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UPDATE: The Peugeot 208 has been officially launched – read our launch report here.

These are indeed exciting times for the car buyer. Auto manufacturers are coming up with interesting products, vehicles with good specifications, design and driving dynamics that well eclipse their predecessors.

As consumers, we have nothing but to gain from this. At this point of time, we get better looking cars with way better specifications for the same price tag, if compared to say half a decade ago. On top of that, we also now have more variety in terms of brands and models.

Certainly, the B-segment arena has become very boisterous. The introduction of a fun, good-looking B-segment hatch with above average specifications was kicked started by the Ford Fiesta in Malaysia. There’s also the likes of the recently-launched Kia Rio, another vehicle with a bag full of features.

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The latest brand to join the mix is Peugeot with its 208, which is available locally in both five-door and three-door forms. At the time of writing, the price hadn’t yet been revealed, but stay tuned for it as the car is set to be launched later tonight.

So, if you’re in the market for a foreign, above average B-segment hatch and your budget is anywhere between RM80k to RM95k, the Peugeot 208 might be in your shopping list, but is it worth your consideration?

The Peugeot 208 is a very good looking car – it breathes the brand’s most updated design language as seen in the 508. Personally, the front end looks aggressive and sharp thanks to the large and wide grille, a bumper that has a protruding lower lip and of course those striking headlights.

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And talking about the headlights, you get projectors with Peugeot’s LED Signature Lighting as standard. Fog lamps are also standard. The front area is pretty much the same for both the five-door and three-door, while the side profile is where things start to get different, due to the door configuration.

The wheels are also different, the five-door getting 16-inch two-tone “Helium” alloys while the three-door wears 17-inch two-tone alloys in an “Oxygen” design. The three-door can be further differentiated from its more practical sibling by the full-chrome side mirrors.

Both variants share the same rear look, except for a lower bumper designed to accommodate a visible single chrome tail pipe for the three-door. The five-door’s tailpipe is hidden in comparison. The highlight of the rear is definitely the tail lamps, which seem to have elements of the 508, with its stroke-ish design. The tail lamps have been given the LED treatment as well.

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Available body colours for both models include Digital White, Platinum Black, Virtual Blue and my favourite, Rogue Red. There is also another colour called Passion Silver, which is only available for the five-door. Overall, the 208 scores well in the exterior looks department.

Inside, the car is dressed with plenty of modern design elements. You’ll see gloss black handles on the door cards, and this treatment follows through to the centre console and the instrument panel. You will also notice chrome elements in the car, at the side A/C vents and door handles.

However, I don’t really understand the slightly different chrome treatment given to the gear gaiter. Chrome treatment elsewhere looks and feels premium except for the one here, which looks a little aftermarket. Overall, the cabin feels roomy and it doesn’t feel cheap. There is a certain premium-ness to it, especially thanks to the overall design and the soft-touch dashboard. It is not as soft-touch as the 508, but it’s good.

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The storage compartments are decent, with cup holders in front of the gear lever and other storage areas like the centre arm rest and in the door cards. There is also a compartment on the right side of the multi-function steering wheel, which is where you can place your Touch N’ Go and other access cards (for your condo or office parking). The glove box (with cooler) is a let down though, which is apparent in the 508 too. Not much space here. In terms of legroom, the 208 actually surprised me a little. With someone sitting comfortably in front, I had ample leg room in the rear of the five-door, which is the only model we got to test, and there are no issues with head clearance as well.

Switches and controls are well-positioned, no problems here, and tactility is good. The thing that I really love about the interior is the instrument panel – the wide look of the panel and the design of the RPM and speed clusters with an LCD display placed in between is pleasing to the eye. This design is apparently drawn by a superbike’s instrument panel. Also evident is a glow below the panel, part of the mood lighting effects of the 208, something which has started to trickle down the “vehicle chain.”

The other highlight of the 208′s interior is the touchscreen control unit, which Peugeot calls the Interactive HD Colour Touchscreen. The unit allows you to control different aspects such as all media functions including playlists from your FM, USB and Bluetooth streaming (no CDs here), communications via Bluetooth, where you can make and receive calls (this is also assisted with the controls on the steering wheel) and other vehicle functions and settings.

