From £18,2456
Top-end ICE version of compact SUV excels on styling, but isn't as dynamic as class-leading rivals

What is it?

This is the (deep breath) Peugeot 2008 GT Premium 1.2 PureTech 155 EAT8 S&S, which is quite a mouthful.

Apart from having a name that could stretch the entire width of the bootlid, the Peugeot is also the flagship version of the French firm’s most compact of compact crossovers, combining the most powerful engine available with the most lavish array of equipment. It’s also the quickest 2008 you can buy, which in combination with its GT moniker might lead you to believe it’s one that’s most accurately aimed at keen drivers - although, spoiler alert, it’s not. 

However, before we get there, a quick rundown on what we have. The biggest change here is under the bonnet, where you’ll find a 152bhp version of the familiar turbocharged 1.2-litre triple found in less muscular form in other 2008 models. It’s available in this range-topping GT Premium version only and is paired exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission called EAT8. Performance figures are promising: a brisk 8.2sec for the 0-62mph dash and 129mph all out. No 2008 is faster.

Still, there’s no overt posturing from this Peugeot when it comes to telegraphing its increased performance potential. Instead, it features the same subtle visual cues that mark out all GT Premium models (there’s also a 128bhp petrol and an all-electric version), which essentially run to larger, 18in alloys and, erm, well, that’s it. Like the lesser GT, there’s extensive use of dark chrome or gloss black, plus a contrasting black roof colour. All very premium, but then it does say that on the tin.

Inside, there’s some Alcantara inserts and lime green stitching for the seats, plus extra kit (adaptive cruise control and keyless entry) on top of the already generous GT specification. Weirdly, though, heated seats are a £200 option on this car, but standard on the less pricey GT. And speaking of price, this top-of-the-range model weighs in at a not insubstantial £30,265. So is it worth it?

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What's it like?

If you’re expecting a sharp-steering, go-faster small SUV in the vein of the Ford Puma ST or Hyundai Kona N, then think again. Not only does the 2008 not have the firepower of these equally high-riding rivals, but its chassis is also virtually identical to those of lower-order models. That means it’s a relaxing and refined partner, but not one that’ll ever raise your pulse much above its resting rate. Despite its GT billing, this is no high-riding hot shoe.

For starters, the turbocharged engine is better suited to slogging than soaring and does its best work in the mid-range, where there’s a decent 177lb ft at just 1750rpm (although the 128bhp version delivers just 7lb ft less at the same point) that allows for fairly effortless cross-country progress. It’ll happily and thrummily rev higher, but it does so slightly lazily and with little real reward in terms of extra energy. 

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In fairness, the biggest fly in the ointment for the powertrain is the standard eight-speed automatic, which lacks both the snappy responses of a dual-clutcher and the slushy smoothness of a traditional torque-converter transmission, particularly when moving away after the start-stop has killed the engine. Once rolling, the shifts are unobtrusive enough, if a little slow, even in Sport, which prompts up- and downchanges later in the rev range but with no increase in their speed.

In all other respects, it feels just the same as any other 2008, which means it’s better suited to cruising than carving up corkscrewing secondary roads, and for most people most of the time, that’s just fine. The steering is lifeless, but there’s decent weight and it’s accurate, plus the Peugeot pivots around you nicely mid-corner and clings on as hard as most drivers will need it, too.

Carry too much speed into a bend and the nose will begin to wash wide before being scrappily pulled back into line by the ESP, although the 2008 always remains neat and predictable. It’s not what you’d call fun, but equally it’s precise enough that there’s satisfaction to be had from stringing together a series of corners.

It does feel softer than keener-steering rivals such as the Puma, though, rolling a little more through bends, as well as pitching and diving during acceleration and braking. However, there’s decent control from the dampers so it never becomes discombobulated, unlike the ride.

On well-surfaced but undulating roads, the 2008 displays that plush, languid quality that used to be a French car calling card, and when combined with decent mechanical and aerodynamic refinement, it makes the Peugeot a fine long-haul motorway machine. But throw in a few sharp ridges and potholes and the 2008 takes on a strangely stiff-legged gait and it jolts and crashes over the imperfections, a trait that’s exacerbated by those larger alloys.

