JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – A nippy city runabout with Gallic good looks and dependable Japanese mechanical innards? The new-to-SA Peugeot 108 ticks all these boxes, and more to boot.

"You can’t have your cake and eat it." It’s an old English proverb that pertains to the fact that every choice in life must come with a concession of sorts. In the automotive sphere it’s particularly apt. Often quality means a price premium, or an options list as long as your arm, while choosing a set of wheels with your heart can see you run afoul of brittle build quality and meteoric depreciation. And it’s the ability to largely skirt such caprices that makes the Peugeot 108 particularly interesting. 

Before we progress any further with this driving impression, it’s worth acknowledging that the Peugeot 108 is essentially a re-skinned Toyota Aygo. Make of that what you will, but there’s no doubt a combination of swoopy French styling and bulletproof Japanese engineering make it a compelling little car. 

Even more compelling is its sticker price – R179 900 all-in (that 99 g/km CO2 rating sees it duck below the emissions tax threshold) – and just how much kit that money nets you. The likes of air-con, power steering, LED daytime running lights, electric front windows and touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are among the standard-fitment items. The list of safety features is similarly impressive; front/side/curtain airbags, ABS with EBD and EBA, stability control and Isofix anchor points are often optional extras, or seldom offered in cars occupying this price point.

The 108’s playfulness extends beyond its sporty wrapper and a funkily styled, albeit hard-plastic interior; it’s a fun little thing to pilot. The small-diameter steering wheel lends an impression of greater response from the admittedly light power steering. The chassis is also well sorted, and despite the 108’s high centre of gravity, feels supple and composed in cut-and-thrust driving.  

Although it serves up only 53 kW and 93 N.m, the 1,0-litre three-pot engine feels lively and willingly spools up. This flexibility, allied with fairly tall gearing for the snappy five-speed ‘box, allowed us to notch up an indicated 120 km/h in third gear. But while capable of handling motorway stints, the 108 really comes into its own in an urban environment, where that 9,8-metre turning circle makes tight maneuvering a doddle. 

While the upper reaches of the gear ratios are tall, the first two gears are pleasingly short, lending the 108 the sort of gap-grabbing nippiness that’s perfect for town driving.

But as per the aforementioned confectionery-related proverb, trade-offs are inevitable when adopting a car of the 108’s diminutive stature. That 3,5- by 1,6-metre frame means rear legroom is limited and the boot will only just cope with a weekly shop. And the narrow cabin occasionally sees larger front occupants becoming a little closer than would normally be deemed comfortable, especially when shifting gears.

Even so, with a five-year/100 000 km service plan and warranty backing up its competitive pricing, the 108 is an impressive ownership proposition for those on a tight budget looking for something with a bit more panache than most city cars offer.



FAST FACTS

Model: Peugeot 108 1,0 Active 
Price: R179 900
Engine: 1,0-litre, 3-cyl, petrol
Power: 53 kW
Torque: 93 N.m
0-100 km/h: 13,1 sec
Top Speed: 160 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 4,1 L/100 km
CO2: 99 g/km
Transmission: 5-spd manual 
Maintenance Plan: S5/100 000 km