The Numbers

1598cc, 4cyl petrol, FWD, 88kW, 160Nm 5.9L/100km, 0-100km/h in 9.5secs, 196km/h, 1053kg

The Topgear Verdict

Interesting inside, disappointing outside. The 2008 is a proper little mashup, which just about works.

2013 Peugeot 2008

In the old days, we’d have been talking about a small wagon here. But the car world is all mashed up right now, and so – instead of recreating the 207 SW – Peugeot has decided to plump up the 208 to create the 2008. It’ll fight for attention in the increasingly busy small ’n’ chunky crossover market when it launches in Australia in October.

Inside, it feels similar to a five-door 208, with the addition of a few centimetres of extra headroom for rear passengers. Outside, it measures 1.5 metres to the top of the roof bars, making it 96mm taller than a 208. The boot’s pretty useful, and the rear seats fold completely back, making modern weekend pastimes like buying Swedish flat-packed goods much easier.

The cabin layout is familiar, although there’s a new handbrake (looks a bit like ET’s head) and refreshed materials. Our car had coppery air-vent surrounds, a dash trimmed in what felt like hessian matting and seats covered in bronze fishnets. It’s as if the designers spent hours in furniture stores, feeling up lampshades, wondering where similar effects might work in a car. But somehow it all comes together quite well, and on several occasions we found ourselves stroking the dashboard or running a finger around the vents.

If only the exterior were so appealing. The surfacing feels a bit plain, and it relies on tricks and fillers to disguise unflattering shapes. See the roofline? Instead of following a steady curve, it rears up above the B-pillar, like it does on a Skoda Roomster. There’s an attempt to hide this with chrome inserts above the rear doors, but even generous observers might call it forgettable, as if it’s caught between old-school Pug ugly and the firm’s future good looks, as shown by the new 308.

The biggest surprise is the way it gets down the road. This VTI weighs just 1053kg, and it’s not that tall, so there’s not much slop. The 1.6-litre petrol – a less powerful, non-turbo version of the 208 GTi’s – feels lively and smooth. The ride, on both 16s and 17s, is well-behaved. The steering has more weight and accuracy than a 208’s. The 1.6-litre diesel – although strong – weighs 100kg more, most of which is over the front wheels. That’s a decent whack of extra mass, and you really feel the difference, whether it’s over speed bumps or through the thick of a corner, where it has a tendency to drift a little wide.

The 2008 is FWD only, although more upmarket versions will come with Grip Control, which uses electronics to divvy up the power across the front axle. Like a Range Rover, you can tell it what sort of surface you’re on. Unlike a Range Rover, it will not fully defeat the landscape. Essentially, it’s just an elaborate – although reasonably effective – traction control system… and a slightly unnecessary gesture towards its SUV aspirations.

Reviewed by: Dan Read

Driven: August 22, 2013