2022 Peugeot e-208 GT road trip
Wild weather and hundreds of miles cross-country – the first leg of our trip throws Peugeot’s electric 208 in at the deep end
At least ours isn’t a return trip. Sat-nav lists charge points. Apps trigger charging
ELECTRIC STORM Land’s End – the end of the road is the start of our journey
A storm is brewing. Perhaps it’s a sign. No, it’s definitely a sign. THE sign. The famous Land’s End sign recognisable from a million family photo albums and charity walk/ride/crawl snaps. Today though, it’s just a stick. A storm is brewing ominously out in the abyss that is the Atlantic Ocean, the waves rising and crashing almost in slow motion and the guardians of the sign have removed the top to prevent it absconding on an epic journey to South America.
This is where we start our own journey, a Land’s End to John O’Groats voyage with Peugeot’s 208 and 2008 (prior to the first Covid-19 lockdown). Ben Barry will be tackling the northernmost part of the trip in the 2008 SUV, but before he can do that I need to get from Land’s End to Edinburgh using the 2008’s supermini brother, the new 208. Make that three 208s. Peugeot’s thinking is there’s a 208 for everyone, so offers its compact all-rounder with three different powertrains. The bulk of the range is made up of petrol- powered cars, but there’s also a clean diesel capable of up to 73.6mpg for those who really want to go the extra mile, as well as the e-208, a fully electric supermini that’s quickest of the lot on paper. It claims a real world range up to 217 miles – we’ll put that to the test right now.
I opted to overnight in Penzance, rather than at the Land’s End Hotel where I’m currently enjoying a morning coffee because the Ecotricity charging point in the car park is broken. I knew this because I’d downloaded Zap Map to my phone, an excellent tool that allows you to see where the UK’s chargers are located. Users can upload information to let other drivers know if a particular charger is not working, and you can filter your searches so you see only the type of chargers you want. This bit is crucial, because not all chargers, and not all EVs, are created equal, as we’ll find.
But right now we’ve got half a dozen counties to cross en route to tonight’s stop in Birmingham and a full charge in the 208’s belly. Not that most people would know its power source. The only giveaways that this car is electric-powered are the small e-badges and a blue tint to the Peugeot lion and grille. Other than that it looks like any other 208. Which is no bad thing. Surely the best-looking Peugeot supermini since the millstone around Peugeot’s neck that is the 205, the latest 208 radiates confidence. The proportions, the stance, the mischievous scowl: it’s a masterclass in small car attitude. And in GT spec, with its black arch extensions and dark grille, our car has more attitude than most.
If anything, the cabin is even more stylish than the wrapper. All trims bar Active Premium and Allure get the 3D i-Cockpit digital instrument pack, which, as with all modern Peugeots, you view by peering over, rather than through the flat-topped steering wheel. That’s housed in a dash clothed in a fabulous textured faux-carbon material, while a horizontally-mounted bank of switches provide short-cuts to functions, working in tandem with the touchscreen. That screen measures seven inches on lower trims but a chunky 10 inches on our GT and the GT Premium, where it provides 3D navigation in both cases. And with Birmingham plugged into the system, we’re away.
Far away. Almost 290 miles away, though it feels further. I live in South Devon, not far from the Cornish border. As far as everybody else in the office is concerned it’s the capital of nowhere. But even compared with my home, down here feels a lifetime away, being closer to France than Birmingham as the crow flies.
Electric superminis like the e-208 aren’t really intended for the kind of use we’re putting it to. But from the moment we slot the very normal gear selector into Drive, we get a feeling it’s not as crazy a challenge as it seems. There’s a real maturity to the way the e-208 goes about its business. Unlike some EVs the throttle mapping is perfectly judged so it’s easy to pull away smartly, but without snapping your head back against the head rest.
Not that it can’t do that, too. The e-208’s key hardware is a 134bhp electric motor drawing current from a 50kWh battery pack. Stomp on the gas (amps? volts? watts? joules?) and the e-208 surges forward with almost hot hatch-like urgency, but limo-like serenity. By the time you hit the legal limit the push in the back has dimmed and an electronic limiter calls time at 93mph. Still, a 0-62mph time of 8.1sec means it’s the quickest 208 right now, at least until Peugeot Sport gets busy on a 208. But flattening the right pedal means flattening the battery in short order, so after a brief, gentle meander along Cornwall’s north coast, including a nosey down spectacular Sennen Cove with its wide sweep of surf-friendly water, we settle in to a sensible 70mph cruise up the A30 towards Devon.
We knock the driving mode selector into Eco to maximise efficiency and a warning pops up on the gauge pack telling us we’ll have to make some performance and thermal comfort compromises. In other words, don’t expect hot hatch poke, or to keep really toasty in the cabin in winter, and get great range. But for the most part there are no compromises necessary. The e-208 cruises happily and quietly at the legal limit, and because the electric motor is where you’d find a combustion engine in other 208s, and the batteries are under the rear floor, you get exactly the same 311-litre luggage space as other 208s (though the bag for the charging cable eats into that if you choose to carry it).
The weight of that 50kWh battery pack means a portly 1455kg kerbweight, but the upside is that mass is located evenly, and much of it low in the car’s body. So you feel the weight under braking on the way into roundabouts on the lower section of the A30, but the e-208 feels happily planted through the curve of the roundabout itself, with plenty of grip to keep you in the black stuff.
