Peugeot’s 2008 is the new 208 hatch-based crossover SUV from the French marque, and whilst competitor’s like Ford have gone the route of enlarging their 208 competitors and jacking up the ride height to compete – such as the Ford EcoSport – Peugeot have gone a slightly different route by going longer rather than taller, giving the 2008 a station wagon appeal with an off-road twist.
The 2008’s styling works off the Euro-styled 208, but with an extended length and raised ride height, the area has been greatly reduced. Black bumpers and skirting have been added with under-body plating, and roof-racks are a standard affair, promoting the utility feel of the 2008. The stylishness of the 208 is retained and furthered on its SUV sibling, with 17-inch alloy wheels and the optional body colour coding, available in pink, orange, or as in the case of our test unit, green – offering black and green pin striping to the lower half of the SUV, and adding flecks of colour to the A pillars, mirror housings, roof racks, and adding splashes of colour to the interior.
Funky styling aside, the 2008 only cleared the ground by 165mm, a good few centimetres shy of the rest of the crossover SUV bunch, almost all of which sit at 200mm or higher. But that low-slung appeal suited the 2008 just fine, and although designated as an SUV, I’d like to think of the 2008 as more of a cross-country wagon rather than an SUV, much like Audi’s A4 and A6 Allroad models.
With the wagon appeal in mind, the interior furthered the opinion that this wasn’t an SUV. The slightly elevated driving position differed little from many a hatchback, and the interior styling was chic rather than utilitarian. A contoured roof with strip lighting made for a classy design element, and the green vinyl scattered through the cabin was eye-catching and attractive. But the 2008 still suffered the ailments of its 208 sibling – the small steering wheel and oddly placed instrument cluster made visibility of the controls somewhat awkward, and the go-kart like appeal of the miniscule steering wheel wasn’t suited to a vehicle of such proportions. The 2008 had many a redeeming factor though, as the vinyl/cloth seats were fantastically bolstered and supportive, sporting height adjustment and an overall impressive seat.
Driving the 2008 was a relaxed affair. The 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine developed a moderate 88kW and 160Nm, driving the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. The engine was peppy overall, and eager to rev, but up here in Joburg it was a rather asthmatic affair, requiring a heavier foot and more revving out than one would hope for. It was rather noisy at higher RPM too, which made highways journey’s a bit overbearing – a problem that would have been remedied by a 6th ratio in the gearbox, something dearly amiss in this day and age where that extra gear not only affords a quieter ride, but eases fuel consumption too, something that rose steadily when 100km/h+ speeds were achieved in the 2008.
Pottering around at lower speeds, the 2008 was rather frugal though, and overall consumption was a rather amiable 6.8l/100km, though the fuel tank was a bit too small and range would’ve been far better with an extra 5-10 litres. The 2008, despite weighing a rather light 1080Kg, needed a little work to get up to speed – again the engine displaying its altitude-asthma – but was rather pleasurable in doing so. The little engine revving freely matched the gearing wonderfully to amble about town, although the clutch was a little long, and the gearshifts could have been better off with a slightly shorter throw, making the overall feel a little more accurate and solid.
The small steering wheel in the 2008 was decent to use around town, but it was a bit light and airy and provided no real feedback, although it did yield rather quick, direct results from steering inputs. The 2008 was light on its feet and quick to respond, the lower ride height over its rivals providing it the upper hand in the handling stakes, where it proved to be a rather adept companion. The ride was comfortable too, well damped and absorbent of blemishes in the road surface as well as those off the road surface on gravelly terrain.
The 2008’s GripControl – a terrain select dial beneath the hand-brake that altered the ESC to handle different types of terrain – found use a fair few times in “sand” mode, as snow was unlikely in sunny SA, and mud was nowhere in sight. Despite being front-wheel driven, the 2008 was surprisingly sticky, gripping the looser surfaces with a great deal more ability than expected. It’s by no means a rock crawler, but it was highly adept at handling sand and gravel that would relegate other small cars to 5km/h trundling in order to reach the destination.
Overall, the 2008 was a friendly companion to spend the week with. Extensively kitted, the 2008 sported cruise control, automatic headlights, dual-zone air-conditioning, a multifunction touch screen with navigation, a decent quality audio system with USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as park distance control front and rear. A 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating was an added bonus. But at R269 900, it comes at a slightly expensive price. The build quality is exceedingly good, bar a few hidden bits of hard plastic, and the styling is easy on the eye and quick to impress. The 2008 desperately needs a turbocharged engine though, and a 6-speed gearbox wouldn’t go amiss either.
As far as being a crossover SUV, the 2008 doesn’t quite seem to agree with that description – but it makes for a rather great “path-less-travelled” station wagon, something I’d be quite happy to get dirty time and time again before heading off to work on Monday morning in style and comfort.
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88kW @ 6000RPM
160Nm @ 4250RPM
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Author: Roger Biermann