By Dominic Parkes
If you live up a rutted country lane and occasionally need the traction of a four-wheel drive but don’t wish to face the opprobrium of owning a Chelsea Tractor, maybe the Peugeot 2008 is for you.
The recent facelift of the Peugeot 2008 is just that. Equipment and styling has been refreshed, but little has happened beneath the skin. The same engine and chassis set-up remain, and given that the company has sold more than half a million 2008s worldwide, you have to ask: why go further than a mild tinkering?
You now get Peugeot’s ‘Grip Control’ system – an electronic system that maximises grip in the front-drive 2008 for mud, snow and sand – as standard on more powerful Allure models, and all examples of the GT Line trim.
It works pretty well too. I managed to navigate a slippery mud-covered uphill track with no fuss. I guess it is similar to a Fiat Panda 4×4 in that it is light but grippy and therefore doesn’t sink into the mire and get into trouble; it just skims across. Starting halfway up a muddy incline may not have a happy outcome though. There will always be a need for a proper 4×4.
As the facelift is purely cosmetic it drives just as before. The 1.6-litre diesel engine squeezes out 118bhp and is a mainstay of the Peugeot range these days. The engine pulls well through a slightly notchy gearbox and sits well at motorway speeds, albeit with a fair amount of tyre roar.
The driving position is quite high compared to competitors, but feels fine, and I rather liked the small steering wheel which adds a dash of sportiness to a well-made and laid-out cabin.
However, and I am aware this will date me, the speedo dial binnacle does remind me of being driven to school in an Austin Allegro. Thankfully, there is no Quartic steering wheel here though.
It is fairly spacious, certainly better than a Renault Megane, but not feeling as generous as a Fiat Tipo.
The boot is OK too, but loses points for a fiddly parcel shelf which does not lift with the tailgate. It also has a small hinged section on the end, which can be lifted for access, but invariably gets left in the up position.
So by the time you are back in the driving seat with the belt buckled and just checking the rear view mirror before pulling into traffic…you can see nothing as the view is blocked by the parcel shelf. Grr.
As a contender in the small SUV market, it does fight its corner well, although the Grip Control System does give an otherwise fairly ordinary European hatch extra points, which may make it chosen over another Euro-box.
Oh, that and the pleasing hand brake which I initially thought was a central armrest. No electronic nonsense here – just an easy to use aircraft cockpit-style padded square lever to pull.
Who says Citroen is the only French car manufacturer to have a sense of fun?