When the 2008 debuted in 2013, Peugeot was still the top dog among the French brands in Australia. It’s been smashed by Renault ever since. The compact SUV is indicative of how Peugeot has somehow fallen off many buyers’ radars.
Despite many competitive qualities (and a charming persona), the 2008 has struggled for a meaningful share of its ever-growing segment. Make that the fastest-growing segment for 2018, with a 25 per cent year-on-year increase.
While the 2008 was hindered initially by a compromised drivetrain line-up offering ill-matched engine and transmission combinations, a major 2017 update ditched them all for one effective petrol-auto pairing.
For 2018, there have been several minor tweaks. In January, autonomous emergency braking was added to the base (Active) model.
Peugeot’s infotainment interface has been tweaked with clearer graphics and the ability to use a three-finger prod gesture on the touchscreen to dial up a page featuring six large function buttons. (This change will be rolled out throughout the rest of the French brand’s range.)
There’s also a pricing adjustment. The mid-range Allure we’re testing here has dropped from $30,990 to $29,490, with a strong $30,990 drive-away deal offer currently in place. (The Active is $26,490 drive-away; the top-tier GT Line is $31,490 drive-away.)
A glass panoramic sunroof, previously a $1000 option, is also now standard on the Allure. However, for 2018 the variant has lost the City Park self-steering technology included before.
While the Allure is priced several thousand dollars above the Active, it adds a bundle of extra gear besides the fancy roof. The exterior gains auto headlights, cornering fog lights, follow-me-home lights, front sensors, and extended wheel arch flares.
Inside, the cabin gains LED roof lighting for the sunroof surround (plus sliding electric blind), dual-zone climate, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front map-reading lights, and leather-trimmed handbrake. Navigation is added as a function for the 7.0-inch touchscreen system.
That drive-away pricing offer, however, becomes important for buyers because there are key rivals offering more features for similar money.
The $29,500 Hyundai Kona Elite, for example, includes as standard leather-appointed seats, blind-spot detection, fatigue monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, digital radio and a larger (8.0-inch) infotainment touchscreen.
Mazda’s $30,740 sTouring also has digital radio, blind spot, rear cross-traffic and fatigue alerts, and adds speed-limit reading tech, head-up display, LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and all-wheel drive.
The Kona is also available with all-wheel drive, whereas the 2008 is strictly a front-driver.
However, the mid-range Allure features GripControl – a system designed to enhance the front-wheel-drive 2008’s traction on slippery surfaces. GripControl is aligned with Goodyear Vector 4Season all-weather tyres, which aren’t so helpful for cabin noise – producing a fair din on coarse bitumen, even at urban speeds.
Conversely, the chubby 60-profile rubber provides an additional layer of cushioning for the suspension, which also proves across deep potholes that there’s some fairly generous travel. The 2008 isn’t perfectly pliant, though, making more of a fuss of bigger bumps.
At just under 4.2m long – shorter than a VW Golf – Peugeot’s smallest SUV feels enjoyably nimble when navigating tight city back streets and car parks. That’s aided by steering that is remarkably compact in size and twirls with a welcome lightness, while the seating position that’s higher than in the related 208 city car combines with a generous glass area to provide excellent all-round vision.
The Peugeot just isn’t so good at letting any driver see the instrument dials with ease. Despite that diminutive steering wheel, it can obscure parts of the speedo, tacho and centre info display. This tester, for example, had to position the wheel slightly lower than the preferred height (though adjusted to it).
Not everyone will like the palm-shaped handbrake lever, either, which is more awkward to use than a conventional lever or electric park brake button. (When released, the lever also makes the small coin tray beneath rather pointless.)
Human-centric design hasn’t been French carmakers’ strongest asset (foibles you might call ‘l’ergonomics’), and that also extends to the 2008’s underdone storage.
Twin cupholders are small and awkwardly positioned below the centre stack and ahead of the gear lever, while moulded bottle holders are missing from the door pockets. There’s no obvious place for a smartphone, either, with the best options the small but deep console bin (with sliding cover) or the door pocket.
Peugeot’s infotainment system is neither remarkable nor offensive. The revised display makes it easier to read main function selections at a glance. It offers effective integrated map guidance and menu/page navigation that quickly becomes familiar, and it’s easy to pair a phone. And if you don’t like the 7.0-inch touchscreen interface, you can switch to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Peugeot has nailed the front seats – at least the $2000 optional leather seats fitted to our test car in place of the standard ‘premium’ cloth. With superb cushion comfort and bolstering that supports without squeezing excessively, you could sit in them for hours (as we did).
The seats contribute to a front cabin that continues to present well. While there are hard plastics that indicate its pricepoint, overall there’s a smart, minimalist vibe to the 2008 interior.
The ambience would arguably be a little on the dark side with all the black cloth and plastic, but the Allure’s glass sunroof bathes the cabin in plenty of light – and a thinnish blind ensures that’s not blocked out too much when in place. The sunroof surround features the same blue LED lighting used for the instrument dials.
There’s just a question mark against how hot the cabin could get on a scorching summer’s day, owing to the absence of a solid sunroof blind.
While rear-seat passengers also enjoy extra light, they’re not spoilt for much else. Rear leg room is merely okay (though Mazda’s CX-3 has shown limited rear leg room is no barrier to sales success), and there are no vents, USB ports or a centre armrest.
There’s decent boot space for the class at 410L. That’s supported by useful elasticated straps and side net storage, and a cargo cover (though it’s the removable rather than the retractable type). Folding the 60/40 rear seats creates a maximum cargo capacity of 1400L up to the roof line, or 917L measured to the window line.
The capacity of the 2008’s sole engine is just 1.2 litres, albeit aided by a turbocharger. Producing 81kW and 205Nm, its quoted 0–100km/h time of 11.3 seconds sounds glacial yet is entirely misleading.
The three-cylinder engine is a bit stuttery when cold, but once sufficiently warmed it teams with the six-speed auto to get off the mark quickly enough, before the drivetrain then impresses with how it provides excellent response once on the move.
Buyers more accustomed to even-cylindered engines may need to adjust to the three-pot’s characteristic off-beat thrum (and the fact it doesn’t idle as smoothly as a four-cylinder), though we’re not just fans of the sound, but also think the 2008 offers one of the best drivetrains in the compact-SUV segment.
Our trip computer’s indicated average fuel consumption was 6.9 litres per 100km compared to the 2008’s official 4.8L/100km. That lab figure is well below the equivalent figures of key rivals – which vary between 6.1 and 7.6L/100km (at their lowest). However, that advantage is offset by the 2008’s lone requirement for more expensive premium unleaded.
The Peugeot’s efficiency is assisted by its relatively low kerb weight (circa 1260kg), which also contributes to the 2008’s sense of agility both around town and on winding country roads.
Straighter roads, though, reveal the steering’s inconsistent on-centre feel that makes it virtually impossible to drive the 2008 in a direct line without making constant minor adjustments to the wheel’s position.
The Peugeot 2008 is not without its flaws, then, yet that’s something that can be said about all the dominant players in this segment. This French compact SUV remains a charming and enjoyable model worthy of consideration, particularly if that drive-away pricing sticks around.