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Car reviews - Peugeot

Our Opinion

We like
Design, packaging, steering, handling, ride, dash, versatility, practicality, relative sprightliness of 1.2L, real-world economy, off-beat nature
Room for improvement
Rubbery manual gear shift, unintuitive multimedia system, torque deficit

Peugeot logo20 Dec 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

WHO would have ever thought that a tiny naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine in a crossover/SUV would win our hearts over?Regular readers might guess that we’re fans of tiny but tough powerplants, but even we approached the base-model Peugeot 2008 Active 1.2 VTi with trepidation.

Now we’ve handed it back with a heavy heart more on why later.

Right now you need to know that the cheapest version of the French-designed and made (with absolutely no input from Mitsubishi Motors) 2008 kicks off from $21,990 - $1200 more than the recently released Ford EcoSport Ambiente 1.5-litre manual, but a handy $1500 beneath the Holden Trax CD 1.8-litre manual.

It’s no poverty pack either, the Pug opener, providing all the gear you might expect including front, side and curtain airbags, hill-start assist, cruise control with speed limiter, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, power windows, remote central locking, roof bars, multi-function steering wheel, power-operated door mirrors (with heating), four-wheel disc brakes, a Bluetooth phone connection, USB audio and alloy wheels.

Yep, we were surprised as well, having to phone Peugeot’s importers, Sime Darby, to reconfirm our specification.

The only option on our vehicle was the $1500 integrated satellite navigation system within the large central touchscreen.

That brought our Bianca White Active 1.2 VTi manual to $23,490 plus on-road costs.

Interior

Is it an SUV or a wagon? Peugeot’s designers have cleverly straddled both, with some expert application of chrome highlighting to give the illusion that this is a tall-riding vehicle.

But an EcoSport and Trax tower over this, and it’s only when seen side-by-side that you realise that the 2008 probably has more in common with the model it replaces than the SUVs most people see. The former, by the way, was the spectacularly ordinary 207 SW.

Anyway, getting in is pretty easy thanks to that extra height and sizeable door apertures.

Perched high up on the comfy – if a tad flat – driver’s seat, enjoying the excellent views afforded by the vast windscreen, deep side windows, 1980s-Honda low dashboard cowl and lap-sited steering wheel, you’d swear the Active is a mid-spec rather than base model.

The attention to detail is exemplary from the fabric/mesh-like dash trim flanked by metallic/chrome-look highlights, to the matte and gloss contrasts capping the doors, instruments and lower console, there’s nothing cheap going on here. The airliner-style (and thankfully manual-operated) park brake lever is another nice touch.

We’ve driven for thousands of kilometres in Peugeot cars fitted with the low-wheel/high-set binnacle philosophy, and we’re not complaining. Other critics hate it though, so try before you buy – but make sure you give it a proper chance before making your mind up, because the layout works fine and feels natural after only a short time.

The upshot is an airy and spacious-feeling interior – one that is generous for adult legs, feet and heads, whether you’re sat in the front or rear.

Instruments that are fast to decipher, combined with easy-reach controls, were another top priority for the interior designers, so it’s no surprise to learn this model is top-shelf in this respect.

When it’s working well, the touchscreen sitting high up in the centre of the dash is a great thing, keeping eyes from straying too far off the road for too long. It does take some time to learn, though, and be ready to exercise your warranty rights, for ours was glitchy right from the get-go, with some multimedia screens locked out for no reason.

Ample ventilation and a choice of storage options add practicality, but there are a few shock oversights lurking within the 2008 as well.

For starters, not a single cupholder exists throughout the vehicle. So please forgive the spilt coffee, Sime Darby. Secondly, the glovebox is too small to be useful. Thirdly, and on a related matter, where are the rear-seat map pockets? There are also no overhead grab handles (because of the curtain airbag fitment, says one Peugeot engineer), or rear-seat air vents (though the big front pair do easily reach the back), or centre armrest. OK, the last point’s debatable since this is a base variant. Oh, and the rear windows don’t wind all the way down – disappointing news for kids and dogs alike.

On the other hand, the rear seat has a single 12V outlet for phone charging, overhead reading lights, and ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points on the outboard seats.

Further out back, the tailgate is large, and opens up high to reveal a deep and flat floor that is definitely aimed at wagon buyers.

Rated at 410 litres with the rear split-fold seats in place and 1400L when folded down, its size is not just an illusion.

Plus, the carpeted floor has plastic load runners, top tether hooks immediately behind the rear backrest, and a number of latches to help secure stuff. A space-saver spare lives beneath the floor.

All in all, then, the 2008 comes across as a thoughtfully designed and laid out package. Add those deep windows, rear camera, and lofty seats, and it would be our pick if carting a small family around inner urban areas is your priority.

