PARIS -- Peugeot will add a full-electric version of its new-generation 208 hatchback, while also making the small car more upscale by adding technology and materials more commonly found on the brand's higher-end models such as the 508 and 5008.
Peugeot released details and pictures of the 208 on Monday ahead of the car's public unveiling at the Geneva auto show on March 5.
With the exception of the name, almost everything on the new Peugeot 208 is different than the previous generation. It is built on a new platform, PSA Group's CMP architecture. It has more aggressive styling and new color and trim options.
The interior has a 3D instrument display, a first for Peugeot.
PSA Group says it has optimized the CMP architecture to accept both internal combustion and full-electric drivetrains.
The battery-powered 208 will have 340 km (211 miles) of range under Europe's new WLTP homologation (equivalent to 450 km under the old NEDC testing).
Peugeot says the 208 is ideal for full electrification rather than a hybrid powertrain because most trips will be short, and urban owners will have guaranteed access to city centers that could be restricted in the future to zero- or ultra-low-emissions vehicles.
The 208 electric variant will compete directly in Europe against the similar-sized Renault Zoe electric hatchback. Indirect rivals because they are crossovers would be the Hyundai Kona and Kia Soul.
The electric 208 will weigh about 250 kg (551 pounds) more than internal combustion versions, Peugeot says, with a 50-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack located under the rear seats, where the gasoline tanks for gasoline or diesel models will be.
The 100 kilowatt (136 hp) electric motor will be supplied by Continental, while PSA Group prepares its own motors in a joint venture with the Japanese supplier Nidec.
The electric 208 is identified only by small "e" badges and composite inserts on the wheels, and there will be a sports-oriented GT trim level with special seat stitching and fabrics.
Yann Beurel, the design manager for the 208, said consumers in focus groups told Peugeot that they did not think an electric vehicle needed to be differentiated from an internal combustion version.
They told us, 'We are not at the beginning of the electric vehicle era anymore,' " he said.
The current 208 was introduced in Europe in 2012 and has been a strong seller, if not a blockbuster, for Peugeot.
According to figures from JATO Dynamics, the 208 ranked fourth in the European small hatchback segment in 2018, with sales down 6 percent to 230,000, trailing the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and its French rival, the Renault Clio. Renault will unveil a new generation Clio in Geneva, while VW and Ford updated their small cars in 2017.
Worldwide sales of the 208 last year were about 295,000, down 9.8 percent.
Overall European registrations in the small-car segment fell by 1.5 percent last year, to 2.97 million vehicles from 3.1 million in 2017, as buyers increasingly favor small SUVs and crossovers.
PSA plans to produce as many as 350,000 208 models worldwide by 2020 at its plants in Trnava, Slovakia and Kenitra, according to IHS Markit.
A significant part of the expected sales increase will come from the electric version, which Peugeot expects will make up 10 percent of the volume. Diesels, mostly aimed at fleet buyers, will be 20 percent, and gasoline versions will make up the rest.
Peugeot has not yet announced pricing for the new 208. Five trim levels will be available, including the dedicated e-GT line, which will be the most expensive option.
205 GTI inspiration
In developing the latest 208 Beurel said designers kept the Peugeot 205 GTI hot hatchback from the mid-1980s in mind, although he said the new 208 was not meant to be a tribute or retro-inspired. The new 208 is meant to be more dynamic, with a 30 mm lower roofline, longer hood and deeper side stampings. Trim and embellishments have been minimized, he said, to emphasize the 208's profile.
"If you have the best ingredients, you don't need to over-spice the food," Beurel said. Similar to the 508, the 208 now wears its model number on the hood, and the daytime running lights are now in the brand's "lion's claw" shape.
Even though the 208 has a slightly smaller envelope, interior space is largely unchanged -- and there is more rear-passenger knee room -- thanks to the new CMP architecture, said Eric Dejou, manager of interior design for the 208.
The most-noticeable interior change is Peugeot's i-Cockpit, found on the 3008 and 5008 crossovers and 508. The steering wheel is smaller and set below the instrumentation, which Dejou said could improve reaction time by up to half a second compared with looking through the wheel.
The digital readout is customizable and has a 3D layout that brings the most important information to the front of the display, such as alerts or vehicle speed. There is also a seven- or 10-inch horizontally oriented infotainment screen that incorporates gestures such as swipes to access various controls. Below the screen are "piano key" climate switches similar to those on the new 508. "We wanted to combine the digital and the tactile," Dejou said, including more soft-touch materials in the cockpit.