By: Jason Woosey
Port Alfred - There's something of a baby crossover stampede coming in the Nissan Juke's jungle and the latest urban warrior to mark its territory here is Peugeot's new 2008.
Unlike the Juke, this French contender is hardly outlandish or daring. Rather the 2008 joins the Ford EcoSport on the more sensible side of the field, although the 2008 does have its fair share of distinctive design touches and an optional spread of colourful decals for the exterior and cabin can help you add that personal touch.
Though it's based on an adapted version of the 208's chassis, the new crossover has a larger and taller body that liberates more interior space. It's unashamedly aimed at urban dwellers who want something of a hatchback in hiking boots. Like its rivals, the front-wheel drive 2008 is no bundu basher, although its 165mm ground clearance and a traction control system with various terrain settings will keep you in command on milder dirt tracks.
Powering the new 2008 is Peugeot's familiar normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine, capable of 88kW at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4250rpm and mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Peugeot reckons it'll dart to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds at the coast and at that altitude it is suitably perky in most situations. The 2008 feels sprightly enough off the mark and cruises comfortably at highway speeds, but the cars we drove did struggle a bit on the steeper uphill sections that we tackled on the launch route in the vicinity of Grahamstown.
Peugeot claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.9 l/100km, although the relatively demanding launch route saw our readout hovering above the 8.0 l/100km mark.
As for road manners, the 2008 feels like it was set up to provide a sporty driving experience on European roads. The ride quality, while not necessarily uncomfortable, is a bit on the firm side.
However, putting it through its paces through some worse-for-wear passes revealed a surprisingly agile and composed vehicle. It feels solid, balanced and stable for a crossover and it wasn't upset by the large ripples it encountered on some stretches. Its suspension tuning, along with that small steering wheel inherited from the 208, make it quite enjoyable to chuck through the bends. Yet I still feel that a suppler suspension set-up would better suit its target market - in the world of the adventurous family taxi, surely comfort and practicality would outweigh sporty appeal?
That said, accommodation has been well organised. Hop into the back of the 2008 and there's decent stretching space for legs and ample headroom. Four adults will slot into this car quite comfortably and five won't be too much of a squeeze. The wide-opening boot will swallow 360 litres, which is about on par with a Golf-sized hatchback.
There is just one grade on offer for now - Allure - and it's equipped like a range topper with everything from dual zone climate control to automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, electrically-folding rearview mirrors and cruise control. Glossy metallic accents throughout and partial leather seats lend an elegant feel to the cabin.
Your entertainment and information hub is an 18cm full-colour touch-screen device that houses the USB/aux sound system and satellite navigation. Of course, it's got Bluetooth connectivity too and the set-up also allows audio streaming.
This little lion's protection comes in the form of a structure that earned it five-stars in EuroNCAP's testing regime as well as front, side and curtain airbags.
Peugeot is promising to expand the 2008 beyond a single model further down the line. In about a year from now, a new 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol engine will join the fold. The French carmaker is also hoping that this frugal new 'PureTech' motor will eliminate any desires for a diesel offering.
The 1.6 Allure will hit showroom floors in May, with a price tag of R269 900, which includes a five-year/60 000km maintenance plan. While it is a well kitted package that certainly has 'allure', a lower-spec version at a lower price point would widen this Peugeot's appeal somewhat.