Engine and transmission

How can an engine so small feel so lively?The answer is big revs and small mass.

Weighing in at just 1053kg, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol unit betrays its on-paper power paucity (just 60kW at 5750rpm) and tiny torque output (118Nm at 2750rpm) to somehow channel its performance immediately to the front wheels – often chirping them in the process.

Fitted with variable valve timing, the engine is almost revving before you’ve even put your foot on the accelerator, and seems to draw from a deeper well of kilowatts than the figures suggest – like there is no flywheel attached.

With just one person on board, the acceleration feels far stronger than the official 0-100km/h-dash time of 13.5 seconds (top speed is just 169km/h, by the way), building up speed like there’s a strong tailwind to push you along.

This is one reason why the 2008 is so suited for city driving, leaping off the line at traffic lights, and sounding as if it’s enjoying doing so.

Add more humans, though, and/or luggage, and the step-off performance requires a heavier right foot and somewhat more patience. But as long as you’re prepared to row that at-times too rubbery (and only five-speed) manual gearbox, all should be fine.

Some forward planning and perhaps a crystal ball is required if you’re out on the open road with a long truck and trailer to overtake, for you’ll soon be bouncing off that 6500rpm (or so) rev limiter sooner than expected.

Even when driven with, ahem, verve during a hot spell with the air-con blasting constantly and almost always in the inner-city areas of Melbourne, we achieved a mid-7.0L/100km fuel use average – which is an outstanding real-world result.

There’s also a 1086kg 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol four-speed automatic version of the 2008 Active ($24,990) but – take it from us – the 1.2L manual is more fun.

Ride and handling

Light steering, with excellent feedback and a tight turning circle, are just three unexpected delights.

We’ve now driven most of the new wave of sub-compact SUVs, and the 2008 is the most accomplished as a driver’s car, rediscovering some of that old-time Peugeot fluency and adjustability we feared was lost forever.

Even with economy-biased Goodyear Efficient Grip 195/60 R16 tyres, the chassis grips with exemplary tenacity, bringing roadholding security to the 2008’s eager and agile handling characteristics.

Consequently, this is a hoot around town, turning into tight and tricky corners like a towering hot hatch, zipping here and there without feeling at all like a wagon, let alone an SUV/crossover.

Better still – and perhaps this Peugeot’s most impressive asset – it rides with the pliancy and control the marque was once famous for. This car floats over the sort of inner-alleyway cobblestones that would have other SUV drivers gritting their teeth. This car just soaks it all up.

When combined with its excellent all-round vision, lusty drivetrain, excellent economy, low emissions, and tight turning circle, the 2008 Active 1.2 VTi manual is probably the most apt inner-city runabout out there.

Safety and servicing

Peugeot’s capped price servicing plan for the 2008 should cost customers $369 a year over the first five years or 75,000km. The warranty period lasts three years/100,000km.

The 2008 scores a five-star ENCAP crash-test rating.

Verdict

Obviously a bit more torque, a tighter-shifting gearshift, and quieter clutch pedal (ours squeaked constantly like a hungry mouse) would be preferable.

But, incredibly, the base 2008 with a paltry 60kW of power and just three naturally aspirated cylinders has won us over convincingly. Great looking, soft riding, sharp steering, and lusty to boot, this is our sub-compact SUV of choice.

We’re really enamoured with this French beauty.

Rivals

1. Ford EcoSport Trend 1.0 EcoBoost manual:From $22,290 plus on-roadsForget the base Ambiente’s sluggish 1.5 and go the turbo-three-pot instead, which brings brilliantly strong performance to go with an excellent chassis.

The Fiesta-based cabin feels dated, though.

2. Nissan Juke ST:From $21,990 plus on-roadsThe divisive design, firm ride, and coupe-like tight rear-seat packaging will put some people off, but the Juke’s bold and brash attitude will attract plenty more it’s a tidy handler, too.

3. Holden Trax CD:From $23,490 plus on-roadsNicely packaged, with an appealing interior, but Trax’s ageing engine feels thrashy, the steering artificial, and the ride unsettled. Plus, Holden is charging too much for it.

Specs

MAKE/MODEL: Peugeot 2008 Active 1.2 VTi
ENGINE: 1199cc 3-cyl petrol
LAYOUT: FWD, transverse
POWER: 60kW@5750rpm
TORQUE: 118Nm@2750rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-spd man
0-100km: 13.5s
TOP SPEED: 169km/h
FUEL: 4.9L/100km
CO2: 114g/km
L/W/H/W’BASE: 4159/1739/2004/2537mm
WEIGHT: 1053kg
SUSPENSION f/r: Struts/Torsion beam
STEERING: Electric rack and pinion
BRAKES f/r: Discs/discs
PRICE: From $21,990 plus on-roads

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