Good: great price, quality interior, spaciousness
Not so good: 1.6 HDi diesel expensive, road noise on the motorway
At first it's hard to believe that the 2008 crossover is based on the platform of the Peugeot 208, such is the feeling of space and well, grown-up-ed-ness of the new entrant. A quick scan of the tech specs confirms that the 2008 has indeed an identical wheelbase and width to the 208 hatchback, though understandably it's taller (by nearly 100mm) and longer (by nearly 200mm). That would explain the decently sized boot (it holds 360 litres of stuff). If you need more space again then the split rear seat backs fold completely flat in a very satisfying manner.
In fairness, there's no mistaking the parentage of the 2008 when it comes to the interior, as it shares a virtually unchanged dashboard and the same high quality switchgear. It also uses the same instrumentation design, where the idea is that the driver looks over the top of the (distinctly tiny, but wonderfully tactile) steering wheel to see the speedo and rev counter. This works better in the 2008 than it does in the 208, as the seating position is higher to begin with, though I did begin to wonder if the steering wheel is a little too small.
In the Allure model the interior is given a high-tech feel with the prominently positioned touch-screen system, though fans of CDs (I'm showing my age, right?) won't like that this means no way to play their discs. Invest in a streaming Bluetooth MP3 player... Shame, as the sound system is surprisingly good.
That's just as well on a long motorway journey, as the 2008 exhibits a lot of road noise at high speed. We suspect that is partly down to the inclusion of chunky Goodyear M+S (Mud and Snow) tyres on our test car. It was fitted with the optional Grip Control system (€255), which increases the ride height, includes the special tyres and adds an advanced traction control system with several modes of operation depending on the surface underneath. Peugeot is touting this as a realistic alternative to four-wheel drive (which is not offered in the 2008). While we agree that few buyers in this segment need or want all-wheel drive, we can't help but think that the majority of the extra capability endowed on the 2008 by Grip Control comes from those tyres.
Regardless, in normal conditions, the Peugeot 2008 is a perfectly pleasant car to drive. Its suspension and manners seem best suited to a life in and around town, which of course is at odds with the higher-output 1.6-litre HDi diesel engine, as this works best on the open road. We achieved an average of 5.4 litres/100km (52.3mpg) over the week, which included plenty of city driving and a few high-speed motorway sprints. This engine suits the 2008 and gives it a bigger car feel, but many buyers will be better off with one of the cheaper powerplants, such as the 1.2-litre petrol engine, or, if you must have a diesel, the 1.4 HDi unit. None of them go over €200 a year for tax in any case.
The 2008 really is a car with all the looks and appeal of a compact crossover, yet the low running costs of a particularly efficient small hatchback. I.e. the Peugeot 208. It deserves to do well here and I'd put money on it being a finalist for 2014 Irish Car of the Year.