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By Nick Hodgson
Is it just me or is the quest for power all a little bit vain? A game of one-upmanship too often played by those who just want to see a bigger number on the spec sheet versus the competition, rather than for any logical, practical reason. We used to get around just fine on less than 100kw, in fact not so long ago 100kw would have been a large number in a motor vehicle, but here we sit in 2020 with power figures quite regularly exceeding well over triple that and no one bats an eye. All this excess really puts me in the mood to go back to basics, an itch that the Peugeot 108 was all too happy to scratch.
The Europeans have always known how to make a proper little city car. They understand the problems of cramped cities, crazy traffic jams and that using the bumper to actually bump other cars now and then is no big deal. The French, the Italians and even the British have a long history in making cars for exactly this kind of situation and while the Germans and Japanese have very much cornered our market, a tiny French city car is always worth a look.
Peugeot have had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship, particularly in recent years with South Africa. Go back in time and Peugeot and Africa virtually went hand in hand, however that has long since waned with the last nail in the coffin seeming to be the departure of Peugeot. But now they’re back and attempting a revival, modelling themselves after Renault, who pulled themselves out the doldrums and are currently flourishing. Of course they never left, so the task at hand for Peugeot is certainly one of larger proportions. Customers are going to need reassurance, and the best place to start is with a great product.
The small city car market is not a place I like to dabble in at the moment. Honestly there’s rather a lot of rubbish out there right now and I constantly find myself turning towards the second hand car market for first car recommendations because of this. There are exceptions and immediately the little Peugeot 108 put itself into that category for me. A great infotainment system, funky looks and a few other nice touches like air conditioning, ABS and airbags as standard really help make this stand out, particularly when it’s so competitively priced. Up against its rivals and the Peugeot 108 really stands out as a forerunner.
The fact that it nips about town really puts a cherry on the top. Not since driving a Fiat 500 have I had this much fun whizzing about town in a car from this segment. The gearbox is nice and slick, if a bit long in the throw for my liking, and the car is well damped for those wonderfully potholed roads we all know so well. The fact that you can do this in such a basic car yet still have cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity shows that Peugeot have really considered what you actually want. How many cars in this market have a superfluous city steering button or some other such nonsense that you can’t just help thinking would have been better as money in your back pocket or a feature you’d actually use.
Coming back with a small city car is exactly where Peugeot should be aiming. With the wagons so tightly circled around many other segments it makes sense to jump in where there are obvious chinks in the armour from the competition. At a lower price point, it may also help get those volumes back up quickly and cars on the road are of course one of the best pieces of advertising available, again look to Renault for proof of that. Where Peugeot go to from here remains to be seen, but as a starting point I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. However, for those of you wishing to make longer journeys I would urge caution as that dreaded power number does come back to haunt with a vengeance on the open road. I don’t need three hundred plus kilowatts Peugeot, but maintaining 120 up a fairly tame hill in 5th gear is surely not too much to ask for, is it?
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