By June Neary
Peugeot's improved 2008 offers a different way to go for supermini buyers. June Neary has a look.
Will It Suit Me?
Let's face it: compact Crossover models are largely aimed at women. You might not know what a 'compact Crossover' but you're very likely to have seen the kind of cars that characterise this rapidly growing market niche, principally the model that started it all, Nissan's trendy little Juke, but also more recent market entrants like Vauxhall's Mokka and Renault's Captur. The car I've been looking at this week, Peugeot's improved 2008, is a direct competitor for such vehicles but has a slightly less 'in-your-face' demeanour about it. Personally, I rather liked that. Not everyone wants to make a supermarket carpark statement with their choice of car after all. Basically, the proposition here is that for not much more than the Peugeot 208 supermini on which this design is based, this 2008 can provide extra space, more driving flexibility and a tad more driveway attitude. Sounds an interesting proposition.
This Peugeot's certainly practical for its size. I had no trouble getting things like pushchairs and carrycots into a 360-litre boot that's 20% bigger than the brand's supermini 208 and 30% bigger than that of a Nissan Juke. There's a usefully low 60cm loading lip, trimmed with a brushed stainless steel protector and if you need more space, the 60/40 split-folding seatback goes down completely flat to reveal 1,194-litres of room and is trimmed with five rails that make sliding objects forward that much easier. Six chromed hooks allows objects to be tied down and there's a 22-litre under-floor compartment to keep valuable items out of sight of prying eyes. And rear seat accommodation? Well despite the fact that this 2008 is longer, wider and taller than its 208 donor car, the cabin space it offers isn't ultimately that much different. Nor do you get the kind of sliding rear bench Renault offers on its Captur Crossover model to improve things. What it all means is that two adults - even a couple of six-footers - will be reasonably comfortable but three will be a bit of a squash. It's all a lot more spacious though, than a rival Nissan Juke and feels particularly light and airy with the top-spec panoramic glass roof fitted to my testcar. This improved 2008 gets a smoother, more stylish look courtesy of a restyled vertical front grille flanked by sleeker headlamps that give the car a bit more streetside presence. What I really liked about this model though was its cabin. There's not much else in the class than can approach the quality feel you get here thanks innovative design - like the 'aircraft-style' handbrake - and a careful choice of materials finished with classy touches like these satin chrome highlights. Up-market trim levels like the one I tried feel especially nice, with beautiful roof lighting, this stitched, soft-touch dash and blue LED backlighting surrounding the head-up dials. You view them over the top of this tiny steering wheel, the adjustment of which requires a bit of fiddling around until you get it to a point where it doesn't obscure your view of the gauges, something not everyone may be able to manage completely to their satisfaction. For most though, the benefits will be well worth having: wrist-flick steering feel and dials much closer to your line of sight on the roadway ahead.
Behind the Wheel
Certainly the way that the cabin's figured makes you feel sporty - in a slightly counter-intuitive way given that you're perched up a few inches higher than the norm. It's all down to a layout lifted direct from the 208 that sees you grasping the smallest steering wheel you'll find this side of a supercar. A potential problem, you might think, given that in most vehicles, you view the instrument cluster through the wheel. Here though, you don't have to for the instrument pack has been moved to sit up above the wheel as it would do in, say, an MPV. The end result might not suit everyone, but I liked it, for it enables you to keep an eye on the dials without taking your attention from the road. No need then, for pricey head-up displays. Onto engines. The line up will be familiar fare if you're familiar with the 208 supermini. Base versions get a choice of either an 82bhp 1.2 PureTech petrol or a 75bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel. Moving up the range, there are 110 and 130bhp versions of the turbocharged PureTech petrol unit, with the 110bhp variant optionally available with EAT6 automatic transmission. Diesel buyers looking further up the range get 100 or 120bhp versions of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit. That leaves only the question of off-tarmac prowess. Yes, despite the fact that there's no 4WD option on this car, you do actually get some, provided you specify one of the up-market trim levels that come complete with Peugeot's proven 'Grip Control' system. By braking a wildly spinning front wheel, this set-up works with the standard ESP stability control programme to transfer torque to the tyre with most traction and this, along with standard 'Mud & Snow' tyres, is enough to enable negotiation of some surprisingly sticky situations. True, with only 165mm of ground clearance, it won't ultimately enable this car to go any further than its compact Crossover counterparts off road but it'll certainly give you a useful advantage on slippery forest trails or on country lanes during the next snowy snap. Control of the set-up is via a rotary knob by the handbrake which offers dedicated modes to deal with either mud, snow or sand - or indeed to turn all the electronics off completely as you might want to do, for example, when braking on gravel or slush when locked up wheels can actually build up a little buffer in front of them to help you stop.
Value For Money
If you're looking at buying Peugeot's 208 supermini, you should also be looking at one of these - simple as that. With 2008 pricing ranging in the £14,000 to £21,000 bracket after all, this Crossover model demands a relatively small premium over an identically trimmed and powered 208. Within the 2008 range, engine choice tends to graduate up in increments of around £1,500. If you're shopping at the bottom of the range and deciding between petrol and diesel power, I'd take into account the impressive frugality of the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol unit before stretching up to the base 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel.
Could I Live With One?
It really depends on your life outlook. If you're someone who likes wild and wacky, then your search for a compact Crossover of this sort will probably end with something like a Nissan Juke or a Vauxhall Mokka. Personally though, I rather liked this 2008's more restrained looks and quality demeanour. It's well worth a look.