JOHANNESBURG - My father had a Peugeot once, no I lie, he had two. Nothing flamboyant, just regular 404 station wagons (before they became “estates”) back to back that did duty as family transport, towed a caravan across the length and breadth of Namibia and South Africa and hardly had any problems at all.
It had a simple four speed column shift and for some reason the door lock pointed upwards when locked, which was its only French quirk.
Peugeot then left the country and on their return had a rather on-off relationship with customers despite some good looking models in their inventory.
That changed recently when they became part of the Stellantis group that also owns Citroen and Opel.
There’s a determined drive by the South African arm of the business to make a success of it and in recent discussions with the management team it certainly seems as though they are very much on the right track, with some green shoots starting to show for their hard work.
And with models such as the urban SUV 2008, Peugeot certainly deserves to be making inroads into the more traditional brands that South Africans tend to stick to.
There’s no denying the French connection when it comes to the design with its “look at me” compact SUV styling.
On the top of the range 2008 1.2 GT on test LED daytime running lights shaped similar to three claws and a fang taken from the lion badge on the grille, a floating-effect roofline and diamond-facet-inspired body panels give the front end its stand-out appeal.
The rear is dominated by a similar designed red LED claw mark and twin tail pipes rounded off by diamond-cut alloy wheels.
Under the shapely bonnet is a three cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged engine that’s good for 96kW and 230Nm of torque powering the front wheels via a six speed automatic transmission.
That 1.6-litre carburettor-fed four cylinder engine that my father had gave the princely amount of 57kW and 127Nm of torque, to give you an idea of how technology has improved.
Once you’re behind the steering wheel the quality of your surroundings are plain to see. The futuristic styled cockpit really does look like something a pilot would be used to with it’s 3D hologram i-cockpit instrument cluster, toggle keys for various functions and settings, touchpad above the keys and unique shaped multi-functional steering wheel.
Not everyone is a fan of the steering wheel but I think it adds to the overall look and feel of the car and coupled with colourful stitching, premium soft touch surfaces, USB charging points front and back, aluminium pedals, and faux carbon fibre trim I reckon the 2008 interior punches way above its weight.
The 25cm infotainment touchscreen is easy to operate and it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible while a smartphone charging pad comes in handy while everyone else is charging their devices.
The seats provide ample support and after a few hours behind the wheel I still felt refreshed when we climbed out after a scenic drive around the Magaliesberg.
There was enough room at the back for four adults although I did have to move my seat more forward than my usual driving position, but not uncomfortably so.
As we know, not all roads are equal once you venture off the main ones but the 2008’s suspension took most of the imperfections with ease including a stretch of gravel road thanks in part to the 18-inch alloys fitted with high profile rubber.
The three pod motor gets up to speed relatively quickly after some initial lag and glides along smoothly at the national speed limit but with four up the paddles on the wheel came in handy especially when passing traffic.
I also took it for a spin alone on my usual route that includes some interesting corners and bends and the 2008 wasn’t bad at all. There was some slight body roll but not disturbingly so and being much lighter this time round it was a lot quicker off the mark.
Peugeot suggests average fuel consumption of 6.5l/100km but after a week it showed 8.2l/100km, which considering the loads it carried and the terrain we drove is still a good number.
It’s heartening to see Peugeot launching a number of stylish vehicles that offer a real alternative to the tried and trusted and in this segment the 2008 has to be the funkiest and most charismatic one of the bunch.
It comes with a five-year/100 000km warranty and a three-year/60 000km service plan.