JOHANNESBURG - It’s a familiar script: Peugeot launches a car; It’s great; Journalists rave about it. But then hardly anyone buys one. Perhaps there are some historical perceptions about aftersales service at play here, which Peugeot has made some effort to resolve, but at the end of the day Peugeots almost always end up on the ‘underrated’ list.
It’s probably inevitable that the same will apply to the new 2008, which is a big pity because this new compact SUV is certainly worth a look-in, especially if style is high on your list of priorities.
French cars are often synonymous with gallic flair, but the 2008 takes this to a new level for the brand. It just oozes style, inside and out. While taking some inspiration from the larger 3008, the smaller sibling ends up looking more purposeful with its compact dimensions and taut lines. I’m not a fan of that ‘toothy smile’ grille, but the rest of it looks brilliant in my book.
And it gets even better once you step inside.
In short, it really feels like a million bucks. The cabin is stylish and uber-classy, particularly in the case of the GT flagship variant that we had on test for a week. Like the 3008, it has a minimalistic design with ‘piano’ dials replacing the traditional switches on the lower dashboard.
But what really stood out for me was the configurable ‘3D’ instrument cluster, in which a projector screen is placed in front of the digital screen to create a hologram effect. It’s actually stylish enough to be mood-enhancing and the conventional digital instrument clusters offered by other car manufacturers suddenly start looking really outdated by comparison.
The GT Line’s partial-leather, sports-style seats also look like they belong in a far more expensive car.
But is the 2008 functional?
Here it’s a mixed bag, particularly when it comes to ergonomics. Obviously I have to mention the tiny steering wheel here as I’ve heard of people struggling to find a comfortable driving position, where they can still see the instrument cluster, but I actually didn’t have that problem and I quite enjoyed the driving experience enabled by that little wheel.
But those aforementioned ‘piano’ switches are not as functional as they are stylish. Although they do provide a short cut to the ventilation system on the car’s main infotainment system, operating the climate system is still more of a screen operation than anything else and that makes it more cumbersome than your traditional rotary-dial systems.
On the upside, the Peugeot i-Cockpit 25cm capacitive colour touchscreen system is positioned high on the dashboard, making it easy to reach, and it’s a user-friendly system too, with clear and decent-looking graphics.
However, there was one thing that I found incredibly infuriating about this car’s functionality – and that’s how long it takes for the start-button to actually switch the engine on or off. While other systems offer almost instantaneous ignition, you literally have to keep your finger on the button for around four seconds for anything to happen.
How practical is this car?
The Peugeot 2008 is actually bigger than it looks. Measuring 4.3 metres in length, it’s actually longer than a Volkswagen T-Roc, albeit narrower, and it has a very similar footprint to the latest Hyundai Creta. Perhaps I’m being a bit finicky with the tape measure here, but in a nutshell, the 2008 sits about halfway between a small SUV like the Nissan Magnite and a traditional mid-size one like the Rav4.
The Peugeot’s dimensions translate into a reasonably spacious cabin. The 433 litre boot should meet most needs, and remember that you can free up some space by removing the upper floor panel, which is there to allow for a flatter space when you fold the rear seats.
The rear compartment is not exactly stretch-out spacious, but there is a reasonable amount of leg and headroom there. It should meet most families’ needs.
Let’s take a drive
The Peugeot 2008 takes the conventional form of a modern front-driven crossover powered by a turbopetrol engine. All models come with a 1.2l three-cylinder unit, which is tuned to 96kW and 230Nm in all but the base manual model, which is endowed with 74kW and 205Nm.
Our 96kW model delivered decent and rather effortless performance. The only downside was a touch of lag on pull-off but it was really just a minor annoyance. The engine also sounds a little thrummy, which is a typical characteristic of a three-cylinder motor.
The six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox was not the quickest-shifting transmission that we’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t bad either and overall it proved smooth enough for our liking.
Through corners, the 2008 felt agile for an SUV and the steering intuitive, while the ride quality was pleasant enough and overall noise insulation was impressive. All in all, apart from the lengthy starting procedure, the 2008 is a pleasure to live with.
A walk through the range
While we tested the range-topping GT-Line, buyers can choose from three specification grades. These are the standard features on offer, as reported in our launch story last year:
1.2T Active manual & auto: Manual air conditioning, cruise control, 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity, automatic headlights, leather-upholstered steering wheel, push-button start, rear park assist, six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, ESP stability control and 16-inch alloy wheels.
1.2T Allure auto: Adds automatic climate control, central front armrest, electric parking brake, configurable 3D head-up instrument panel, front parking sensors, reverse camera, 2 x rear USB ports, LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
1.2T GT: Adds 25.4cm touchscreen, eight-colour ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, full LED headlights with Smartbeam Assist, Active Safety Brake with pedestrian detection, Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Keeping Assist.
How to tell them apart
Apart from the aforementioned alloy wheel designs, there are many ways to tell the various models apart.
For instance, Active models have a black chequered grille and colour coded rear spoiler. The Allure variant comes with a chrome chequered grille, chrome lower bumper inserts and gloss black roof bars. The GT gains gloss black mirror caps, dark chrome grille with 3D effect and a diamond back roof with matching spoiler.
Assuming you’re going to take the chance on Peugeot that most South Africans don’t, the 2008 is an extremely stylish offering. Although it doesn’t particularly excel in the rational areas such as practicality and overall driving manners, it certainly ticks these boxes well enough.
Prices range from R359 900 for the base model to R479 900 for the GT flagship. By comparison, the Hyundai Creta retails for R377 900 to R487 900 while the slightly smaller Mazda CX-3 is a R346 700 to R469 700 deal. The Volkswagen T-Roc range is somewhat pricier at R489 400 to R593 600.
Sure, the Peugeot 2008 isn’t going to win you over on price alone, but it is within the ballpark, and what you’re getting is a comfortably sized and reasonably refined vehicle that just oozes style, inside and out.