French brands were remarkably late to join the SUV party, so it’s quite a shock seeing the Peugeot 2008 emerge at the start of the latest automotive industry craze: baby soft-roaders.
Peugeot didn’t offer an SUV until 2007, with the 4007 that was a re-nosed Mitsubishi Outlander. It was later followed by the 4008 that was, confusingly perhaps, based on the Mitsubishi ASX so neither larger nor a direct replacement.
The Peugeot 2008, however, is the company’s first standalone SUV if you don’t count the 3008 crossover that’s more high-riding wagon than traditional sports utility vehicle.
Pint-sized 4WDs aren’t anything new – just ask Suzuki – but jacked-up SUVs based on city cars are now the emerging new trend.
Holden’s Barina-based Trax was released in September 2013, and coming up are the Ford Fiesta-based EcoSport (December 2013), Renault Clio-based Captur (first quarter 2014) and the yet-to-be-officially-confirmed Mazda CX-3 understood to be based on the next-generation Mazda 2 city car.
All of these baby SUVs can be expected to undercut the current crop of small SUVs such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, its twin the Skoda Yeti, Subaru XV, and the aforementioned ASX and 4008.
The Peugeot 2008, based on the 208 light car, certainly does, even priced lower than the $23,490-plus Trax.
Starting from $21,990, the petite Peugeot is the next most affordable SUV in Australia after China’s $16,990 driveaway Chery J11.
And Peugeot Australia deserves kudos for the equipment levels throughout the tri-trim range that comprises Active, Allure and Outdoor.
Every Peugeot 2008 comes standard with a reverse-view camera, rear parking sensors, alloy wheels, cruise control, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, electric/heated side mirrors, foglights, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Sat-nav is a $1500 option on the base model but standard on the mid-range Allure and top-spec Outdoor.
Allure models also add the likes of rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, panoramic sunroof and dual-zone climate control. The Outdoor’s extras include larger alloy wheels (17 rather than 16 inches in size) and a so-called Grip Control console dial that can be turned to adjust the traction control settings on the driven (front) wheels to help progress over snow or mud.
Peugeot did try to set up a muddy hill for us to try Grip Control, though scorching conditions at the Canberra launch dried the course as quickly as the company could wet it.
About one in 10 2008 buyers will opt for the Outdoor powered singularly by a 1.6-litre turbo diesel with auto, and the same for the base 1.2-litre three-cylinder manual, says Peugeot.
Two in three will go for a model powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder with automatic – starting at $24,990 for the Active or from $29,990 for the Allure.
It’s a combination that embodies a never-quite-satisfactory range of engines and gearboxes.
The auto has its own vices, lacking consistently smooth shifts, hesitating horribly on kickdown, and offering only four speeds, but it’s not helped by a fairly lifeless 1.6 four-cylinder.
Going for the five-speed manual liberates better acceleration – 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds rather than the auto’s 11.2sec – but progress still feels harder work than you’d expect when travelling in a vehicle weighing about 1.1 tonnes.
The four-cylinder also generates a loud thrum as revs inevitably rise as you try to work the engine.
In this respect, the cheaper 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol is actually more refined – bringing a characteristic warble that remains restrained at all times.
And while a quoted 0-100km/h time of 13.5 seconds sounds desperately slow on paper, the engine’s mid-range performance is surprisingly decent. While the triple has only 118Nm to the 1.6’s 160Nm, the smaller engine produces its maximum torque lower – at 2750rpm compared with 4250rpm.
The upshot is that acceleration is sufficient for keeping up the pace in real world traffic, though the manual gearshift is notchy with a long-ish throw from gate to gate.
You’ll use a litre less fuel per 100km than the 1.6 manual, though, according to official figures – 4.9 v 5.9L/100km. The 1.6 auto’s average consumption is rated at 6.5L/100km.
The most miserly Peugeot 2008 is the most expensive – the $31,990 Outdoor equipped with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel rated at 4.0L/100km.
It’s not properly roused until 1750rpm when peak torque of 230Nm kicks in, but from there it provides the most effortless momentum of the three engines available and it’s also pleasantly quiet for a diesel. The stop-start system is also impressively subtle in its on-off operation of the engine.
Plenty of gearchanging is still required, though, and the five-speed manual here felt worse than the 1.2 petrol’s – stiff to engage gears and lacking precision.
What will potentially be the 2008’s best engine has yet to be revealed. A turbocharged version of the three-cylinder is coming in 2014, replacing the 1.6 in Europe but likely to sit between the 1.6 petrol and diesels in Australia.
It’s certainly a vehicle worthy of a better drivetrain.
The 2008’s suspension has been stiffened to allow for the increased ride height over the 208 city car. While this means some of the 208’s suppleness has been lost, particularly at low speed, the 2008 still rides well (if noisily, especially the Outdoor on its bigger, hybrid rubber).
Its handling is also very tidy indeed – highly assuring for those who just want to feel safe while negotiating country roads and quite entertaining for those who consider driving something to savour.
Our biggest criticism of the 2008 is the steering that, while usefully quick, makes harder work than necessary of driving in a relatively straight line.
The electric steering’s motorised assistance feels heavy when the wheel is straight-ish, but it becomes light so quickly just off centre that you find yourself constantly, and annoyingly, adjusting the position of the wheel to keep the 2008 straight.
But, unlike the 208, at least more drivers will have a better view of the instrument cluster. Where the small steering wheel can obscure the digital speedo in the city car, the higher seating position of the SUV mostly overcomes that ergonomic faux pas.
And the overall interior of the 2008 is very much the feeling of sitting in a higher-riding 208 because the interiors are virtually identical. And that’s certainly a good thing in terms of perception of quality.
One of the only notable visual differences is the handbrake: it’s a conventional lever in the 208 but a fatter and flatter, aircraft-inspired lever in the 2008.
When off, though, the lever covers a small tray that would be useful for placing your smartphone, and the number of storage options available could be better.
And the absence of cupholders in the base Peugeot 2008 is a bit of a shock.
The Bluetooth audio streaming was a bit patchy, too, and the general audio sound could do with a bit of a bass boost. There are two USB ports up front, though, plus 12V sockets front and back.
The French brand has done a good job with the limited dimensions of the 2008, though, which measures only 4.1 metres long (200mm longer than the 208).
Rear legroom is useable to the point that a tall driver could sit behind themselves, if with knees closer to the seatbacks than ideal. Headroom is more generous, and the bench is firmly comfortable – just best not to try squeezing three adults across there.
And despite the 2008 being 129mm shorter than the rival Trax, its boot is noticeably bigger at 410 litres.
The 60/40 seatbacks fold virtually flat, too, to create a cargo area that will have no problem swallowing something like a mountain bike.
For buyers (justifiably) concerned about European vehicles’ reputation for high servicing costs, Peugeot is one of the Euro brands offering capped price programs.
The Peugeot 2008 plan covers five years or 75,000km, with each annual service pegged at $369.
It’s a vehicle begging for a better engine/auto solution that is more critical in Australia than Europe, but it scores highly in a number of key areas.
The Peugeot 2008 is well packaged, smartly presented inside, offers a large boot for the type of vehicle, and the pricing and equipment levels are particularly attractive.
Peugeot 2008 Video Review