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Updated with a bold new stance, it’s the introduction of two new engine options that have us most intrigued...

Tasked with representing Peugeot in the Liquorice Allsorts contest that is the light-crossover segment, the bumped-up 2008 was first introduced in 2014. Offering both a longer wheelbase and raised ride height over the 208 hatch on which it's based, the added zero in its naming suggests a more usable, adventure-seeker role. It’s a role reinforced by the optional pseudo-all-terrain Grip Control setting for added off-the-beaten-track prowess.

Three years on and, along with a fresh family grille and headlamp design, the updated 2008 gains additional wheelarch cladding and scuff plates to lend the vehicle an even more rugged stance compared with the plucky, city-slicker hatchback with which it shares a platform. Carried over from the original model is a stepped roofline (including the somewhat garish chrome panel filling the space above the rear doors) and standard roof rails.

Also updated for 2017, although more from a texture and technology point of view, is Peugeot's opinion-dividing i-cockpit layout interior with its small steering wheel placed below a line-of-sight view of the facia's upper tier containing all vital instrumentation. As with other Peugeot models currently sporting a similar layout, the CAR team was split evenly according to those able to adjust their driving position around this quirky blueprint, and those who were left frustrated by it.

Previously lauded for its impressive levels of perceived build quality, once again careful attention has been paid to both tactile quality and placement of materials in the 2017 model, specifically with a view to adding further distinction between this PSA-built entry and its segment rivals. Accordingly, the infotainment system has been updated to incorporate the latest link technologies, including Apple CarPlay.

While there remains adequate leg- and headroom for two adults in the rear of the 2008, the real party trick is a combination of a low-slung luggage bay load height and convenience of a flat-folding (60:40-split) rear seatback. More attention, however, could’ve been paid to the relative absence of usable storage compartments in the cabin. On this note, care needs to be taken when placing items below the fist-grip handbrake, as this can line said items up nicely with your knuckles.

Originally introduced with only one engine/transmission layout, the updated 2008 range includes the option of PSA’s impressive 1,2-litre, three-cylinder PureTech petrol engine, mated exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, or, as featured here, a 1,6-litre HDi turbodiesel version operated via a five-speed manual ‘box. Representing a new entry point to the 2008 range, the latter is a combination of a fairly peaky, gruff-sounding diesel unit and frustratingly non-fluid manual transmission (not helped by tall gearing and an unnatural clutch-pedal action) that works against much of the sophistication built into the 2008.

At least the fuel-route figure of just 5,4 L/100 km is a redeeming factor. It’s not to say there isn’t a certain appeal in the way this punchy (230 N.m at 1 750 r/min) engine propels the 1 232 kg frame round town; it’s just that the constant need to keep within a fairly narrow torque band, using one of the vaguest manual gearshift patterns we’ve encountered in a long time, can prove tiresome. We look forward to sampling what should prove to be a more refined, relaxed and likely (in real-world terms) as impressively efficient driving experience offered by the PureTech petrol engine mated with a fuss-free auto.

Once up to speed, and despite the standard fitment of 17-inch wheels on all but entry-level Active specification, the 2008 continues to impress with its refined ride quality and relatively sure-footed handling characteristics. Although the heightened levels of sensitivity associated with Peugeot’s small-circumference steering wheel design threatens to make the raised-body 2008 feel a bit unsettled, working in conjunction with a relatively well-weighted electric power steering system, the car instead feels sprightly and light on its feet, especially within the confines of an urban environment.

TEST SUMMARY

Although not always reflected on monthly sales charts, both the 2008 and the 208 on which it’s based continue to represent the impressive best in terms of what Peugeot has to offer. The refreshed larger of the two, in particular, introduces a fresh family face for the French brand while raising the bar in terms of perceived build quality and sophistication, most notably in relation to its closest rivals.

Given the advancements in both modern small-capacity petrol engines and corresponding automatic transmission technologies, what this turbodiesel 2008 really needs is a decent torque convertor to make this combination as fluid and harmonious as possible.

It’s here where the 2008 1,6 HDi falls short of the mark in terms of offering a drivetrain combination capable of complementing rather than intruding on the otherwise impressive levels of refinement offered by Peugeot’s updated small SUV/crossover. Our suggestion would be the 1,2-litre PureTech and its six-speed automatic transmission, in either Allure or GT Line specification, as the pick of the new 2008 range.

*From the April 2017 issue of CAR magazine

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