By the time we pass a smashed up Aston that obviously wasn’t quite so tied down, it’s looking like we need a fill so we stop for a top-up at Whitehouse Services near Okehampton. Although the e-208 has a WLTP range of 217 miles, that assumes near-tropical 23º weather, a 29mph average and 82mph max. Tasked with maintaining a constant 70mph, fully-loaded, in near-freezing British winter, the pessimistic trip computer suggests 125 miles today. We play it safe, stopping after about 100 miles.
We pull onto the Okehampton forecourt to find there’s only one charging unit, and someone is using it. A Nissan NV200 van is plugged in, driver stuffing a limp sandwich into his mouth with one hand and scrolling away on his phone on the other. The NV200, like Nissan’s Leaf, uses the CHAdeMO charging cable for rapid charging, meaning the DC fast charging cable the Pug needs, and a slow AC charging lead, are both free. But the machine can only dish out one DC charge at a time. I can’t get my 50kW top-up until the Nissan leaves, so I try connecting the slow AC plug while waiting. The 208’s i-Cockpit display delivers the grim news: it’ll take over nine hours to top up the battery that way. So I go to grab something to eat to fill the time. And when van man disappears 30 minutes later and we’re finally able to connect to the DC fast charger (having added zero miles while connected to the AC lead), I head to the cafe round the back to grab another bite and while away another half hour. At this rate I’ll be heavier than the battery pack by the time we get to Brum.
And Birmingham is still a good few hours away. Between Okehampton and our final destination we make another stop just south of Bristol, and another at Gloucester Services to use the 50kW rapid chargers needed to make battery top-up stops bearably brief. Unlike some rivals, the Peugeot e-208 is actually capable of refuelling at 100kW charge points, which can give an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes, but they’re still rare, and there are none to be found on our route.
But in the case of Gloucester Services, the stopping experience is more incredible than inconvenient. Beautiful to look at and rarely busy, this Waitrose of service stations is a haven from tacky phone accessory shops and burger chains. The food is interesting, and you can eat it inside the huge Scandi-style dining area, or, if the weather’s on your side, next to the mini lake beyond. There’s even a short country walk if you fancy really stretching your legs. It does what service stations should, but often don’t: leaves you feeling rested and relaxed.
It was less relaxing for Jaguar i-Pace driver Richard, who turned up 30 seconds after us disheartened to find we’d just nabbed the sole 50kW CCS charger. It’s a friendly disappointment though, and after debating whether to wait for us, he decides to carry on to the next available stop.
Carl, driving a BMW i3, is equally friendly. ‘Is yours the pure EV model or the range extender?’ I ask.
‘It’s the range extender,’ says Carl, ‘but I use it like an EV. I did 5500 miles on my last tank of petrol.’ That’s some commitment, given he’s on his way back from London and it only does 60 miles on a full charge.
From Gloucester it’s a relatively short hop to Birmingham, and our 80 per cent fill means we’ve got no worries about range, or the need to recharge overnight. Just as well: it’s dark and cold outside so we’ve got the headlights and heater on. You’d never think twice about the energy they, or the heated seats, might consume if you were driving a conventional car. Driving an EV you become more aware of how every action you take might be affecting your efficiency – while also taking enormous satisfaction from knowing your driving emits no carbon dioxide whatsoever.
Finally, almost 300 miles after setting out from Land’s End, we roll into the centre of Birmingham. On a no-nonsense run in a fully- fuelled diesel with just a quick pit stop to neck a coffee I reckon I could have done the same journey in five-to-six hours. But with detours in search of photogenic scenery, plus regular stops to charge and a more measured pace, it’s taken all day.
But being forced to stop has made us think more about the journey, and made it feel like a proper road trip. And apart from the need for more frequent stops than you’d make in a petrol or diesel car, and the toll on my body from all the food I’ve scoffed while charging, the e-208 has been an easy companion. But it’s built for the city and cruising at 40mph, using its thick wodge of torque to squirt from light to light, and all with almost no noise and fuss.
It feels right at home here in Birmingham, a city that plans to launch a Clean Air Zone in 2021. Older petrol cars and any diesels pre-dating 2015 will have to pay a pollution charge. The electric 208 won’t: its zero emissions during driving helps local air quality and insulates owners from the burgeoning ranks of authorities taking action against cars.
I mull this over to the groan of traffic outside my hotel room. Today the e-208 cost about 9p a mile; a comparable petrol car rate would be 16p. And that was refuelling the 208 on public chargers at 30p a kilowatt hour, six times what you might pay on an overnight domestic tariff. Food for thought.
But forget food, it’s sleep I want after a long day. We’ve got a date with a diesel for round two of our road trip in the morning.
2022 Peugeot e-208 GT
Price £29,975 (after £3000 subsidy)
Engine Electric motor with 134bhp/192lb ft,
Transmission Single-speed transmission, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 93mph, 217- mile range, 4.3 miles per kWh, 0g/km CO2
On sale Now
Piano key controls look fab and are intuitive to use. Birmingham’s Bullring. We’ve made it! 100kW chargers give 80 per cent charge in 30 mins. This is a 50kW unit.
Using its thick wodge of torque to cruise from light to light, the e-208 feel s right at home in town. GeniePoint charge paid and monitored via app [bottom pic]. Cockpit packs smart materials and smarter tech, from wireless phone charging to beautiful 3D graphics. Two hours and Chris knows the human signpost gig isn’t for him.
Surely the best- looking Peugeot supermini since the 205, the latest 208 radiates confidence
# UNBORING ROAD TRIPS
The e-208 surges forward with almost hot hatch- like urgency, but limo- like serenity