FIRST DRIVE | Extrovert Peugeot 2008 offers a sporty driving experience

The new Peugeot is a looker, thanks to a sleek profile and three-claw headlights augmented by sabre-tooth driving lights. Picture: SUPPLIED
The new Peugeot is a looker, thanks to a sleek profile and three-claw headlights augmented by sabre-tooth driving lights. Picture: SUPPLIED

The new Peugeot 2008 takes on the highly competitive compact SUV market segment with an assurance that might surprise its competitors.

It complements its extrovert good looks with an extremely well-built body shell, charismatic performance from its 1.2l turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine and a driving experience that is much more sporty than you might imagine.

Key to this satisfying driver-car relationship is the small-diameter squared-off sporty steering wheel, which was first introduced here a few years ago in the larger 3008. From the moment you climb into the driver’s side of the 2008 cockpit, your attention is arrested by this little ”tiller”, which seems to be about half the size of a conventional steering wheel.

The trick to getting used to this controversial driver layout is to set the steering wheel at a low height, so that you can see the new 3D instrument panel over the top of the squared-off wheel rim.

Because the lower edge of the steering wheel is also squared off, it doesn’t interfere with your legs even on the lowest setting. Once on the move, this driving layout imparts a sort of sporty communication that you normally only get in the likes of Gran Turismo machinery or the hottest of hatchbacks.

Talking of Grand Touring pursuits, on the local launch of the 2008 late last week, the only model available for sampling to journalists was the range-topping GT model. It uses the 96kW version of the little turbocharged triple engine, and is fitted with a six-speed torque convertor automatic.

There is one manual transmission model available, in the base-spec, 74kW 1.2 Active model.

The range and pricing is as follows: 1.2 Active (74kW) Manual at R359,900; 1.2 Active (96kW) Automatic at R399,900, 1.2 Allure (96kW) Automatic at R429,900 and the 96kW GT Automatic at R479,900.

The GT model gets the new, first-for-SA 3D instrument panel ahead of the driver which layers various functions in your line of view depending on the functions you want displayed. Central is the large speedometer display, and for our purposes we selected specific trip information as we had a long drive ahead of us, via circuitous route to a game lodge in the Nylstroom area.

Once on the move, it became clear that the 2008 (say “Two Thousand-and-Eight”, not “ two double-oh-eight”) has an extremely well-sorted ride. The suspension handles road undulations very well, yet the directional stability is excellent, and the steering response from the straight-ahead position is firm and decisive.

Later examination of the GT’s spec revealed that a key to this good ride quality over bad roads is the standard fitment of 215/60 R17 rubber on the attractive diamond-cut Salamanca alloy rims, finished in black and polished metal. I believe it was a good decision on Peugeot’s part to avoid the optional 18-inch rims with lower profile tyres, and this proved much more prescient when we tackled dirt roads later in the drive, en route to the game lodge.

The small-diameter squared-off steering wheel is not liked by all, but the author found it contributed to a sporty drive. Picture: SUPPLIED
The small-diameter squared-off steering wheel is not liked by all, but the author found it contributed to a sporty drive. Picture: SUPPLIED

As far as performance is concerned, the 1.2l turbo offers a 0-100 km/h time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 198km/h. Average fuel consumption is claimed at 6.5l/100km, but you would battle to achieve this in the real world. For our trip to the Limpopo Province and back, the average fuel read-out was 8.5l/100km.

The six-speed automatic transmission feeds power through to the front wheels, and is a very satisfying, smooth-shifting  piece of kit.

As far as living with the 2008 is concerned, you will surely appreciate the ample stash space in the cabin, with generous door pockets, various slots in the console, and a generous lidded console box for the safe stowage of larger items.

The GT model comes with a 10-inch infotainment screen that offers touch operation, but backed up by an array of buttons beneath this display for the most-often used adjustments. I really like this arrangement, where items like climate control can be adjusted at the prod of a fingertip, rather than scrolling through an on-screen menu. Smart phone pairing for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is on tap.

Dynamically, the 2008 GT is equipped with a rather forceful lane-keeping assistance system which keeps you on the straight and narrow in highway conditions, should you become a bit dozy, and cruise control is also fitted. Safety-wise, six airbags are installed, as well as Isofix mounting points in the rear seats, which now offer generous legroom thanks to an increase in wheelbase for the latest 2008.

Talking of space, the boot on the 2008 is class-leading at 434l. The boot has various loading configurations, as you can adjust the floor height to free up a larger space beneath the floor, to stow items more safely. Part of the reason the boot is so capacious, however, is that the spare wheel is of the smaller space-saver variety. Like most South Africans with game lodge destinations in mind, we would have preferred a full-sized spare.

For challenging driving conditions, there is a console-mounted switch to provide driving programmes for mud and sand. This came in particularly handy when a downpour turned the dirt road to the game lodge into a mud bath, and the system, using alternative automatic wheel-braking via the ABS system, certainly helped with directional stability in muddy conditions.

There is no doubt the new Peugeot is a looker, thanks to that sleek profile with a low roof height, and those three-claw headlights augmented by the sabre-tooth driving lights.

Peugeot SA MD Leslie Ramsoomar says that during restructuring of the PCSA organisation in 2020, five new dealerships were added bringing the total to 35. And an intensive training programme has been implemented to improve both technical and customer relations skills in dealerships throughout the PCSA group. Spare part inventory has been vastly increased at the company’s new headquarters in Midrand.

All the new Peugeot 2008 models come with a five-year/100,000km warranty and a three-year/60,000km service plan.

Currently Peugeot has increased its marginal market share from 0.2% to 0.4%, and is hoping to grow this to 0.6% by the end of 2021. The new 2008 should help it achieve this goal, as it is a  good looking car with an underlying competence that will surprise, and even delight with familiarity.

*Following the recent global merger between Peugeot Citroën and Opel (PSA) with the Fiat Chrysler Group (FCA) to create the new Stellantis Motor Group, Ramsoomar said there are no immediate plans to merge local dealerships, and that the Fiat-Chrysler dealerships would continue to operate independently of Peugeot-Citroën-Opel dealerships here.


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