When hiring a car, I usually opt for something in the ‘large compact’
class, and although that is a class of car that includes the Golf,
Astra, and Focus, my local Enterprise branch seems to have turned this
into the class of the crossovers. When I arrived to pick up my hire car
the other day, the car park was full of Capturs, ix35s, and this, a
Peugeot 2008. Either Enterprise knows that crossovers are a type of car
that people love, or they are out to get me.

image

Trying
not to let my own preconceived ideas get in the way of fairly judging
the car, I take the keys and walk towards the 2008. At first glance,
it’s not a bad looking car, although black always helps a car look a
little better. New Peugeots have thankfully lost the gaping-mouth front
grille of recent years, and this one even has some nice subtle curves.
It’s too tall, obviously, reminding me a bit of a cornered cat trying to
make itself look bigger than it is, and the chrome strips above the
rear doors and roof racks border on kitsch. It’s no styling benchmark,
but it is certainly more pleasing to look at than the Captur I drove the other week.

Inside, you settle into a relatively comfortable cabin, but
one that also serves as an object lesson in how not to do ergonomics.
The gauges are too small, and designed to be placed in such a way that
you look at them over the steering wheel, but they are not quite high
enough when you have to put the seat all the way back, as tall people
will need to do for sufficient headroom. The gauge cluster also features
a piece of chrome-looking trim on top, which acts like a mirror and
seems designed to blind the driver if you’re driving with the sun
anywhere overhead or in front of you. The steering wheel itself is tiny,
and more oval than round; perhaps Peugeot wants you to feel like the
2008 is a bit sporty? Whatever the case, it is placed too low. A number of buttons are hidden behind it as well, such as those for the cruise control, and unless you’ve mastered using those controls solely by feel, you’ll struggle to operate them whilst driving. The
previous hirer has left the radio blaring a lousy pop station, and while
I can quickly find the volume knob to turn it down, the touchscreen
infotainment unit does not appear to have an ‘off’ button; after a
minute of fidgeting, I can only figure out how to mute it. Being a warm
day, it’s good to know the A/C works well, and the controls are easy to
use. A satisfying thud accompanies closing the door, owing to what look
and feel to be fairly good materials inside. Unlike Peugeots of recent
years, you can tell that they want the 2008 to feel like a well-built,
quality vehicle. And while it’s no Volkswagen, it is definitely up to a
decent standard.

I turn the key and start the 2008. Aside from the fact that
it’s a diesel, I don’t know what is under the bonnet. Probably a 1.6L.
I’ll soon find out as I pull off the lot. Ease on to the road and stab
the accelerator, it’s surprisingly sprightly and smooth, this 2008. Not
fast, but a welcome change from the Captur I recently drove. I find out
it is indeed a 1.6L turbo-diesel, and am initially surprised to discover
it only makes 92bhp and 169lb.-ft. It certainly feels like it has more
power than that, possibly owing to the gearing. But I soon find out
there is not much difference in acceleration when you’re at half
throttle or wide-open throttle. Though I manage to chirp the tyres in
2nd gear on one country road blast, it almost feels quicker holding back
from full throttle and shifting at 4000rpm, to keep it in the power
band. But that’s not how most people will drive it, of course, and for
getting around town, the little diesel feels sufficient. It pulls well
in the low- and mid-range, performs rolling 2nd-gear starts without
hesitation, and even at 50mph in high gear, has enough grunt to keep
accelerating without a downshift. It is plenty smooth, quiet, and
refined on the motorway as well, more than happy to cruise at 70mph. One
of the big selling points of these compact crossovers is fuel mileage,
and the 2008 easily achieves 65mpg.

However, the engine is really the only highlight of the
driving experience, and whatever enjoyment it brings is dampened by the
rest of the drivetrain. In the first place, it’s mated to a mediocre
5-speed gearbox. Although the ratios are good and well-spaced, it is
terribly sloppy. From the feel of it, you’d think the gear stick is
stuck in a pile of jelly. The clutch has a similar sponginess, as do the
brakes. The latter are actually a bit scary, because although they work
well, there isn’t really any feel to them, and you’re not quite sure
how hard you’re going to have to press the pedal to make the car stop
where and when you want it to. That sloppiness continues into the
steering, which lacks precision. Similarly, the ride is soft and very
much the opposite of confidence-inspiring; for whatever reason, 70mph in
this car feels very fast. It probably has something to do with
the fact that, in addition to being too tall and unstable, it is so
softly sprung that at speed, any bump sends the car in various
unpredictable directions. For cruising round town to the shops, you
might enjoy the soft ride, but other road conditions and surfaces
generate sensations ranging from mildly unpleasant to actually rather
terrifying.

Will you at least be comfortable driving a car that sometimes
makes you question whether or not you’ll make it home alive? That
depends on how tall you are. Were I two inches taller than my current
6’4”, probably not. Once I’m seated, everything is okay. The seat itself
is decently comfortable and supportive, the mirrors sufficiently
adjustable, and the visibility fairly good. But it’s not the easiest car
to get in and out of, and I find myself about at the limit of headroom.
I can tilt the seat back further, but then back seat passengers will
suffer more than they already are (even my four-year-old son doesn’t
have enough legroom behind me), and I’ll struggle to reach the controls
(the gear stick is already too far away). Having to take my acoustic
guitar with me at one point, I am surprised to find the boot is quite
small, and even at an angle, it doesn’t quite fit. There is more room
than a standard car, of course, but for a vehicle of this size, I would
expect more.

So should you by a Peugeot 2008? No. It has its good points,
and in some ways it shows that Peugeot is heading in the right
direction. But when it comes down to it, it’s still a crossover, and the
sacrifices you have to make for the sake of practicality are just not
worth it. As I’ve said before, if you want extra space without giving up
on drivability, buy something like a Volkswagen Golf estate.

Engine: 1.6L e-HDi diesel, 92bhp, 169lb.-ft.

Gearbox: 5-speed manual

MSRP: £14,295

Mileage at pickup: 6002

Distance driven: 90 miles

Photo location: 54°43’54.9"N 1°40’55.4"W

Official Peugeot 2008 website

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