Road test: Peugeot 2008 gains masculine features but retains practicality

Peugeot’s updated small crossover looks more stylish but is as useful under the skin as it was before

Make: Peugeot

Model: 2008

Year: 2016

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: August 17, 2016

Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 06:00

   

It seems a little odd to me that Peugeot has decided to create more overtly butch styling for its small crossover, the 2008. The car is already a massive success. Not only has it been one of the pillars on which Peugeot’s resuscitation from near-bankruptcy is built, it is also now the company’s best selling model in the Irish market, which is as good an indicator as any of how far Irish buyers’ once rigid priorities have shifted.

It has always been pleasant to drive, and more roomy than is the norm for a small crossover, but at no stage in the three years since it was introduced have I ever thought, “I’d like that more if only it looked a bit more masculine.”

Nonetheless, Peugeot has decided that hairy-chested is the way to go, and so the 2008 gains a taller, flatter face with more aggressively angled and indented headlamps and a bigger, more toothy grille. Mind you, that’s about it. The rest of the 2008’s shape is unchanged, and it keeps the slightly step-roofed styling (which always puts me in mind of a seventies Matra Rancho).

More sporting

A final update has been the addition of a GT-Line specification that includes gloss black roof rails, a small boot spoiler, chunkier alloy wheels and some stainless steel and chrome trim. The idea, as it is with the 208 and 308 and the upcoming new 3008, is to make the car appear more sporting.

Which does lead to the slightly inevitable question of why? Why does an SUV or crossover need to appear either more manly or more sporting? Or both? With women making the majority of car-buying decisions, is that really necessary? Why, for example, does the 2008 GT-Line have a flat-bottom steering wheel? Cut-off wheels were invented for tightly-dimensioned racing cars, so that the bottom of the rim didn’t get caught by the drivers’ knees. So why does one need such a thing in a relatively roomy family crossover? It seems to me that Peugeot, and not Peugeot alone, is trying to make its SUVs appeal to almost too wide an audience, from practicality geeks to thrusting, hot-hatch types. Maybe it’s just me but that way madness seems to lie.

Especially as, to be frank, the 2008 needs no such embellishment. It may be getting a little pricey in this GT-Line trim (€27,280 as against a starting price of €19,400) but it’s still a very appealing car, and even I can see the attraction of the deep, lustrous Ultimate Red paint job.

It is also using the latest version of Peugeot’s 120hp 1.6-litre BlueHDI diesel engine, and it is a very good unit. There is strong power and torque delivery, but it is impressively refined for a car that is as small as this (it is really a 208 hatch with a loft conversion, after all). 96g/km of Co2 is an impressive figure too, as is the fuel economy, which easily breaks the 50mpg mark in daily driving.

And while I wouldn’t quite go so far as to describe the 2008 as fun to drive, it’s not half bad. That chopped-off steering wheel is a little odd, true enough, but it feels good to hold and the steering to which it is connected feels good as well. The 2008 grips tenaciously, corners with aplomb and generally has no real vices. Even the ride quality is not bad. It feels initially a bit too firm, but it is well damped and even on really pitted and cratered city streets, it refuses to collapse into crashing and banging.

Looks good

Inside, it both looks and feels good, and while you do sit a little perched up, the seats have a good combination of squishiness and support. The small-wheel-high-instruments layout still leaves some a bit baffled, and some still unable to see the dials properly, but I’ve always found it rather refreshing. Plus, the way the dials are highlighted in red, at the push of a button, is a nice touch. Speaking of touch, the central touch-screen for the sat-nav and infotainment tends to the slightly fiddly end of the spectrum, but it’s OK once you learn its ways, and straightforward phone connection, thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, makes things easier.

There is decent space in the back seats – headroom is excellent thanks to that stepped roof – and legroom is fine. The boot, at 410-litres, is exceptionally generous for a car in this class, and expands to 1,400-litres when you fold the back seats flat.

As a package, the 2008 is hard to ignore. Is it also less easy to ignore because it now appears more butch? Not to me, I have to say, but perhaps there is a demographic that simply won’t buy a sensible, useful family crossover unless it looks as if it’s been hitting the creatine powder.

The lowdown: Peugeot 2008 1.7 BlueHDI GT-Line

Price: €27,280 (as tested); range starts at €19,400

Power: 120hp.

Torque: 300Nm.

0-100kmh: 10.2sec.

Top speed: 200kmh.

Claimed economy: 3.8-litres per 100km (76mpg).

CO2 emissions: 96g/km.

Motor tax: €180.

Verdict: It didn’t have to be macho – it was good enough without all that. Sensible, comfortable, enjoyable.