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Car reviews - Peugeot

Our Opinion

We like
Improved performance, efficiency, styling, steering, handling, ride, refinement, specification, elegant dash, spacious cabin, long warranty
Room for improvement
No manual option, AEB not available on base car (yet), long warranty only for first three months

27 Feb 2017

RIGHT now, when recommending small SUVs, the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Suzuki Vitara always spring to mind first. All look great, drive well and offer obvious value.

In this vast land, they are what Aussies have long wanted from their cars, certainly since the original Holden lobbed some 70 years ago. Then-PM Ben Chifley’s famous exclamation back at that 1948 press launch – “She’s a beauty!” – enshrined the sentiment.

Yet these are simple requirements most car-makers fail to heed, because beyond the aforementioned Japanese models, every other small SUV stumbles in at least one of the core pillars. Including that from one the world’s oldest car manufacturers, Peugeot.

The first 2008 (really, even the name sounded dated when it was new in September 2013) bombed quietly, despite offering an inviting interior, plenty of space and quite decent handling and ride attributes. Apologetic styling, weedy performance, the wrong transmissions (even the auto was at least one speed off respectability), perplexing pricing and insufficient kit meant that only around 360 sold in Oz last year, against 18,000 more CX-3s. Happily, Peugeot seems to have been listening and something has been done about fixing its under-performing small SUV’s wrongs. To a degree that deserves a good hard second look.

Design first. The front end styling has been butched up to be far more aggressive, yet without detracting from the detailed classiness of the overall visage. Tick.

More importantly, behind that bolder lion logo is the company’s lauded PureTech turbo triple petrol powertrain (albeit the lesser powered 81kW rather than the potent 96kW number found in the wildly underrated 308 1.2T), at last addressing performance issues across the entire range with sparkling determination.

Paired to a quick-shifting torque-converter auto courtesy of Toyota, the MY17 2008 leaps off the line when the old one seemed languid there’s a well of mid-range punch for brisk overtaking and refinement levels are more than on-brand adequate, with effortless cruising capabilities being a particular strength. Yep, it’s a successful heart transplant.

It’s certainly enough to raise pulses and take full advantage of the still-cracking little chassis underneath. With agile yet measured steering backed up by excellent road-holding, the smallest Pug SUV offers levels of dynamic flair missing from many rivals, then trumps most with a forgiving and absorbent ride – at least on the smaller-wheeled Active as tested around the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.

And finally there’s the value propositioning. At $26,490 plus on-roads, the base 2008 Active 1.2T auto isn’t cheap, but nor is the presentation or ambience, pushing the series into the more expensive mid-range CX-3 and HR-V territory. And above.

Superb forward and side vision thanks to deep side windows add a real airiness inside. Beautiful instruments, that large central touchscreen, and appealing detailing further lift the cabin above the mainstream, especially in this segment of patchy packaging. Throw in standard Apple CarPlay, cruise control with speed limiter, parking sensors, electrically folding door mirrors, leather wheel, cooled centre console, 16-inch alloys, a rearview camera and idle-stop tech, and most buyers are unlikely to complain. Especially as right now, a five-year warranty is also part of the deal.

Later this year AEB will also be standard on the base Active that’s already included – along with sat-nav, auto self parking, auto on/off headlights and wipers, cornering front lights, climate control, rear privacy glass, swishier trim, and a sand/mud/snow-traversing traction device known as Grip Control – on the keenly-specced $30,990 Allure.

Suddenly, then, Peugeot’s smallest SUV is no longer the under-performing wallflower it once was. At last, there is sufficient acceleration and oomph to take advantage of the enthusiastic chassis. And finally, there is actual value underpinning the high spec on offer. Somebody at the Sochaux HQ has relented and given importers Sime Darby Motors Group the car this should have been in 2013.

After the bloody nose that the first iteration suffered at the hands of more thoughtfully presented competitors, the MY17 2008 seems – at first acquaintance at least – to close the gap on the class leaders, while outshining them all with Euro chic and outstanding efficiency.

This is beyond what Australians might expect from a small SUV.

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