The Peugeot 208 in Quiberon
The Peugeot 208 is on track to become Europe’s best-selling car for the first time this year, toppling the VW Golf. The last time a Peugeot topped the European charts was in 2007 when the 207 led. This is a massive development in the history of European car sales and one that warranted a BSCB test drive. Peugeot has kindly loaned me a 208 GT Pack PureTech 130 S&S EAT8 priced at 29,820€ (US$31,800), which is the most expensive ICE variant. It’s also worth noting that the EV variant has been very successful for Peugeot and definitely helped lift the nameplate up to the top of the European sales ladder.
Itinerary and interior snaps
We will take the 208 from Paris to Brittany, an area of my country I have never visited before. Our first stop is in Nantes, 385 km south west of Paris and home to 293,000 inhabitants. Including Nantes in a Brittany trip is a little controversial as the city was taken out of Brittany when regional boundaries were redrawn during World War II. The first few hours of travel are a good spot to detail my first impressions of the 208. Like the 3008 before it, the interior feels very sophisticated with Alcantara seats, plush materials with lime colour stitching and a modern gearbox. On the negative side, the touchscreen and infotainment system cuts off regularly and shows a blank screen, meaning we have to re-enter all the destination details each time. Like the 3008 also, the cruise control wand is hidden behind the steering wheel and needs a proper look to figure out, which one cannot do at highway speed.
Exterior-wise, the 208 has almost nothing to do with the previous generation, with claw-shaped headlights and very detailed tail lights (see above). The back pillar with “GT Line” written on it is a reference to the legendary Peugeot 205, and the back of the car manages to stay classy thanks to a shiny black band between the tail lights, similarly to the 3008. The side doors and hood are nicely carved to add sportiness as shown above. Our first stop in “true” Brittany is Carnac, 144 km north west of Nantes. The town and its surrounding region houses the world’s greatest concentration of megalithic sites. There are 3,000 upright stones in the area, all erected between 5000 and 3500 BC. It’s still a mystery as to how and why these stones were hauled well before the invention of the wheel. For comparison Stonehenge was constructed from around 3000 to 2000 BC. I would say I think Stonehenge looks a lot more impressive.
After Carnac we continue south for 19 km onto Quiberon, located at the end of a thin peninsula. Very touristy in summer (I was there in late June), Quiberon offers a magnificent setting with a rugged coast to the west and secluded beaches to the east. The hero picture of this article was taken in Quiberon. Next we retrace our steps for roughly 50 km to the north east to Vannes. We parked the 208 next to a shining new 308. Home to 53,000 inhabitants, Vannes is a highlight of Brittany. Surrounded by massive ramparts, the old town is mostly pedestrian and houses picturesque cobbled streets and squares. For me the main feature of Vannes is its half-timbered houses as pictured above.
Rochefort en Terre and Josselin
We then travel east for 40 km to reach the medieval town of Rochefort en Terre, Roch an Argoed in Breton language. The church here was built in the 10th century and the village is filled with slate-roofed houses, narrow streets and quiet. Of course, there is a castle here although it is not open to the public so I didn’t get to see it. Josselin, 40 km north of Rochefort en Terre, is our next stop in this countryside Brittany adventure. The town of just 2,600 inhabitants boasts a very impressive 14th-century cone-turreted castle, the Château de Josselin (pictured above). Once the seat of the counts of Rohan, it is still inhabited by the Rohan family today. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to get myself a sumptuous “crêpe bretonne”.
108 km west of Josselin is Pont-Aven, an exquisite Breton village and probably my favourite of the whole trip. Its claim to fame is related to the group of artists that established themselves here around Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin in the 1850s. Pont-Aven used to be a port and mill town and the Aven river runs through it, the town being at the interface of the tidal estuary and the freshwater river. The only water mills still capable of operating is the Moulin Poulguin, which is now a restaurant (you can see the machinery inside) I had the pleasure of visiting. After a quick detour to the coast at Trévignan to snap a few pictures (above), we arrive at Concarneau, in Breton Konk-Kerne, meaning Bay of Cornouaille. The main attraction in Concarneau is its medieval Ville Close (closed town), a walled old town on an island in the centre of the harbour. Unfortunately it is completely devoted to tourism and akin to a Breton Disneyworld. Next onto the Finistere’s capital Quimper we go, 23 km north west. The highlight of this town is the fantastic Cathédrale St-Corentin, pictured above.
Peugeot back to its roots in Morgat and Camaret sur Mer
Leaving Quimper and driving 50 km northwest we arrive at the Presqu’île de Crozon (Crozon peninsula), the middle tine in the western Brittany fork. Crozon, the largest town on the peninsula at 7,400 inhabitants, is a rather quiet and uneventful coastal town. 2 km south by the beach is Morgat, which was built as a summer resort in the 1930s by the Peugeot brothers. We are in a way back to the 208’s roots here. Note Crozon/Morgat harbours Île Longue, the base of the French nuclear submarines. In contrast with the tranquil eastern side of the peninsula, the Cap de la Chèvre shows the much wilder western shore and offers splendid panoramas. We stop for the night in Camaret sur Mer, still on the Crozon peninsula. It used to be a fishing village as it was France’s largest crayfish port a hundred years ago. Today, the fishing boats lie abandoned on the harbour and the focus has turned to hotels, cafés and restaurants.
Saint Malo and Chartres
We leap 260 km east to leave western Brittany and arrive in Saint Malo. The main sight here is of course the Intra-Muros town (‘within the walls’), the walled old town. Getting lost in its maze of cobblestone streets is par for the course here. Construction of the fortifications began in the 12th century, and the city has a fascinating past with a long history of piracy, earning much wealth from local extortion and overseas adventures. The walled city was destroyed at 80% in 1944 but was rebuilt according to 17th- and 18th-century style. We now reach our last stop before getting back to Paris: Chartres, which is not in Brittany but deserved a visit for its sumptuous 13th-century cathedral. Touted as one of Western civilisation’s best architectural achievements, Notre Dame de Chartres is famous for its blue stained-glass windows and is France’s best-preserved medieval cathedral.
We have come to the end of this Brittany adventure with the Peugeot 208. It’s now time for a review.
– sharp exterior design
– sophisticated dashboard, refined materials and stitching
– modern auto gearbox
– comfortable Alcantara seats
– sporty drive, grips the road
– sizeable inside door storage
– electronically adjusted driver seat
– inoperative infotainment system, no automatic Apple car play connection
– impractical cruise control wand location
– some tacky sounds such as indicators
– limited space in boot