GAUTENG – As highlighted by Peugeot at the local launch of the new 2008, according to a new car buyer survey, the number one characteristic influencing a consumer when purchasing a small SUV/crossover is its appearance. However superficial this may sound, owning a vehicle that demands a second glance certainly does elicit a real feel-good factor.

Still, what buyers seek in this segment is more than merely skin deep. Comfort, build quality, standard equipment, interior space, drivability and fuel consumption are all included in the list of prerequisites. In the ever-competitive small SUV/crossover segment, is the sharp-edged second-generation 2008 influential enough to claw buyers away from popular rivals, such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, and on to Peugeot showroom floors? We took the 2008 (in top-of-the-line GT grade) on a 400 km round trip from Gauteng to a game lodge in the Waterberg district of Limpopo to find out.

At first (and second) glance

Dressed in Orange Fusion paintwork, replete with (standard on GT models) a black roof, the 2008 demanded a second glance. The body hue highlighted the 2008’s angular bodywork and brightened up Gauteng’s cumulonimbus-clouded skyline. The 2008 is arguably the most stylish vehicle in its segment.

Flanking the chequered chrome grille, the (automatic) LED headlamps house striking “claw-effect” daytime-running lights. The DRLs embedded on opposite sides of the front bumper, Peugeot says, are reminiscent of sabre-tooth canines. A gloss black strip spanning the rear binds the taillamps, while the tailpipe surrounds feature a chrome finish.

Interior seems premium

Opening the triangularly contoured doors (keyless entry and start are standard here) reveals a spacious and equally stylish interior. Perceived build quality is solid. The cabin is trimmed in myriad soft-touch materials, replete with lime-green contrast stitching and eight-colour ambient lighting. It looks and feels premium.

The seats (height-adjustable and heated up front, with the passenger’s pew fitted with an Isofix anchorage in addition to the duo in the rear) are comfortable. Although the steering accommodates both rake and reach adjustment, it did however take some time getting used to the driving position as the small multifunction tiller has to be set lower to enable the driver to view the 3D (a first for a series production car, Peugeot says) i-Cockpit digital instruments.

The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system is within easy reach and features, among others, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality (activated via USB) and sat-nav. Sited below are touch buttons and pleasingly tactile switchgear which are used to operate the climate system. A smartphone stowage space furthermore offers wireless charging.

Panoramic platform

The 2008 is the first Peugeot underpinned by the firm’s Common Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, which can be modified to suit various drivetrains. Locally, however, the 2008 line-up comprises only a single engine option – a 1,2-litre turbo-triple – which can be had in two flavours: 74 kW/205 N.m in the entry-level, manual variant and 96 kW/230 N.m in the remaining three automatic derivatives. The reason for the latter, Peugeot says, is that, together with the aforementioned prerequisites, South African buyers want a crossover endowed with a small-capacity turbopetrol, coupled with an automatic transmission.

Directing power exclusively to the front axle, the 96 kW motor in our press unit performed equally well in urban environments and, once leaving city limits, on the open road, where the standard cruise control setup was put to good use. The transmission did, however, at times react at a seemingly leisurely pace when depressing the throttle during overtaking. The steering is delightfully light when manoeuvring at a slow pace and, when travelling at the national limit, relays an ample amount of feedback to the driver.

The suspension feels softly sprung and, although riding on 17-inch alloys, the 2008’s arrangement did an admirable job of soaking up the pothole-infested back rounds en route to Limpopo. In short, it’s a comfortable crossover. Arriving at the game lodge, the rainfall had turned the gravel road to mud and allowed us to put the "Mud" driving mode (in addition to Normal, Snow and Sand) of the 2008’s grip control system to the test. Although most drivers will likely steer clear of roads like these in a small crossover, the 2008 did a commendable job of ferrying us safely and with broad smiles (it shouldn’t be this much fun to drive a small crossover on this type of road) to our destination.

Summary

The 2008 proves that beauty doesn’t have to be only skin deep. The second iteration of Peugeot’s small crossover meets all the prerequisites consumers want in a car in this segment. The new 2008 offers not only stylish exterior and interior design language but a spacious cabin that’s well equipped and solidly constructed, a comfortable driving experience and an average (claimed) fuel-consumption figure of 6,5 L/100 km. It’s a shame then, that in a brand-loyal market like ours so many buyers are more concerned with (however superficial it might sound) the badge donning the noses of their cars. Hopefully, however, the 2008 will prove influential enough to draw buyers back to Peugeot showroom floors, as it deserves not only a first but a second glance.



FAST FACTS

Model: Peugeot 2008 1,2T 96 kW GT AT
Price: R479 900
Engine: 1,2-litre, three-cylinder, turbopetrol
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Power: 96 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 230 N.m @ 1 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 9,10 seconds
Top Speed: 198 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,50 L/100 km
CO2: 148 g/km
Maintenance Plan: 3-year/60 000 km