Provided by Independent.ie

Here, a breathtaking natural environment comes together with the elegance of contemporary architecture and decor and achieves the perfect balance between design, comfort and respect for nature and its surroundings.”

This is not about a car, rather it is the mission statement of a hotel. So it was perhaps no surprise that Peugeot chose the Hotel Sublime Comporta, a five-year-old resort situated just inland on Portugal’s Atlantic coast some 100km south of its capital Lisbon, for the launch of its new 208 which includes a full electric version.

It is 36 years since the French company first launched the 205, which was followed in turn by the 206, 207 and, seven years ago, the first 208. Some 22m cars in the series have been built and it became a firm favourite with people who wanted a small car with a bit of French flair. It also spawned the wonderful GTi version, one of the most startling and fun hot hatches ever, and the 2008, which was followed by extremely successful award-winning SUVs like the 3008 and 5008.

The new Peugeot 208 has the tag “futuristic and young”. When it arrives in showrooms at the end of the year in time for the peak sales season, would-be customers will see a car that is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, with a distinctive bodyline and clean, taut lines. It is very distinctive from the rear and mirrors the 3008, 5008 and new 508 range, with a black band running the width of the boot lid, linking the three-claw daytime running lights. The rear spoiler is available in a gloss black finish and, depending on the engine variant, may be enhanced by a chrome exhaust tail pipe. It is built on a totally new platform which will also host the new Opel Corsa, Citroen C3 and DS3.

Last Monday and Tuesday at the Hotel Sublime Comporta and to and from Lisbon Airport, over the stunning 12.5km cable-stayed Vasco da Gama bridge across the Tagus River, we had the chance to test out versions of the new 208 in a variety of engine types and transmission. And while the basic 75bhp petrol version was adequate, and the 100bhp and 130bhp Pure tech petrol engines a lot more fun, the star of the show was the e-208 which has all the space of the internal combustion engine models but the wonderful smooth acceleration of an EV; 0-100km in about eight seconds and very stable handling courtesy of the lower centre of gravity caused by the batteries located in the floor pan.

The e-208 will arrive a few months after the ICE models – which include a diesel, wanted by the French but will only account for about 2pc of sales here. Pricing for the conventionally powered 208s will start at around €18,000, very slightly more than the present generation.

However, the EV will come in at about €26,000 after grants and rebates which will be highly competitive with cars like the Renault Zoe. There will be a few trim options which could take the price up by another €5,000.The e-208’s 100kw (136bhp) engine claims a range of around 340km, which is good but not brilliant. However as I see the e-208 as primarily an urban car, this should be more than adequate.

Peugeot is aiming to make the cost of the e-208 equal to that of ICE versions when the price of recharging is set against the extra initial purchase amount. The battery is guaranteed for eight years or 160,000km and to hold 70pc of its charge. We might have had our heads turned by the very eco-resort where we were staying and a ride on some Peugeot e-bikes, but all the talk was of the e-208, even though the ones we were testing were so-called pre-production models which were a bit rough around the edges. Anyway, it does say something about the move to electric cars that a mainstream manufacturer like Peugeot launches one alongside conventional models.

All the new 208s will have a mass of driving aids available as standard or as options. Peugeot believes that the company is forging the way to semi-automatic driving with the 208.

The space in the car is good. I and my co-driving colleague – we would together make two thirds of a good rugby front row if age, fitness and pure lack of ability were irrelevancies – fitted in fine.

Obviously if we were up front, three more forwards wouldn’t get in the back. However a trio the size of a certain scrum half/turned commentator would still make it.

Peugeot research shows that, in spite of my misconceptions that the 208 was predominantly bought by women, it has always been popular across all genders – that is me being super woke – and ages. I do think Peugeot has a winner here. However, the jump in class between the trims and getting the new generation of i-Cockpit 3D instrument panel does make a difference and will be worth paying more for.

Going from an high-spec bigger-powered eight-speed automatic car to a basic manual version was a bit of a let-down. Yet the car is a good looker. From the moment we saw them at the Lisbon Airport car park, the 208 had pazazz.

When they were grouped together under the cork trees at the hotel, they looked even better. But what was best was following one back across the Vasco da Gama bridge.

Dressed in Elixir Red with that black band across the boot, it really looked the business. I have always had my head turned by a good rear. The 208’s is spectacular. And the front is special too; with fang-like LED strips running down the bumper which a colleague called “less lion and more demon goat”.

It is probably the best-looking car in its class and the good design is carried inside with a wrap-round carbon-effect facia just demanding to be touched. More importantly, the car drives well and the millions of people who have loved its predecessors will be more than satisfied.

So as we were entertained at Sublime Comporta – “surrounded by undulating umbrella pines and cork trees, wild sand dunes, rice fields and over 60km of pristine, white-sand beaches” – Peugeot, and its Irish team of Emma Toner and Colin Sheridan, did a very good job of showing us something special.

However, when I read that Sublime Comporta “offers a combination of tranquility and simplicity that is both addictive and inspiring, reminding us of the magic of experiencing more with less”, I wonder – as I said earlier – if our heads might have been turned in the enchanting setting. Let’s see when the car arrives here later this year and we won’t be using all those emissions to go and see it.

Provided by Independent.ie