Around 2 years ago, I was part of a road test team on a mission. We had gathered a number of families and we asked them to do our job for us. They would drive every compact crossover available in SA and we’d ask them to choose a winner.
If I recall correctly, the winner was the Citroën C4 Cactus, which is no longer sold in SA. In fact, the entire brand upped and left the country for good a few months ago.
At the time the Cactus was indeed the best within the confines of the city, but it was pretty useless on anything else. As a result I chose the Renault Duster as my compact crossover of choice. The Duster remained my top choice until the Suzuki Vitara came along, which I still recommend to people to this day.
The Peugeot 2008 had just arrived in SA when we conducted the test mentioned above, but even the new car smell wasn’t strong enough to lure the various families out of the Cactus.
As a result, I haven’t thought about the 2008 all that much. It was a decent product, but it didn’t have the guts to stand toe-to-toe with the better cars in the segment. And by that I mean its old-school naturally aspirated engine never impressed as much as the smaller capacity turbocharged engines that were slowly becoming the norm back then.
Still, it had some redeeming factors, so it ended up mid-field. Not nearly as good as the Cactus on road and nowhere near the Duster when it came to the business of off-roading, or simply driving down a gravel road to get to a nice countryside restaurant. It was an admirable effort, but easy to forget.
A few months ago Peugeot gave the 2008 a makeover. The asthmatic 1.6 was replaced with a 1.2l turbocharged triple, while some minor cosmetic tweaks were made here and there.
Small engine, big punch
The small engine has a massive heart. There’s bucket loads of low down torque and the automatic transmission is as smooth as they come. It’s slightly hesitant to change down when you override it manually, but it’s so good when left to its own devices, I honestly don’t know why you’d ever want to shift manually anyway. It’s frugal as well, so it won’t break the bank every time you fill it up.
The interior is a nice place to spend time. All the modern amenities are standard and the quality is on par with the rest of the segment. The touch screen is hesitant at times, but this is a minor niggle and nowhere near bad enough to ruin the entire car. It also scored top marks for safety, so if you have little ones, it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
The quality of the ride on gravel roads is superb. It may only be front-wheel drive, but the 2008 boasts a number of electronic gadgets to ensure it tracks straight and true. It may get stuck on the really tricky stuff, but since Peugeot never claimed that it’s a rough 4×4, I’m willing to forgive it. As far as off-roading goes, it’s no better and no worse than most of its competitors.
Is it the best in the segment? That’s a tough question, considering just how many competitors it has.
Let me finish off by stating that you need to decide what it will be used for. If it’s only going to be used in the city and the odd highway trip to Durban or Cape Town, then I’d recommend going for one of these. You might also want to look at the Toyota C-HR.
If, however, you regularly travel on gravel, I’d rather go with a Renault Duster, or the Suzuki Vitara. These two are slightly more robust that anything else in the segment, which allows you to go that extra mile into the countryside.