First Drive: Peugeot 2008

Peugeot’s 208 has sold like the proverbial hotcake since launch last year, with 35,000 of the cars now cruising around Britain’s roads. The French manufacturer is now hoping to keep that momentum going with a jacked-up crossover variant, the 2008.

With its rugged styling and raised suspension, the 2008 catches the eye surprisingly well as it’s still a relatively diminutive car. Just under 20 centimetres longer than the hatchback it’s based on, Peugeot has also raised the car by 25 mm and, with a higher roofline, ends up being 10 cm taller than the 208.

The increase in size means there is more room inside for both passengers and their luggage. Up front there is nothing to distinguish the car from its 208 sibling, so there’s a tiny steering wheel with the dials placed above the rim along with slightly less elbow room than you would really like. A bigger windscreen and that raised ride height gives you a more commanding view of the road though, while there’s extra headroom. Only some wind noise from the door mirrors and some rather cheap plastics on the dashboard detract from the experience.

Move to the back seats and you’ll find plenty of space for most people, unless you specify the panoramic sunroof; the electric blind rolls back in to a tube that robs the rear seats of headroom. It’s fine for children, but adults might suffer over speed bumps.

The taller and longer body pays dividends when it comes to boot capacity, with the 2008 able to hold 422 litres of perfectly shaped luggage. That compares very well with its Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka rivals (377 and 362 litres respectively) and even beats the Skoda Yeti’s 405 litre capacity.

Power comes from a range of five familiar engines, from a 1.4 diesel unit that produces 70 bhp through to a 1.6 litre petrol engine that gives out 120 bhp. I’m driving the 1.6 e-HDi 115 diesel, an engine that produces just 105 g/km of CO2 and returns 70.6mpg on the combined cycle.

It manages that through a combination of pure efficiency, stop/start technology and through being a remarkably lightweight vehicle. Even with the heavy panoramic sunroof and biggest diesel engine, the car tips the scales at just 1,180 kg

Put that together with some snappy throttle response and you end up with a car that feels far livelier than the numbers suggest it should be. The 0-60 mph dash should be despatched in 10.4 seconds, a figure I wouldn’t doubt, but while it reacts eagerly to pressing the accelerator you will find it runs out of puff fairly early on.

That said, once you’ve got it up to speed it sits there quite happily and quietly, sipping at the fuel and giving a really rather refined performance. The six-speed gearbox helps squeeze a few extra miles from the tank too, leaving the engine spinning at just 2,000 rpm at motorway speeds.

It’s practical and economical then, but what about the drive? You only need to look at the car to realise that it’s not going to be setting record breaking times round the Nordschleife, but it handles the curves with body roll kept very much under control, something that is slightly surprising given the jacked up nature of the car.

The suspension is reasonably soft, in keeping with its family SUV style, and if you push very hard the front end will wash away in to understeer, but you’ve got to drive like an idiot to get it doing that. Sit back and relax and you’ll find the 2008 to be a comfortable, relaxed and grown up car to cruise around in, much like its 208 cousin.

Despite its roughty-toughty looks, this isn’t a car for heading off road in. Not, that is, unless you’re in an Allure or Feline specification model with a 1.6 litre petrol or diesel engine and a manual gearbox. If you order that very specific trim level then you’ll find Grip Control fitted to the car along with all-weather tyres.

That gives the front wheel drive 2008 a significant advantage once conditions turn a little slippy, something that was ably demonstrated when I turned the car in to Tamworth’s Snowzone ski slope. With a standard car at the foot of the hill, I accelerated to around 20 mph and climbed the entire snow slope with next to no effort, turned around and safely brought the car back to the base again. No fuss, no hassle.

I’d suggest they tyres probably made a bigger difference than the traction control systems on this demonstration, but it’s clear that the car should be able to cope with a muddy field with relative ease, even if true off-roading is beyond it.

Other safety kit fitted to the 2008 include stability control will hill start assist, emergency brake assist and six airbags. Disappointingly, Peugeot’s excellent Connect SOS package that automatically calls the emergency services in the event of a serious accident is available as an option, except on the Access+ model which does without.

Comfort features such as air-conditioning, electric windows, cruise control, heated door mirrors and split/fold rear seats are standard across the range, with the top spec models being loaded with extra features.

The range starts at just £12,995 for the rather basic Access+ model with a 1.2 VTi petrol engine, while the pick of the range has to be the 1.6 e-HDi diesel with 92 bhp in Allure spec; at £17,295 it’s not cheap, but presents an excellent balance between luxury, economy, performance and, with the All Weather tyres, safety.

It’s that balance that will appeal to buyers, especially combined with the higher seating position and extra practicality. Peugeot are marketing this as an SUV ‘without compromise’ and, whilst that might be going a tad too far, there’s no doubt that the compromises are ones you could easily live with.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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