Anything else? Well, as with other 2008 models, the interior looks and feels great, with decent-quality materials and slick design. The large, 10.0in touchscreen is much improved, with faster responses and a crisper resolution, while details such as the metal-finished minor switchgear and LED ambient lighting strips lift the interior atmosphere. 

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Then there’s the distinctive ‘floating’ 3D instruments, which look great, supposing you can see them, of course. As ever, the i-Cockpit layout can be frustrating because the top of the steering wheel rim obscures the instruments for many drivers, which means you have to lower the small flat-topped and -bottomed steering into your lap or constantly crane your neck to check on your speed.

The interior is about as spacious and practical as you’d need, with just enough space for four adults, a decent boot and an array of handy cubbies to house the usual array of odds and ends. Yet as with many French machines, the fuse box isn't relocated during the conversion to right-hand drive and that affects the size of the glovebox, which remains as vestigial as a Dodo’s wings, despite a lid that suggests it's three times as big as it is. The handbook, for example, has to live in the passenger’s door pocket.

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Should I buy one?

Don’t get the impression that the 2008 is a bad car, because it isn’t. It’s still one of the best lookers in this incredibly crowded corner of the market and the classy interior blends distinctive design with decent practicality (frustrating glovebox aside). If you enjoy driving, a Ford Ford Puma (ST or otherwise) should still be at the top of your list, but in isolation, the 2008 steers well enough, with secure handling and, for the most part, a cushioned ride. It’s also refined and cost effective to run and comes with all the standard kit you’re ever likely to need. In short, it’s one of the better options in this sector.

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However, it doesn’t make much sense in this guise, especially when you consider the eye-watering price. In real world terms, the less powerful, 128bhp version is barely any slower, plus it’s available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while Allure Premium trim gives you most of the same looks and equipment for around £6000 less. And if you are determined to have the glitziest small SUV going, it’s worth bearing in mind that the equally breathlessly titled and extravagantly equipped Puma ST-Line Vignale 155 with a seven-speed dual-clutcher can be yours for £28,525.

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PRICES & SPECS

James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping Autocar.co.uk topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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Comments
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Rick Maverick 8 November 2021

Refreshing. A quality prodct. Popular. The October #1 in France, Spain and Portugal.First time top 10 Engeland.Roadholding best-class according to KM77. 

si73 5 November 2021
This is a great looking car, for a crossover/SUV supermini thing, that it doesn't drive as well as a puma is probably irrelevant to most buyers as it isn't a horrible drive, the quality seems a step up from a ford and is more along the line of a German premium brand in all Peugeot's nowerdays. Criticising that it's a 1.2 at this price seems daft as it has a power output to match it's similarly high priced downsized competition like a t-cross at £27k for a 1 litre 110 bhp R line.
I don't get why people dislike the ugly kid glass so much, yes I agree, like the gearbox, there should be a choice, but the tinted glass helps to keep the rear occupants cooler on a hot day and reduces the glare coming through, yet is still clear enough to enjoy the view out. Each to their own, but its application certainly doesn't bother me either way. We never had it when our kids were young and used to stick shades over the windows for them.
catnip 8 November 2021

On some vehicles the tinting is excessive and makes it too cave-like for me. But its the effect on the styling that I really don't like. Horizontal planes, and the shape of Day Light Openings are key elements in a car design, and to then slap a big vertical full stop into it makes a big difference. Its probably one of the reasons concepts nearly always have the same tint all round.

Enigma5340 4 November 2021

A car for those with zero interest in cars. A tragic effort.

FastRenaultFan 8 November 2021
Enigma5340 wrote:

A car for those with zero interest in cars. A tragic effort.

FastRenaultFan 8 November 2021
Eh no. A VW is a car for people with no interest in cars.
A VW is a whites good.

Peugeot on the other hand are for people who love cars and they are making great cars these days.

Just a pity it's so dark inside. It could do with some beige trim in there.

Rick Maverick 8 November 2021

Touching burp. It ain't easy to sell VW's these days, that's for sure.