Rapport

Cheddar Gorge with the Peugeot 208

Journalist Jheni Osman tackles Britain’s ‘Grand Canyon’ in the sporty New 208…

Walls of rock tower either side. Weaving through the imposing limestone cliffs, I glance in the rear-view mirror to check that expert road biker Dan Alford is still tucked in behind the car. Hunched over his time trial bike and using the car’s slipstream, he’s attempting to break his own personal speed record through Cheddar Gorge.

Working in tandem, we twist and turn past weathered cliffs, rocky outcrops and mysterious dark caves, while dodging tourists (and the odd goat). I’m behind the wheel of Peugeot’s New 208, which has been completely re-energised. This compact, next generation hatchback is now even sportier and more elegant than ever – perfect for this challenge in Cheddar Gorge.

The perfect balance: agility and beauty

As I sweep along the dramatic stretch of road, tourists and climbers turn to look. Thinking they’re admiring my superior driving skills, I quickly realise that they’re actually eyeing up the car instead. It’s not really surprising. The New 208 cuts a striking figure with its assertive body styling, integrated wider front grille, and raised ‘spine’ running the length of the car. Plus, the two-tone black and chrome headlights, redesigned fog lights that are fully integrated into the bodywork, and full LED light clusters at the rear all give the New 208 a distinctive look.

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Award winner

I can’t help noticing how smooth the New 208 is to drive – just one of the many reasons it won ‘Best Small Car’ in the Fleet News Awards 2014 and ‘Best Supermini’ in the Auto Express New Car Awards 2012. Indeed, Peugeot has really upped the stakes with a range of efficient Euro 6 engines, including their innovative PureTech and BlueHDi technology. Their clever engineers have combined lighter materials with the efficiency of direct fuel injection to give maximum pleasure behind the wheel, at any speed, for less.

Featuring Menthol White personalisation and 16” ‘Titane’ Technical Grey Alloy Wheels, the model I’m driving is the Allure 1.2 PureTech in Orange Power – just one of the new colour choices available. This car does 110hp and emissions of just 103g/km, but the range as a whole has emissions from just 87g/km and up to 83.1mpg on a combined drive. Impressive!

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Tech in abundance

But where the New 208 really comes into its own is the onboard technology. Cruise control, ABS, ESP and remote central locking all come as standard. You can choose a 7” multi-function colour touch screen, which is a bit like a ‘mission control’ for the car’s audio, communications and navigation equipment. ‘Follow me home’ lighting does what it says on the tin – the headlights stay on for about 40 seconds after the ignition is turned off, so in the dark you can find your way safely to your front door.

The New 208 also has all the latest driving aids. Active City Brake will activate the emergency brake to minimise the seriousness of an accident or avoid it entirely (useful in case of not-so-spritely goats – or tourists). Stop & Start technology senses when you come to a halt and stops the engine, so you use less fuel and produce up to 15% less CO2 while driving in the city. And Park Assist uses ultrasound sensors to guide you into and out of a parking space. Plus, there’s a reversing camera.

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But on our Cheddar Gorge challenge, there’s no need to hit reverse. Working with Dan along this narrow, winding road really highlights the responsiveness and energy of the car. As dusk settles, I take one last spin in the stylish, sporty New 208 – truly a driving sensation.