ROAD TEST: Peugeot 2008 1.6 Allure
Peugeot wants to dig its claws into the small SUV world with its new 2008 and as if to prove that, its French creators even went as far as putting claw marks on the ceiling.
I must say, that is one of the more interesting mood lighting set-ups I've seen in a while, and it's one of many little stylistic touches that set this little Pug apart as a crossover with trendy ambitions.
Alright, it's not outlandish like the Nissan Juke - instead Peugeot has created something that should be almost universally easy on the eye, but without falling into the dullness ditch.
The 2008 is built on the 208 hatchback's platform but has a larger and taller body, but the sharing-is-caring philosophy becomes more obvious inside where you're greeted by dashboard that's almost identical to its hatchback siblings' but with a more colourful array of trims and textures.
All considered, this Peugeot's cabin exudes classy vibes. What's more, there's reasonable stretching space for those in the front and back, while the 360 litre boot should meet most family needs.
For the moment, Peugeot is only selling one 2008 model, the 1.6 Allure, and it comes fully kitted with standard features like dual zone climate control, a user-friendly touch-screen infotainment system with navigation, cruise control, automatic headlight and wiper activation and six airbags.
The seats are both supportive and snazzy, with generous bolsters and a sporty blend of leather and dark cloth trim. Furthermore, the rear seat bench folds away completely when you need to move a bigger load.
The 2008's main role in life is likely to be that of an urban runabout for small families and one with a dash of dirt road potential for the odd getaway.
Peugeot describes it as being built for “indifferent country roads and even gravel” so no off-road promises here but it does at least boast a 165mm ground clearance and a traction control system called 'Grip Control', which has various configurations tailored for different terrains.
Drive, of course, is thorough the front wheels and the power source is Peugeot's normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine that musters 88kW and 160Nm. On the upside, the 2008 weighs just 1080kg and the resulting performance is decent enough in most situations but it is a tad sluggish when faced with steeper hills.
Its road holding ability is particularly impressive - despite its crossover stature the 2008 is actually quite agile through the corners and cuts through with minimal body roll. Its small steering wheel, as per the 208 hatch, adds to the enjoyment factor although many drivers find that it blocks their view of the dials.
The ride quality is comfortable over most surfaces, but it does have a slightly firmer feel than Ford's EcoSport.
For now the Peugeot 2008 is destined to be a niche player because it's only sold in a single high-spec derivative.
I suspect that the fever-stricken rand has something to do with this as it's much easier to disguise a high price tag under a barrage of spec than it is in the case of a lower-spec model. Should the rand start to recover at some point in the future - and maybe I'm being a bit too optimistic here - I wouldn't be surprised to see lower-spec versions of popping up with keen price tags.
For now though, this game will continue to belong to the EcoSport, as Ford has the advantage of local production incentives earned by its Ranger and the ability to import the Ecosport from an affordable base like India.
The 2008 feels somewhat more sophisticated than its closest 'natural' rival, the Ford EcoSport, but can't match it when it comes to performance and price.
Sure, the 2008 is lavishly equipped but its price of R269 900 puts it within stiking distance of the lower-specced but somewhat larger new Nissan Qashqai.
Peugeot 2008 1.6 Allure
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Power: 88kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 160Nm @ 4250rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 9.5 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 196km/h
Consumption (claimed): 5.9 litres per 100km
Price: R269 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Maintenance Plan: Five-year/60 000km
Ford EcoSport 1.0T Titanium (92kW/170Nm) - R249 900
Kia Soul 1.6 (95kW/157Nm) - R216 995
Nissan Juke 1.6 Acenta+ (86kW/158Nm) - R249 500
VW CrossPolo 1.2 TSI (81kW/175Nm) - R241 000