Peugeot 2008: Crossover motoring in a smaller package

By Lee Pang Seng
PEUGEOT has obviously enjoyed good success with the 3008 Crossover that shares the same platform as the 308 hatchback, enough to extend that formula to the smaller 208 model as well. Building different models from a common floorpan is the way to go these days as it saves on development costs and time.

The new 208 was launched earlier in the year and the 2008 Crossover came later into 2013. In body styling, the 2008 immediately strikes one on its similarity to the hatchback except that it is taller to fulfil its Crossover perspective. This likeness in looks is not merely visual as Peugeot says there is a 65 per cent commonality in parts between the two models.

The sharing of parts obviously saves on manufacturing expenses with the higher volume, lower cost factor in the production of the common areas. These include the four doors, LED daytime running lights, and most of the components in the interior. With the common platform comes the same wheelbase of 2538mm but the 2008 is bigger in all other physical aspects: it is taller by 96mm and the ground clearance is higher by 25mm at 160mm;  it’s longer at 4160mm and wider at 1740mm. Yet, the kerb weight is kept low, below 1200kg for the respective models.

As the interior is similar to the 208, stepping into either would leave one none the wiser to the respective model although a giveaway would be the ride height. This sees a two-meter panel with blue LED lighting and a large 7-inch multi-information display touchscreen on the centre dash area, which did seem monstrous for a relatively small B-segment model.

We aren’t complaining though as it made GPS maps easier to follow during our drives with the 2008 in Alsace, France earlier in 2013. The voice guidance was a little slow though and we did miss a few turns during the initial part of the trip and we had to find our way back to the original route set for us.

Like the 208 Hatchback, the rear seatrest is also split 60:40 to enhance on luggage space by almost three times from the standard volume with the seatrest up. There is no push start/stop facility but a more recent feature Park Assist comes as standard. It uses ultrasonic devices to steer the vehicle in a parallel parking manoeuvre and you only have to use the brake and accelerator pedal.

We had to hold back our drive impressions till the Crossover was announced at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show (KLIMS) in mid-November. Our 180km drive impressions were limited to the 1.6-litre models, both petrol and diesel, although brief acquaintances in the smaller displacement variants were provided later at a resort in Rebeauville to check out the scenic routes, including that to a historic castle on a hill overlooking the town.

These were the 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre models with new three-cylinder engineering, while the 1.6-litre models that we drove had four-cylinder engines. The bigger displacement units were improved to provide optimum power output, cleaner burning and better fuel efficiency. The engine stop/start function is standard to most models, mainly the bigger displacement versions, and is introduced to this B-segment petrol model for the first time. The engine cuts off when you declutch on coming to a stop and restarts when you release the clutch to move. You can do without the function by pressing a button on the dashboard and reactivate it later by the doing the same.

The 1.6 VTi petrol engine puts out 88kW (120bhp) at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4250rpm while the 1.6 e-HDi diesel unit has a lower power output of 67kW (92bhp) at 4000rpm but far higher torque at 230Nm at 1750rpm, typical of its design. Although Peugeot has a four-speed automatic transmission model for markets that want such a model, none were made available for the drive across the countryside east of France that took us through forest reserves and farmlands.

We had to get used to manual transmission driving again (on the wrong side of the road and using our right hand instead of our left to shift the gears while declutching) with the five-speed and six-speed models arranged for the drive. Thankfully, the clutch pedal pressure was light, making the re-acquaintance less of a pain in the leg.

The relatively smaller dimensions of the B-segment Crossover also helped especially when the countryside route got a little narrow in some places and some of the winding stretches had pretty sharp and tight corners. Light traffic along most of the roads we covered were equally welcomed.

Like the 3008 Crossover, the 2008 also comes with a panoramic sunroof that runs right to the rear roof section to maintain status quo for this model design. There is an underlying shutter that you can conveniently activate electronically when the overhead sun makes the interior a bit too balmy to drive in.

The 2008 is independently sprung with pseudo-MacPherson strut suspension in front and a multi-link rear with deformable cross-member. An electronically-controlled Grip Control system is standard. It functions as part of the electronic stability program that manages several functions to apportion traction from slipping wheels to gripping ones over adverse road surfaces to maintain stability. There are four modes with a speed limit for each of them, after which it goes to the Standard mode. The function can be turned off up to 50km/h if you wish to have some fun throwing the Crossover through corners.

As most of the roads we drove on were dry, we had limited exposure to this vehicle stability feature. Our confidence taking the 2008 through the few mildly wet areas was not daunted as we didn’t experience any undue loss of road grip or traction while driving through, including the gentle curves, without dropping speed.

Through the tighter turns, and using third-fourth gears accordingly, the 2008 proved dynamically efficient at fairly good speeds. Understeer was light and progressive as we pushed this Peugeot quite a bit in light traffic winding sections. Body roll for the tall vehicle was also nicely checked with sturdy anti-roll bars front and rear. Our gusto was only tempered by the unfamiliar tight and twisty sections in some areas, but we enjoyed the drive nonetheless.

Ride was pretty good too. Running on 215/60 R16 tyres, the 2008’s suspension appeared well tuned to absorb the harshness of the Roman road surfaces (which we ran on while going through one or two towns) and the odd bump or pothole. The bigger Crossover body didn’t have an effect on aerodynamics as its stability on the highway was as good as you can get for a B-segment vehicle, while wind noise was appreciably low and unintrusive.

We found the gearing of the five-speed transmission a bit odd though. The ratios between third and fourth seemed unusually wider than expected, and we didn’t have the confidence to take some fast sweepers in fourth as we felt it was closer to an overdrive ratio. Taking those corners in third had the engine running at a higher rev than preferred. We also found the fifth gear taller than expected too: at 110km/h, the engine was turning above 3000rpm. This had the engine working too much at highway speeds, making us a little sceptical about better fuel mileages in that respect.

With the 1.6 e-HDi six-speed manual that we drove from Rebeauville to the Strasbourg airport on the last day, the ratios were more to our liking and on par with what is expected in the current automotive industry. At 110km/h, the diesel engine was turning over slightly above 2000rpm in sixth gear, rising to 2300rpm to cruise at 130km/h along sections of the highway where this was permitted.

An insight into the respective model’s performance gave the 2008 petrol model, which weighs 1080kg kerb, a top speed of 196km/h (good enough for a B-segment Crossover) and a 0-100km/h acceleration in a reasonable quick 9.5 seconds. The diesel variant (1160kg with the heavier engine) is slightly inferior with a 182km/h top speed and 0-100km/h sprint in 12.8 seconds. The diesel scores on fuel economy with 4.0 litres/100km (25km/l) against the petrol’s 5.9 litres/100km (16.9km/l).

Given the generally attractive prices of the Peugeot range here, the 2008 Crossover should come with an affordable tag for those who prefer versatile motoring, especially in a more compact form.

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