While we don't think it matches the best-looking rivals in the styling department, the Peugeot 2008 counters with a classy interior, strong engine range and good handling. Its success will all come down to the price, which will be announced closer to car's launch this summer.
In the Metal:
The B-segment SUV (or small crossover to most of us) segment is a burgeoning market, expected to overtake small estates by the end of 2013 to become the second largest portion of the B-segment after the traditional hatchback. It is a sector that has, in its short life, been highly design lead. The Nissan Juke - the originator of the species - may divide opinion in terms of how it looks, but there is no questioning that it is unique. Rivals have worked hard in the design of their cars to make them stand out and, if you ask us, the recently tested Renault Captur is one of the best looking of this admittedly small segment. The Peugeot 2008 comes somewhere between the Juke and Captur in looks; it's more conservative and a little more elegant than its rivals, but it lacks the visual 'kapow' to attract buyers on aesthetics alone. This is something that can be attributed to a lot of the Peugeot range - some like the new Peugeot design focus, but this author is not a fan. Nonetheless, look beneath the skin and the 2008 is a better car than many of its competitors.
Based on the 208 hatchback (and sharing some 67 per cent of its components) the interior of the 2008 is a classy affair with (in the high-spec version tested at least) leather/Alcantara seats and a leather trimmed dashboard complete with carbon fibre-esque detailing. Of late Peugeot has moved towards a small steering wheel that has been likened to that of a go-kart. In the 208 this wheel has a tendency to obscure the view of the dials (depending on your driving position) behind, but due to the raised seat of the 2008 there are no such issues. View of the backlit dials is clear as is that of the road ahead. There is a sizable blind spot created by the A-pillar, but this is not unique to Peugeot and seems something we have to accept as manufacturers slope windscreens for styling and aerodynamics and beef up the pillars in the name of safety. Much of the interior of the 2008 is lifted straight from the Peugeot 208 on which it is based, and this is no bad thing. You do sit bolt upright, on, rather than in, the seat, but you also get a seven-inch touchscreen system that is the closest to 'smartphone like' that we have tested - and it gets even more like the phone in your pocket in the 2008, but more of that in Worth Noting below.
Thus far we have tested both the 120hp 1.6-litre VTi petrol and 115hp 1.6-litre eHDi diesel engines and, despite Peugeot Ireland's assertion that petrol will account for twenty five per cent of 2008 sales, the former engine will not be part of the Irish offering. Instead we will get an 82hp version of the three-cylinder 1.2-litre VTi unit.
We will however get the higher powered 1.6 diesel and on first impressions it is well suited to the new car. Based on the 208 platform the new crossover is lightweight - over 174kg lighter than a comparable 207 SW - so the power on offer is more than adequate. Only once over the mountainous test route did we have to work the slick six-speed transmission to make it up a hill. This can be attributed to an overboost function that can momentarily boost peak torque from 270- to 285Nm for overtaking - or, in our case, hillclimbing.
Despite riding 200mm higher than a hatchback the 2008 handles remarkably like a 208. There is a degree of body roll but nowhere near as much as you would expect. The ride in the petrol powered car was busy at motorway speeds but this issue was not so apparent in the diesel, likely due to the extra weight over the front wheels.
What you get for your Money:
Prices and final Irish specifications are yet to be announced but the entry price for the 2008 is expected to be circa €18,000 and specifications will likely mirror those of the Peugeot 208. That will mean three trim levels: Access, Active and Allure. The mid-level Active model is expected to account for the majority of Irish sales while ESP, Emergency Brake Assist and six airbags will be standard across the range. The touch-screen system will be standard on Active and Allure models, though satnav will be an extra.
Engine wise, in addition to the range topping 115hp 1.6 eHDi tested here we will have an 82hp 1.2-litre petrol, 68hp 1.4-litre diesel and a 92hp version of the 1.6 HDi unit to choose from. No matter which engine you plum for all variants come in between band A2 and A4 with road tax varying between €180 and €200.
Introduced in the 2008 is a new range of Peugeot Connect Apps. These useful applications are displayed on the seven-inch touchscreen and can be used to find local restaurants, garages and petrol stations with recent fuel prices displayed to better allow you to make your decision. Further apps such as Trip Advisor are coming on stream and Peugeot will offer a full suite of optimised apps across seventeen countries in time. In France the Peugeot Connect Apps cost €345 for the first year and €109 a year thereafter.
Though likely to face stiff competition from incoming rivals, especially in the styling department, for the moment the Peugeot 2008 looks to be the mini-SUV to go for. If Peugeot Ireland can offer it for €18,000 it will match the Renault Captur for price while undercutting the Nissan Juke by about €1,000. What it lacks in the design department (and that is a subjective area) it makes up for in interior ambiance and the way it drives, not to mention low running costs and fuel consumption.