Sometimes, it pays to do a little research. I admit I’ve been out of the loop with the local lineup, so when Peugeot offered a weekend test drive of the 2008, I had in mind an MPV along the lines of the 5008, which I last reviewed back in 2013 or thereabouts.
Of course, I only remembered that the Peugeot totem pole ranks their vehicle size in a numerical code. The bigger the number, the bigger the car. More zeros = more space.
So the 2008 is in the small end of range, but the “00” code means it’s slightly bigger than the 208 hatchback. For those who don’t remember, the first distributor of Peugeot brought that hot little number many years ago and it was roughly the size of a current Mazda 2. The 2017 208 GTI is a little bigger than it used to be, but it's still meant to be a hot hatch. Certainly not a people mover.
Anyway, I picked up the 2008 at the showroom and immediately realized my problem. I had a training camp with the family up in Baguio the next day and had my wife, two kids, one nanny, one road bike, and about a half-dozen bags to somehow cram into the car. Lacking a SeaSucker mount for this slight problem, I stuck my bike into a friend’s Toyota Fortuner (perks of being his coach, haha), while my wife sorted out the Peugeot Tetris challenge.
My toddler was not terribly impressed with the 2008 at the start as he gave his customary welcome puke within the first minute inside the car. After 10 minutes fussing over his soiled clothes and doing our best to wipe off the puke from the expensive fabric upholstery (Sorry, Peugeot.), we were off to Baguio.
Compact cabin aside, we liked a lot of things about the 2008. Like the new generation of super thrifty petrol cars, the 2008 has a tiny, three-cylinder 1.2-liter engine matched to a six-speed automatic. “Direct Exchanger” (whatever that means) Turbo Injection magic nets peak output of 110hp at 5,500rpm and 205Nm of torque at 1,500rpm. To be honest, 110hp is nothing to feel manly about, but the torque rating impresses out on the road.
Even fully loaded with humans, the 2008 gets up to highway speed fairly quickly and has no problem cruising at the 120-140kph range. It made it up the gradients of Kennon road without a fuss, and the gear ratios were spaced just right for the type of acceleration you’d need on mountain roads.
The Euro-optimized chassis was also adept at filtering out all but the sharpest bumps while remaining eminently stable and quite nimble in the turns. Since it only looks a bit like an SUV but is still very much just a station wagon with a high roof and a low center of gravity, the 2008 can be driven at a spirited pace without wallowing at the limit. My kids gave their seal of approval by falling asleep despite our brisk pace up and down Baguio.
Credit must be given to the inspired cabin design, which is a refreshing change from the antiseptic, uniform, even impersonal style of the typical Japanese or Korean automobile. I love the red illumination of the instrument panel bezels (you can turn them off if red isn’t your thing), and the sensual flow of the curves of the dashboard as the lines flow from the IP to the center stack. The steering wheel has an ergonomic grip with perforations to prevent a sweaty grip, and it looks very sporty and upper class.
As for the ergonomics, well, let’s just say this is one of those cars where you’ll need around 10 minutes to sort everything out before you get moving. I made the mistake of driving off without fiddling with the controls first, so it was only when we reached the end of TPLex that I finally discovered how to get at the trip computer. Trust the French to do away with idiot-proof labels for all the buttons.
Cupholders probably aren’t a priority for the French, either. The center console lacks enough space for your wallet, phone, coffee and any other road trip items. I had to place my coffee in the central bin and hope it didn’t spill.
Still, I love the cockpit with its big, fat handbrake and just enough polished aluminum and gloss black accents to keep things interesting. The panoramic moonroof is a beauty, too, and helps reduce some of the claustrophobia induced by the 2008’s mostly-black cabin.
Predictably, there isn’t much boot space. The 360 liters behind the rear seats isn’t much, so you’ll need to be very creative to fit all your family stuff. My wife ended up placing some of our bags on the front and rear seat floors. Naturally, the car did not particularly endear itself to my dear wife, who had to put up with bags crammed in her space.
Things changed when it was her turn to drive. Like me, she loved the style of the cockpit and the way the car drove and handled even with a heavy load. The healthy spec sheet lists down a lot of tech goodies like a reversing camera, multi-mode traction control, and the expected complement of ABS and airbags.
At a list price of just P1,490,000, the 2008 isn’t cheap but neither is it ridiculously expensive either. A five-seat not-SUV may have a limited market here, but buyers looking for a stylish crossover that won’t be a common sight are in for a treat.. so long as space isn’t too big a priority.