It’s only eight years since the Peugeot 2008 was first launched, but the small SUVs popularity is so vast it already feels like part of the automotive furniture. You go out, you see a 2008. Until recently, though, there’s always been a third step to that process. You go out, you see a 2008, you forget about the 2008. It’s not that the 2008 was bad – far from it – but it has always been another half-decent jacked-up hatchback in a world that’s increasingly filled with half-decent jacked-up hatchbacks.
But Peugeot has moved on since 2013, and the new look that started with the 508 and 208 has swept across the range. So when the new 2008 arrived with its funky new styling and bright colour palette, it was no longer a grey hatchback on stilts. It’s now interesting and fun – at least to look at – but will it prove as popular with customers? Our first drives suggested plenty of talent remained in the little crossover, but living with it is the only way to know for sure.
All of which is why you’re reading these words and looking at these pictures. We’ve taken delivery of a shiny new 2008 in this somewhat vibrant shade of orange, which to my surprise is a no-cost option. And because this is a £26,940 GT Line car, we also get 18-inch alloy wheels, a 3D digital instrument display and a 10-inch touchscreen navigation system, not to mention heated front seats, climate control and a reversing camera. There are no options fitted to our car, but then they aren’t really necessary. Shortly after this car was built, Peugeot helpfully discontinued the GT Line trim. The closest you can get is the GT version, which is broadly similar to our car, but with a few minor differences. You can’t even buy the 1.5-litre diesel engine that lurks behind the grille. Ours is the 101bhp BlueHDi 100 engine, which comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, but it too has been discontinued, replaced by the slightly more potent BlueHDi 110 unit with a handful of extra horsepower.
Despite that, first impressions have generally been good, with one or two flies in the otherwise soothing ointment. For a kick-off, I’m a big fan of the looks, which manage to be funky and stylish all at once. It’s even better inside, where the modern, high-tech look blends seamlessly with the exterior. Or at least it would if the lime green trim of our car didn’t clash so horribly with the orange exterior. That small gripe aside, though, the cabin is stunning to look at and of higher quality than you might expect. It’s no Audi Q2, but it’s up there with the Skoda Kamiq.
The ride is similarly decent, smoothing out most of the lumps and bumps of British roads in a kind of relaxed, squidgy sort of way. Combined with the super-light steering and the soft seats, it makes the 2008 feel very calm and laid back. Or at least it does until you hit a really uneven road surface – or a particularly savage pothole. Such things seem to catch the 2008’s soft, slow suspension out a little, sending a shudder through the chassis and leaving a slight turbulence in its wake.
Nevertheless, the nonchalant character of the suspension is well suited to the engine, which feels a touch lethargic. Admittedly, it hasn’t yet been run in. I’ve come to this car from a significantly larger and heavier Octavia Estate, but the horsepower difference is almost negligible, and the performance difference is not. Still, as the engine is no longer on sale, we’ll wait to sample its more powerful replacement before passing judgement.
And anyway, I’m impressed with the gearbox, which seems far more accurate than its baggy, unappealing predecessor. I’m not sure about the square gear lever, though, but the new ‘box is such a dramatic improvement I’m prepared to let the slightly awkward gear knob slide.
Date arrived 24th February 2021
Economy (WLTP combined) 54.4-62.7mpg
Economy (On test) 43.3mpg