It might be a left-field choice here in Australia, but the surprisingly fun and premium Peugeot 2008 is well worth a look at by those in the market for a city-centric SUV.

When you think of small city-focused SUVs, words like “bland” and “underpowered” are what will likely first come to mind. One size fits all cars for the masses, for those looking for something a bit more out there, you may be hard-pressed to find something unique in this often underwhelming class.

Or, you could simply look to the 2021 Peugeot 2008 – the latest entry into this already busy segment, but one that, by way of offering up some French flair, manages to stand out from the rest in a big way.

Launching late last year in both Allure and GT Sport guises, priced from $34,990 and $43,990 respectively, the version tested here is an all-new addition for 2021 – the GT, which blends the entry-level drivetrain with the top-spec trimmings, which starts at a middling $38,990.

From the outset, this is clearly a more style-forward vehicle than the class’ cheaper offerings, with it oozing with Parisian chic. It’s a bit cheeky-looking too, and the black roof and trim around the grille and fog lights brings a sporty touch without going too overboard like on the GT Sport.

But while it certainly has some presence, it’s a diminutive thing that’s really a lot smaller dimensionally than it looks. Clever packaging means it’s got a Tardis-like design though, as inside, it’s far roomier than you’d think after seeing how small it still looks in a designated ‘small car’ parking bay.

Slot into the deeply-sculpted and very supportive bucket seat behind the steering wheel and there’s a certain airiness to the cabin that means it never feels claustrophobic, yet thanks to to the way the 10.0-inch central infotainment display is so clearly angled towards the driver, as is the rest of the centre console below it, as a driver you really do feel at home in here – something which can’t be said for many other little SUVs out there.

One thing that certainly takes a bit of getting used to – and which is the most clear display of French quirkiness inside the 2008’s cabin – is the gauge cluster perched right at the top of the dashboard which you look at over the top of the steering wheel rather than through the uppermost gap in it, hence the wheel’s particularly odd shape and small size. Odd though it may look, the wheel is actually a really ideal size for a city-centric vehicle like this, making for quick manoeuvring when combined with the featherweight electric power steering that sees it drop a U-ey on a dime thanks to its 10.4 metre turning circle

The gauge cluster itself is a clever bit of kit also. Dubbed the 3D iCockpit, it truly delivers an incredibly realistic 3D look as you can clearly see one layer of information displayed above the other. To spoil the magic, this is no whiz-bang display but rather simply two displays, one of which is mounted above the other and reflects the top layer of content down. It’s simple but effective, and the end result is something which is a real talking point.

However, I must say that compared to in other Peugeot models, I don’t think the gauge cluster is positioned quite as well here as it could do with being just a little bit higher, negating the need to raise the seat too much to account for it, but regardless, it’s a novel idea and something that makes this cabin truly feel special among the rest.

The rest of the ergonomics are bang-on, though, as even with the seats in a comfortable position for my 6’2″ frame up front I still had perfectly ample room in the back. All the storage cubbies are big and well placed, and the armrests are perfectly positioned and padded as well.

The quality of the interior materials is excellent as well, although do consider that this car was fitted with the optional $2690 Nappa leather package which in addition to incredibly supple Nappa leather upholstery with some very fun bright green contrast stitching also adds heated front seats and power adjustment and even a massage function for the driver, making it well worth the extra spend.

My tester was also fitted with a sunroof for $1990 and Pearl White paint for $1050 – both of which are nice to have but far from necessary for that amount of money, so the Nappa leather pack is really all you actually need to make it feel genuinely premium, especially as all of that package’s contents are standard on the GT Sport so it really gives you the top-trim experience on a daily basis.

Where the 2008 GT sides with the base Allure model, however, is when it comes to what’s under the skin. While all 2008 models feature a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with front-wheel drive, in the Allure and GT it develops 96kW at 5500rpm and 230Nm at 1750rpm and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, while in the GT Sport it produces a more potent 114kW and 240Nm and is paired to an eight-speed auto.

While the extra power might seem even more alluring (get it?) I personally don’t think it’s necessary in a little city runabout like this, especially when what matters around the city is torque – something both drivelines are not far separated on.

Thanks to the base engine’s particularly strong pulling power at such low revs, it feels surprisingly muscular for a three-pot, moving the 2008 along surprisingly effortlessly as the boost starts to build and it emits a typical off-beat thrum. You never need to rev its head off, as it’s never going to feel close to as fast as something like the Hyundai Kona N Line – just let the torque do its thing around town instead and I don’t doubt you’ll forget it’s a three-pot powering this thing.

While the eight-speed auto of the GT Sport might seem like a tempting upgrade, the evenly-spread gearing of the six-speed feels fitting with this engine as well, with it more linear and less busy than transmissions with more gears can often be.

Despite featuring relatively rudimentary torsion beam rear suspension, the ride quality and composure is impressive for a small car as well. Sure, there’s the occasional bit of lateral shake if you’re pushing on a typical pothole-ridden Adelaide Hills backroad, but on city streets it feels compliant and absorbent without taking too much feel away. No doubt the smaller 17-inch wheels with higher-profile tyres

Speaking of more spirited driving, even though there’s no dedicated Sport mode in the 2008 GT, the variable-ratio steering that is single-finger light around town weights up significantly at higher speeds to give some real control and confidence, and the throttle tuning is such that it needn’t be more sensitive than it already is. Again, for what is ultimately a car designed for shopping in style, Peugeot has made it feel like a surprisingly complete package.

Despite looking and feeling premium, and admittedly being priced to tackle that end of the market, the 2008 ought to be pretty good to run in the long term. To give the peace of mind many older French car buyers will have no doubt long wanted for, it’s covered by an industry-standard five-year unlimited kilometre warranty along with five years of capped price servicing and complimentary roadside assistance. Fuel use should be fairly meagre as well – even taking it out of its comfort zone and into the countryside, I saw a return of 7.7L/100km after a mix of city, country, and spirited driving.

Of course, the price tag is one thing some may baulk at – this fully-loaded car sitting at $44,720 as tested before on-road costs certainly isn’t cheap by the class standards, and nudges the GT Sport’s price tag perhaps a bit too closely, although the $38,990 base price is acceptable – but if you’re discerning with the options list and consider the fact this has more grunt, a more ergonomic interior, and more features than many rivals, it looks mighty compelling, especially in this mid-spec guise.

It might be a left-field choice right now, but I certainly think more city SUV buyers should be giving this little Pug a look. Sometimes it really pays to shop around – and if you do in this instance, I don’t doubt you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fun and premium an offering you can find in this space with the 2008.

2021 Peugeot 2008 GT List Price: $38,990 | As Tested: $44,720
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Surprisingly torquey three-pot engine, variable-ratio steering tune is right on the money, looks and feels genuinely premium, surprisingly roomy and ergonomic cabin
Cons: Can get pricey when you add on the options, there are some faster options out there for less money, gauge cluster placement could be better

In a nutshell: More buyers ought to give the Peugeot 2008 a look, as it’s a great example of why it pays to look around. It’s one of the most premium-feeling offerings in the class and has a driveline that’s perfectly suited to city driving, and even it if isn’t the outright fastest thing around or the cheapest offering in the class, it’s still an impressive drive and a vehicle many will see the value in spending extra for. 

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Jarvis Peugeot in conjunction with Inchcape Australia for four days with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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