What is it?
Two more mainstream manufacturers haul themselves aboard the B segment crossover gravy train this week. One, dealt with elsewhere, is the Renault Captur; the other is the Peugeot 2008, which, as its name suggests, is an SUV-style rehash of the 208 supermini launched last year and an indirect replacement for the now-deceased 207 SW.
With more meat on the bone, the new model is 200mm longer, 250mm wider and substantially taller than its five-door 208 template. Its heftier presence is something of an illusion - the car sits on the same 2538mm wheelbase as the hatchback - but seat-up boot space does swell by an appreciable 65 litres, and there’s a fold-flat 1172-litre capacity beyond that.
This practical advantage (and the design confetti around it) are the main selling points, since Peugeot has opted not to increase costs or sophistication by plumbing four-wheel drive into its existing platform.
Instead, the 2008 is offered, according to engine and trim (although it was absent from the car tested here) with Grip Control - the selectable traction-control system that sends as much torque as possible to the front wheel with the most grip - and specially developed all-weather mud and snow rubber from Goodyear.
Otherwise the lineup is familiar: four trim levels (split into Access+, Active, Allure and Feline) with essentially two petrol and two diesel engines.
The latter includes 1.4-litre and varying 1.6-litre outputs - the range-topping 113bhp e-HDI is driven here - while the petrol range is slightly muddled by the forthcoming introduction of a turbocharged version of Peugeot’s new 1.2-litre three-pot.
For now, though, it comes in 82bhp format only, with the older, dirtier 1.6-litre four-cylinder running alongside until the new forced induction motor arrives early next year.
What is it like?
Just last month Peugeot proved that, given the chance, it is capable of wringing a respectable amount of fresh charm from its recycled small car platform. Unfortunately, where the 208 GTI had a feisty, hot hatch dynamic to raise it above the standard model’s faults, the 2008 is (understandably) more deeply mired in them.
On the outside, despite some clever differentiated detailing on the headlights and a bit of extra brawn, the donor car’s awkwardly collated design identity — tediously fussy at the front and flabbily uninspired at the rear — remains unmistakable. Like a flabby bodybuilder, there’s too much vacant skin here with too little to do.
Flunking the critical crossover eye candy test is made worse by the continuing poor state of affairs inside. The hatchback’s fragmented interior has been transferred wholesale, and while Peugeot claims that the relative position of dash and driver has not changed, the result hardly looks better now you appear to tower above it.
Granted, the hitherto obscured dials are now plainly visible, but all too often getting comfortable means adjusting the steering wheel so low that it lolls in your lap like the head of a sleeping toddler. Behind the front seats there’s an acceptable amount of space for adults, although Peugeot doesn’t seem to have taken much advantage of the elevated roofline that juts so conspicuously from the 2008’s brow.
The general curiousness is hardly diluted once on the move. The extra height is obviously noticeable, as is an unexpected amount of supplementary heft on the steering. Underfoot the pedals suffer from a characteristic degree of mush, and it would take a stout boot to dampen all the vibrations instantly discernible through the bulkhead.
The 1.6-litre e-HDI is a constantly chattering aural presence too, but with a 199lb ft of torque from 1750rpm and six well-spaced ratios to hand, it’s obligingly broad shouldered in its delivery (far more so than the spineless 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine) and settles the 2008 promptly into a benign shuffle.
From here on, with limited input or interaction, the anonymity sets like concrete. On the plus side, the car rides rather well on its 160mm of ground clearance, hardly ever wants to parch its thirst (70.6mpg is the combined quotation) and limits its average CO2 emissions to 105g/km.
In the negative column, inevitably exposed by pushing just a smidgen beyond an amble, the 96mm taller body responds to direction changes with a buttock-lifting nonchalance.
Much like the 208, it considers lateral loads a matter for lengthy contemplation rather than instant response; propping itself up against the lackadaisical turn in before the body settles jauntly into the line indicated by the chassis - then jolting gently upright half a second after you’ve wound the lock off.
Sufficient grip make this undisciplined display utterly harmless, but the constant requirement to limit entry speed - even at a moderate pace - combined with a tiresome lack of proper agility make the 2008 hard work precisely in the moments where its compact size (and low weight, compared with the old SW) should be an advantage.
Should I buy one?
It seems remarkable given the number of introductions made to this segment that there is still no genuinely likable, polished all-rounder to seize the initiative (allowing for the fact that the oft-mentioned Nissan Juke is vastly overrated).
The Peugeot 2008, even in its range-topping format, is another effort that ultimately falls wide of the mark - not because it’s particularly objectionable, but because it fails in any meaningful sense to be properly memorable or praiseworthy.
However, as (for now) it seems that this area of the market is immune to the industry’s wider contraction and is apparently unlikely to have its growth holed beneath the waterline, the lack of a standout class-leader is likely to be to Peugeot’s advantage.
With the Vauxhall Mokka, Mini Countryman, Chevrolet Trax and even the Skoda Yeti are all guilty of their own inadequacies, there’s no lofty benchmark for the 2008 to fall glaringly foul of.
That it doesn’t really look any better, or drive with any more charisma than the hatchback that lies underneath it, almost seems par for the course. Peugeot has suggested that the price walk up from an equivalent 208 should be around £800 (the lineup is expected to start at £12,995), a premium reasonable enough to suggest that it will find buyers easily enough on the forecourt.
We wouldn’t necessarily dissuade anyone from such a decision, but - once again - you need to be an acute admirer of its limited extra load capacity, slightly higher vantage point, implied optional flexibility and overall fashion statement to adequately grasp the point.
Peugeot 2008 Allure 1.6 e-HDI 115
Price £18,000 (est.); 0-62mph 10.4sec; Top speed 117mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 105g/km; Kerb weight 1180kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Power 113bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 199lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual