chance that Peugeot's new 208 hatchback will come to the United States. Yes, we know, it's a horrible travesty. We agree. There's just something special about the design of modern French cars-a je ne sais quoi, if you will-that makes us fall in love with nearly every new model, and this latest 208 is no different. Set to make its world debut next week at the Geneva auto show, the 208 is new from the ground up and is "an exciting yet reassuring vision of the future," according to Peugeot.

The 208 competes with other subcompact hatchbacks including the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo, but it has a whole lot more flair and character than any of its competitors. The front end is dominated by a large grille that has an interesting textured pattern and headlights with three upright LED strips (Peugeot calls them "claws"), one of which extends nearly all the way down the bumper. Peugeot says that it pushed the windshield back and gave it more of a rake, allowing for a longer hood and sportier proportions. The rear hatch is raked, too; combined with the upright rear-door glass, it creates a unique C-pillar look that reminds us of the classic 205 hatchback. (That C-pillar also has a scalloped design element that's home to a trim-level or model badge.) At the rear, a central black panel seamlessly flows into the taillights, which also have a three-claw LED motif. Sadly, the new 208 will only be offered as a four-door hatch; the two-door variant is no longer.

Photo credit: Peugeot
Photo credit: Peugeot

The 208's interior makes its exterior seem subtle and restrained. Peugeot calls its interior design language the i-Cockpit, and it consists of a two-tier layout with a large central touchscreen and a digital gauge cluster protruding from the upper tier. That screen in front of the driver projects information "in hologram form," with more important info appearing closer to the driver's eyes. The lower tier is like a shelf (sort of reminiscent of the BMW i3's interior), with a carbon-fiber-look finish stretching across the entire width of the dash and onto the door cards on the pictured 208s. Physical controls are kept to a minimum. The only major buttons are a row of toggle switches for the climate control and infotainment underneath the main screen. Funky design features are present throughout, like the two-spoke steering wheel and the weird electronic shifter. The whole look is extremely sci-fi: if Luke Skywalker wanted a small hatchback, he'd get a 208.

Photo credit: Peugeot
Photo credit: Peugeot

Some of the biggest news is the launch of the e-208, the first all-electric version of the car. The e-208 shares its 50.0-kWh battery pack and 134-hp electric motor with the DS 3 Crossback, and Peugeot says it will do 211 miles on a charge (on the European WLTP cycle) and hit 62 mph in 8.1 seconds. Regular powertrains include a trio of three-cylinder gas engines and a four-cylinder diesel, with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission available. A full suite of driver-assistance features can be had on the 208, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go; automated emergency braking; blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist, both with steering assist; and an automated parking system.

Photo credit: Peugeot
Photo credit: Peugeot

When we said earlier that there's no chance the 208 will make its way to America, that isn't exactly true. Peugeot and Citroën have been teasing a return to the U.S. market for years, and with PSA's recent acquisition of Opel, it seems as if a return really might be in the cards. But that return would be years away, and it would be with the next generation of cars that have been jointly developed with Opel with the U.S. in mind. So while we won't get this 208 or any other current Peugeot or Citroën products, there is still hope that we'll get their replacements, which we hope will be just as weird and fabulous.

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