Peugeot108 is looking goog

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The new 108 fromPeugeot is one of a group of three which, although the same underneath, is wrapped in a very different skin.

And while its Citroen C1 and the Toyota Aygo production line buddies have their external appeal, Peugeot has really gone to town on the interior, which is where, after all, most of us see the car from.

The 108 starts from a very secure place. The 107, launched in 2005, sold more than 130,000 - better than either of the other two.

Peugeot is hoping to outsell its rivals once more in this A-segment battleground where 60 per cent of buyers are female and two-thirds are couples.

In 2005 this small city car market represented 117,000 sales, now it accounts for about 240,000.

At that time the 107 ticked the economical, compact, manoeuvrable boxes.

The 108, which is some four centimetres longer, comes with more choice - engines, trim levels, body styles, colours and that all important personalisation options list.

The most obvious addition is what Peugeot terms a cabrio for what is, in fact, a retractable fabric roof a la the Fiat 500 which lets in the fresh air while retaining the integral structure of the car.

Available in three different colours, it adds £850 to the total cost.

There is the same interior space for occupants but more boot space than before - 196 litres as opposed to the 139 litres of the 107.

The new parcel shelf is a definite improvement on the previous solid version. This one swings up and down with the hatch.

The dash has been restyled for a more modern look and buyers can add decals, colour schemes and floor mats to suit.

The bar code dash highlight is reminiscent of the Paul Smith MINI design but buyers can also have a tartan – of sorts – plus herringbone.

All the driver information is set directly behind the steering wheel in a tight, easy-to-read pod which leaves plenty of space elsewhere for the colour co-ordinated highlights which can also be reflected on the bonnet, the roof and the wing mirrors.

Features you don’t normally see on an A-segment car include steering wheel mounted controls, and a memory function on the front seats of the three-door model which means they will return to the same position when pulled forward to allow passengers into the rear . The top two trims get a reversing camera as standard.

As well as the styling aspects, Peugeot has the edge over its rivals with an extra engine.

In addition to the 1.0litre 68bhp unit under the bonnet of both the Aygo and the C1, Peugeot has added the slightly more powerful 1.2litre 82bhp Pure Tech unit which is expected to account for the lion’s share of sales.

As with the smaller engine, it is linked to a neat five-speed manual transmission and puthers out less than 100g/km of CO2 - giving the entire 108 range a road tax rating of zero.

Economy for the 1.0litre has been assessed at an average 68.9mpg and for the Pure Tech 1.2 litre at 76.3mpg.

Most of us are unlikely to maintain a steady right foot for long enough to attain these dizzy heights but even the urban figures of around 56mpg are a good target to aim for.

As with the CI and the Aygo, the 108 is offered with an automated gear box. Past experience dictates that this is an option which requires delicate handling. Treat it gently and it’ll be fine, ram your foot to the floor and it’ll hop about all over the place - and growl while it does so.

Three-door 108 models start at £8,245 for the entry-level 1.0litre Access while five doors come in at Active level at £9,895.

The £1,250 step up to the Active trim adds the 1.2litre engine to the list plus a seven-inch touch screen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and self-explanatory icons, height adjustable driver’s seat and colour coded exterior detailing.

It is this variant which is expected to be most popular, accounting for more than 50 per cent of sales. Step up again to the Allure for 15-inch alloys, keyless entry, front fog lamps, leather steering wheel and another £1,500.

Having done that it would be a shame not to add £850 to the final tally for the leather interior, climate control and aluminium detailing of the top-of-the -range Feline.

There is no doubt that dressed up right the Peugeot 108 is going to make a visual impact and, with the more powerful engine, it has a good chance of out selling its rivals once more.

n Ten years ago customer visited six or seven showrooms before making their car buying choice, now it is one or two. They arrive much better informed and know pretty well what they want, having done 10 or 12 hours of research.

Up until now it has taken up to 15mins for form filling and half an hour to ‘generate the deal’. New for Peugeot dealerships is the iSell system, designed to improve the timings by cutting down on duplication.

The system incorporates 13 different aspects of the buying process into one. Once the customer has chosen a model, colour and other vehicle specifics, the dealer uses iSell via iPad to locate a vehicle matching that description. Customer information is entered via the tablet and the dealer can make all the checks there and then.