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The screen is definitely large enough and is of course full colour, and as far as the design of the user interface is concerned, it looks decent. In terms of the control via the touchscreen, it’s also decent. Being so used to or rather, spoiled by the smoothness and sensitivity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad products, we do tend to expect anything that is “touchscreen” to perform as good.

In any case, I believe that the Interactive HD Colour Touchscreen is likely to get better and better (as long as Peugeot continues to develop it) and we might see a version that is closer to perfection in the next Peugeot vehicle or in the 208 facelift. All in all, a lovely, good-looking interior which is spacious enough for its segment and which feels premium, again for its segment.

Before I talk about the available interior specifications, I must compliment the Arkamys 3D audio system with its six speakers that is offered as standard. To music lovers out there who appreciate good sound quality like me, the audio system in the 208 will definitely meet your expectations, sound-wise. During the drive, we had music playing from a USB drive (given by the event organiser) as well as streamed via my iPhone 5′s Bluetooth, with good clarity right through.

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Other interior features which are offered standard for both models include digital dual-zone air conditioning, sports steering wheel with controls and height/reach adjustability, semi-bucket front seats with six-way adjustment for both driver and passenger (yes, passenger as well), 60/40 foldable rear seats giving you 1,152 litres of boot space and a 12V power socket (two would have been better), among others.

In terms of difference between the five-door and the three-door, there only two major differences: combination of leather and fabric for the three-door while the five-door gets full fabric and a panaromic roof for the three-door. The glass roof also comes with mood lighting effect, a rather neat feature.

Safety features are identical on both models. They include six airbags, ABS with EBA and EBD, ESP with Anti Skid Regulator (ASR) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) which can be deactivated, hill-start, auto-hazard on de-acceleration and two ISOFIX anchorage points on the rear seats. There’s also a centralised electric child-lock switch, which means you don’t need to manually lock or unlock it at the rear door itself.

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Other features include electric power steering, rear parking aid with audio and visual assistance, auto wipers and auto headlights and “follow me home” lights with remote function.

Meanwhile, the steering wheel is small, but somewhat nicely sized and yes, the rim is also thick enough. The overall feel of the steering wheel is good and sporty, though in terms of height adjustment some might find that the wheel is unable to be set as high as you’d want it to be.

At its highest point, it blocked my view of the instrument panel, which is something I don’t like. My first impression was not all that positive about the steering angle, but after a few kilometres, I got used to it – I was able to sit comfortably while being close enough to the controls, have a good view and most importantly, being able to control the steering wheel effectively.

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Acceleration from the 1.6 litre four-pot with Dual Variable Valve Timing & Lift (VTi) is decent, with enough pulling power, not bad considering that the car was pretty much loaded up throughout the entire drive. The engine churns out 122 PS and 160 Nm of torque, enough juice to get about and handle long distance driving.

The 208 uses a four-speed auto box with Tiptronic and Sport Mode, which pretty much holds gears longer before switching. At first glance, the term “four-speed” might stick out like a sore thumb, but it was enough to serve the 208′s purpose. Yes, transmission performance could be better, it could be snappier during gear changes but performance is adequate.

At cruising speeds on the highway at 110 km/h, the engine runs at 3,000 rpm and wind noise was quite well suppressed. The 208 felt quite planted even at higher speeds – we managed 170 km/h with three occupants on board including myself. The suspension travel was pretty good as well, not too bumpy and not too soft, and this applies to the rear cabin too. In terms of overall ride, the 208 is quite a comfortable car. The seats offer good seating posture – there certainly wouldn’t be too much fatigue over long distances.

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In terms of handling, I am impressed with the Pug, which has MacPherson struts up front with an anti-roll bar and a cross member axle at the back. I had the chance of pushing the 208 around some sharp bends and it delivered well, with good stability and predictability. I was having fun pushing the car, although slower traffic was a pain.

Bump absorption over road irregularities was also up to expectations. I managed to spend some time in slow traffic conditions and as expected, the 208 has no issues with slow manoeuvrability. The turning radius was up to expectations too.

In conclusion, the Peugeot 208 should definitely be in your shopping list if you’re looking for a car in this segment. The 208, like its highly competitive rivals, help raise the bar in terms of features offered to the car buyer. The 208 is a looker, has a beautiful cabin, drives well and comes with a lot of features.

It is versatile enough to be used as a practical Point A to B runabout but also has enough style to impress your fashion-conscious friends. For those who crave for more power, let’s just hope Nasim brings in the GTi!