The 2017 Peugeot 2008 takes an already good package and makes it better, by way of the right drivetrain combination.
It was already cute, well packaged and pretty involving to drive when it launched back in 2013, but since then a lot has changed in the small SUV segment. That said, a vital change has been made under the bonnet, with the new 2008 getting Peugeot’s impressive 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine.
The new mill replaces the lethargic 1.6-litre petrol previously fitted, and gone is the indecisive four-speed automatic transmission. The new three-pot makes use of a standard six-speed automatic built by transmission experts Aisin: we’ve sampled it in the Peugeot 208 and 308, and it impressed us. The same can be said of the drivetrain in the new 2008, and this time around there’s no manual gearbox option because the market simply isn’t interested.
The market is a busy one: the big sellers in the small SUV segment include the Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV (soon to be replaced), Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V, and all of them come with different model strategies. The CX-3 has a broad range with front- and all-wheel-drive and petrol and diesel drivetrains, while the Subaru is AWD only, the ASX has petrol FWD and diesel AWD offerings; only the Honda is offered in petrol FWD only, like the 2008. None of them have three-cylinder engines, either.
With 81kW of power, the new 2008 has a touch less than the old four-cylinder (which had 88kW at its disposal), but the biggest improvement is the torque figure: there’s now 205Nm thanks to the little huffer under the bonnet, where the old model had just 160Nm. That’s a 28 per cent improvement.
And torque is what you rely on more than power in this application, because while the little engine doesn’t mind a rev, it does its best work below 2500rpm – exactly where you’ll spend most of your time if you’re the sort of urban lifestyle-focused buyer Peugeot is aiming this car at.
It’s a big change for the car, and its character. The rumble of the three-cylinder engine at lower speeds is engaging and while it may not be to all tastes, this reviewer found it quite charming. Thankfully it is very quiet at higher speeds, too.
The 2008 has considerably more effortless propulsion as a result of the new drivetrain. Roll-on acceleration at highway speeds is better, and the transmission knows what’s needed of it in almost every situation. Around town the engine and gearbox work well together, too, but we noticed on cold start there could be a clunky or jerky gearshift at low speeds.
Throttle response is good, with not too much turbo lag when you plant your foot – apart from when the engine stop-start kicks in, and it’s a little wobbly when that happens. And when you’re jumping between brake and accelerator in traffic, you might find the higher-set position of the brake pedal to be a little annoying.
The fuel consumption is claimed to have dropped from 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres for models with the old four-cylinder, four-speed auto drivetrain to just 4.8L/100km for this new model. We saw closer to 6.8L/100km, and we’ve found that in the past with other three-cylinder turbos from Peugeot.
The car still drives the same as it always did – that is to say that the ride comfort is among the best in the class, the steering is quick and direct, making it feel agile and nimble and fun to drive. The GripControl system in Allure and GT-Line models is said to give the front-drive SUV some off-road cred – there are modes for mud, sand, snow and full disabling of the electronic stability control – but we didn't get a chance to sample that tech. We'll make sure we do when we get a new 2008 in the correct spec level for a garage review.
You can sometimes feel the wheel jostle in your hand over sharp bumps, and the higher-spec models with 17-inch alloys are a tad less settled over sharp-edged bumps – the rear can scuttle if you hit a big enough bump at pace, but in general the suspension’s bias towards comfort is to its advantage.
The seats in models optioned with the leather trim offer better bolstering meaning you will feel a little more supported in corners, but the standard seats are comfortable, and given this isn’t a sports car – despite the fact it has a tiny little steering wheel as part of the brand’s ‘i-Cockpit’ design.
That tiny steering wheel is either something you’ll love or loathe. If you subscribe to the brand’s notion that you set the steering wheel a little lower and look over it to see the gauges and digital speedometer, you’ll find it fine. But some people don’t like it.
It’s not the only ergonomic quirk. Instead of cruise controls being on the steering wheel, they’re on a stalk off the steering column, and there are no bottle holders in the door pockets front or rear, and the cupholders in front of the gear-shifter are too small for larger bottles, too.
But thankfully, the Peugeot 2008 is more thoughtful than the 308 hatchback, because it has separate air conditioning controls that aren’t operated through the media screen. That means less load-time waiting.
That new media screen retains the same size as the one found in previous 2008s: its Apple CarPlay connectivity is quick to load and re-connect (Android Auto is coming via software update at some point), and the menus are easy enough to learn, but the camera is a little slow to load when you quickly start the car and put it in reverse. The sat nav in the higher-spec models is also available as an option on the Active base model, and it is easy enough to use.
The space on offer in the cabin is excellent: there is plenty of legroom and toe-room, and even in models with the optional sunroof the headroom for six-foot adults is fine. The low belt-line means vision from the driver’s seat, and all seats for that matter, is good.
The back seat space includes dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor-points as well as three top-tether points, but there are no rear air vents. As for airbags, there are six (dual front, front side and full-length curtains), and the Allure and GT-Line models add autonomous emergency braking, front parking sensors and a semi-automated parking system.
The boot remains another packaging highlight of the 2008, with 410 litres of cargo capacity making the Peugeot one of the more practical vehicles in the segment. There’s a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor, which is handy, but the cargo shelf/barrier doesn’t raise when you open the boot.
The Peugeot 2008 is covered by a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, but Peugeot is offering deals on its models with a five-year plan. There’s three years/100,000km of included roadside assistance, and there’s a five-year service campaign that spans 75,000km. Maintenance is due every 12 months or 15,000km, and the average cost per visit over the period is $544, which is on the high side.
On the whole, the updated 2017 Peugeot 2008 range is an improvement on its predecessor, but it has to be said, the market has come on in leaps and bounds since it originally launched. It feels fresher than it did, and the new little triple adds some zest to the package – we look forward to seeing how it stacks up against some of its competitors soon.