There’s hot, there’s raging hot, and then there’s the market for compact SUVs. Almost every car maker has skin in the tiny tall-rider game, which means the product has to be bang-on in terms of both price and specification. Miss the mark even slightly, and the car will be swamped by a myriad of rivals.
The Peugeot 2008 starts off on the back foot by dint of its relative age, and the fact that Aussies just aren’t warming to the French brand like they once did. But can a little bit of continental joie de vivre win over buyers?
Read next: 2017 Peugeot 2008 Quick Review
We’re reviewing the mid-grade Allure, which is currently selling for $29,990 before on-roads are factored in. Our tester also has $2000 worth of leather seats and $590 of metallic paint added.
Looking at similarly specced front-drive petrol-powered competition, the 2008 is dearer than some (Honda’s HR-V VTi-S at $27,990 before on roads, for example), and cheaper than others (Mitsubishi’s larger Eclipse Cross LS at $31,990). The category leader, the Mazda CX-3, is considerably cheaper, though and dollars matter as much as brands at this end of the market.
Its fuel figure is surprisingly high, over a 1000km testing period, we recorded 8.4 litres per 100km on the dash, while it used 42 litres to travel 525km, giving us a real world figure of 8.0 l/100km. This is against a claim of 4.8 l/100km on the combined cycle.
Out of the box, the front-wheel-drive Allure comes with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (huzzah! No more terrible robotised manual gearboxes!).
Read next: 2017 Peugeot 2008 buyers’ guide
It also has automatic headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, a small multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a digital speedo, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a switchable stop/start mode.
Our tester also comes with a no-cost drive mode system that Peugeot calls Grip Control, which adds a driving mode dial and four-season tyres on 17-inch rims. Alternatively, you can have no drive mode dual, 16-inch rims and regular (known in the trade as ‘summer’) tyres.
It does miss out on a bit of kit, though, notably in the driver aid department – outside of mandated stuff like stability and traction control, the 2008 only has city-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB). It’s simply too old a platform for Peugeot to engineer stuff into, like lane departure warning.
The 2008 falls between the compact dimensions of the CX-3 and the roominess of something like the Mitsubishi ASX. With its boxy exterior, it’s 19mm wider than the 1910mm wide ASX, but its rear leg room is only 698mm, which doesn’t compare well to the CX-3’s 888mm.
The boot aperture isn’t massive, but the 410-litre boot space (measured in industry standard VDA numbers) is well shaped, thanks to the 2008’s wagon-like external silhouette. Drop the seat backs and it swells to 917 litres.
The safety basics are present in the 2008, with six airbags including full-length curtains and a rear camera with lines and sensors, although driver aids are limited to city-speed autonomous emergency braking.
It’s earned a five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
It’s hard to escape the 2008’s relative age compared to most of its competitors – there is far too much hard plastic in plain view for a $30,000-odd car, for example.
The fixed full-length glass roof – with its annoyingly opaque cover – means that head room is compromised by a few millimetres, but my 184cm frame managed well enough. The front seats appear well bolstered but they aren’t as supportive as they look, and they are mounted a bit too high for taller drivers. Plus one for seat heaters, though.
Peugeot’s odd i-Cockpit layout (where the dash sits above the top of the steering wheel rim) also worked for me, but not so well for my 155cm tall wife; the top of the wheel obscured the lower fifth of the display. The wheel rim also obscures the stalk-mounted headlight and wiper controls.
Marks off, too, for the silly handbrake design that’s forced designers to cram the cupholders up under the dash, restricting access to the oddments bin behind them. The door pockets are large but low, and bottles won’t stay put vertically.
The width of the rear seat wasn’t great for three kids, but worked well for two teens, as long as I compromised on my driving position a bit. No vents or USB points back there, sadly.
The rear doorway is decently sized, though, so it’s easy enough to get in and out of. Of note, too, are the three ISOFIX points across the back seat, which is a real rarity. There’s also a rear door-lock button up front to stop little fingers getting into trouble.
ON THE ROAD
The prime objective of a compact SUV is handling the rough and tumble of the urban jungle, and this is where the 2008 is happiest. It’s far from inspiring when it comes to driving feel, but it’s plenty adequate at suburban speeds.
The 2008 adopts Peugeot’s mantra of comfort first, but the underdone shocks spoil things when speeds increase. It just won’t settle on less-than perfect surfaces, and the feather-light steering feel and tiny steering wheel means you’re chasing the 2008 across the road more than is comfortable.
The drivetrain is surprisingly responsive, given its diminutive size. The three-cylinder engine makes 81kw and a healthy205Nm, and because it’s only pushing around 1188kg, it does a bang-up job most of the time.
There’s a calibration issue between the gearbox and engine, though, when the car is coasting down to a halt; it feels like the pair are being separated with a chainsaw, which really harshes the internal vibe. There’s a bit of tyre rumble from the optional 17-inch all-season treads, with are squarer and blockier in their design than a regular tyre.
I didn’t venture too far into the wilderness with the 2008; with 167mm ground clearance, you’ll get down a fire road, but don’t get too cocky. And you’ve only got a steel space saver spare if you split a tyre.
I’ll be honest, I really detested the 2008 after the first day. I couldn’t get comfortable in it, the drivetrain grumble slowing for lights, the plasticky interior – I wasn’t feeling it.
After a week, though, it proved itself to me as a reasonably quiet and decently spacious rig, with sufficient response underfoot for intra-city work. Its age works against it, though, and I’m not sold on its exterior aesthetics, but it’s small, different, competitively priced and honest.