Every so often the motor industry comes up with trends. Your basic saloon, for instance, has grown considerably over the past decade or so. Think Civic or Focus or Corolla. What was once termed a small car now qualifies for what used to be called the mid-size range.
Take SUVs as another example. They were literally sold to buyers on the grounds of height, width, safety, space and four-wheel-drive capability and let’s be serious. Hardly any urbanite ever took them off-road but still they became a must-have for every self-respecting Mum-about-town with kids and trendy couples investing in lifestyle blocks. And real estate agents.
Next, the term “Crossover” appeared, presumably as a cross-over between a car and a sport utility vehicle (SUV) although not much changed. Now another trend has popped over the horizon and it’s not upsizing like the ubiquitous family sedan, it’s downsizing those SUVs. And the reason?
Nigel Towler from Northland Autos says women – significant buyers in the SUV market – found the larger SUVs difficult to get in to and out of. Being high off the ground they had great driving vision but having to struggle with entry and exit wasn’t an endearing quality. For the same reason, it wasn’t easy to get kids into and out of car seats.
So, some car companies have put their SUVs through the Jenny Craig school of weight loss and come up with thinner and shorter versions of the parent model and the new Peugeot 2008 is a prime example.
The 2008 is based on the 208. All the design aspects of SUV remain coupled to natural French style, so it looks good. It doesn’t have four-wheel-drive and quite frankly, doesn’t need it. Instead, it has what Peugeot term Grip Control, an ‘intelligent’ traction control system, plus all the engineering acronyms you can truncate like electronic stability (ESP) emergency brake assist (EBA) an anti-lock system (ABS) and brake force distribution (BFD) as standard.
If you only looked at the brochure you’d think it almost ridiculous that the 2008 SUV comes with a 1.2 litre petrol engine. Yes, it’s turbocharged but even so, you’d think it couldn’t pull the skin off the old rice pudding let alone tackle some of our country’s high and winding hills.
But it does. And beautifully. In fact, this engine won the 2015-2016 International Engine of the Year Award and you end up chastising yourself for initially judging without experiencing the standard of excellence Peugeot engineers have achieved here. Some motoring writers claim the auto gearbox robs the engine of some mid-range torque but it was never designed to be, well, pugnacious enough to push the skin back on your face quicker than a plastic surgeon. It’s a rural/city crossover that does the business very well indeed.
Being smallish and perfectly formed, the 2008 SUV is remarkably economical. The official statistics say a combined (city and highway) reading of 4.8l/100ks but with careful management, even around some of our winding roads, you could drop that down a bit.
The cabin is stylish too. The dashboard is user-friendly and well-designed. The steering wheel is small and it took a bit of fiddling with wheel-and-seat combinations so it didn’t impede a view of the speedo but once that was sorted the driving position is great.
The French long ago sussed seat contentment. Why other manufacturers don’t copy Pug seat design is unfathomable but they don’t, which means Peugeot still make the most comfortable car seats around. Despite the downsizing, luggage space is still generous and the rear seats fold flat to liberate even more space.
This is a car for all seasons and reasons. It is pretty, well-priced, well-constructed and comfortable. Actually, it’s stunning so ten out of ten or five stars or however you want to phrase it.