Peugeot’s stylish 2008 gets top points for gorgeousness — and it performs admirably off-road
Much is resting on the wheels of this recently launched compact SUV for the somewhat embattled French car brand in South Africa.
Long before Covid-19, Peugeot’s sales performance on South African soil was dismal. While the 210-year-old French brand enjoyed a run of record sales between 2017-2019 in Europe, in South Africa, with just 0.2% of market, the manufacturer has struggled to find favour among local buyers, often criticised for pricey servicing and repairs, shortages of parts and poor resale value.
The pandemic has severely curtailed vehicle sales across the planet. Last November, Carlos Tavares (now CEO of the newly formed Stellantis), then chief of global Peugeot parent company Groupe PSA, warned that “only the most agile, with a Darwinian spirit, will survive”.
While Peugeot’s global sales figures plummeted by 27% in 2020, decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, in SA Peugeot bucked the trend and in fact saw a 31% rise between January and July of that year, despite dealerships being closed during the hard lockdown. It must be mentioned, though, that the growth came off a very low base — 772 units compared with a paltry 591 in 2019. Clearly, increased market share is what the local Frenchies are after and recent upbeat events in the global automotive industry may just be the change that Peugeot SA so desperately needs on home soil.
The announcement in mid-January of the long-awaited merger between the global Peugeot parent company Groupe PSA (including Opel and Citroën) and its rival Fiat Chrysler, as part of Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest car company by volume, has given renewed hope to French car lovers.
Ranking behind VW, Renault Nissan-Mitsubishi and Toyota, Stellantis now comprises 14 brands, including Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Dodge and Jeep. With a workforce of more than 400,000, the new powerhouse will represent about 9% of the global car market. The good news for locals is that Peugeot Citroën Opel will be fully subsidised by Stellantis.
At the recent launch of the all-new Peugeot 2008 compact SUV in Limpopo, Leslie Ramsoomar, MD of PCSA (Peugeot Citroën SA), was upbeat about Peugeot’s future, revealing bullish plans to double Peugeot’s market share by 2022, by addressing the negative perceptions of after-sales service and increasing the dealership footprint. (PCSA has moved headquarters to Midrand, which now houses a 7,000m2 warehouse stocking more than R50-million worth of parts.)
If the line-up of products in 2021, which includes the 208, the face-lifted 3008, 5008 and much-awaited Landtrek bakkie, is as impressive as the just-launched 2008, there’s a good chance that Ramsoomar’s plans can be achieved.
The launch of the 2008
Along with 42 socially distanced fellow motoring scribes, I got to spend almost 700km behind the extremely sexy leather-bound steering wheel of the all-new compact SUV.
Looks have always been Peugeot’s strong point and the 2008 takes aesthetics to a whole new level. Sculptured, futuristic and eye-catchingly refined, the 2008 scores top points for gorgeousness in its overpopulated class, surrounded by other lookers including the Renault Captur, the Nissan Juke, the VW T-Cross, Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-30. With its standout grille, angular bonnet and its characteristic 3 LED “claws” on the tailgate, the 2008 is a hard act to follow. High wheel arches, good ground clearance and 18-inch alloys help increase its robust off-road appeal.
Talking of off-road — after spending almost 300km of very satisfying driving on tar and dodging plenty of potholes, supported by its agile chassis in far-flung regions of Limpopo, things got somewhat dirty when we hit rain-drenched gravel that no longer resembled a road, but rather a series of deep and dangerous-looking mud-dam dongas.
I had my doubts that my oh-so-eleganté French wheels (that looked more suited to preening on the Camps Bay boulevard) would handle terrain that looked more apt for the likes of a highly capable Defender or a brutish Hi-Lux bakkie.
Turning the setting to “mud” (one could also choose “sand” or “snow”) I took an extremely deep breath, put foot lest we got stuck, and hurtled, à la Dakar Rally, through the swamps. Under these extreme and highly unexpected conditions, the 2008 leapt into impressive off-road action. I live to tell the tale. Lesser-abled cars would surely have skidded and possibly rolled in these abject conditions. Instead, the 2008 seemed to seamlessly correct itself and mow down everything that was thrown at it.
Trim and specs
At the launch I was in the top-of-the-range GT-Line trim — the other choices are Active and Allure. Customers can either go manual in a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine (74kW/205Nm), mated with a six-speed manual transmission or there’s auto in the more powerful six-speed (96kW/230Nm) 1.2 turbo petrol, mated with a six-speed auto transmission.
Rear passenger space is generous. The (Alcantara or Nappa) leather back seats can fold down for extra storage while conventional boot space is an impressive at 434 litres with rear seats upright.
3D digital cockpit
And then there’s the all-new Peugeot i-Cockpit® 3D digital dashboard, first seen in the larger 3008. It really is quite a thing to experience, seeing layers of info unfold in three dimensions as you drive. The i-Cockpit basically uses two screens. While one is in its traditional position, the second has been placed so that it can reflect off the first. As one drives and checks info such as speed, fuel consumption and range, the data appears to almost float in space, a lot like a hologram. Tres chic, Peugeot.
There’s plenty of Drive Assist on offer, like a lane departure avoidance system, adaptive Cruise Control, Park Assist, automatic emergency braking (also able to detect cyclists and pedestrians), driver warning alert that warns the distracted driver to take a break, and active blind spot monitoring.
Tech and gripes
The 2008 is, as expected, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible and there are up to four USB sockets on tap, depending on what trim level you choose. (A sunroof’s also an option for an extra R21,750.) While the cabin is high-end and the tech impressive, I did find the climate control somewhat unintuitive and had to really search for it before I managed to change both the temperature and fan speed. Another possible gripe for tall people may be the positioning of the smaller-than-usual steering wheel, which could obstruct some cockpit info. This can be corrected by moving the steering wheel higher or lower. I’m pretty short so it didn’t bother me at all.
Whatever people may say about its “troublesome French reputation”, Peugeot has seldom been criticised for its quality of products. The new 2008 ticks all the boxes as one of the best in its highly populated segment. Let’s see how units move in this tough and cash-strapped market.
- Active 1.2T 74kW manual: R359,900.
- Active 1.2T 96kW auto: R399,900.
- Allure 1.2T 96kW auto: R429,900.
- GT 1.2T 96kW auto: R479,000.
All models are sold with a three-year/60,000km service plan as standard. DM