By Paul Gover.
Finding an SUV that’s not just another boring, bland box is a rare treat.
This year, so far, there have been only three for me.
The Ford Puma is an enjoyable cross between an SUV and an old-school hot hatch, the Kia Sorento looks like a big van but drives like a compact car, and the Genesis GV80 has a cabin like a premium hotel room.
Now there is another – the Peugeot 2008 GT Sport.
It’s a baby SUV with a tiny three-cylinder turbo engine, but packed with personality and design work which takes it well away from the mainstream.
Sadly, so does the price.
Peugeot is going premium in Australia, with its eyes closer to BMW than Hyundai, and the 2008 is one of the first of its models to reflect the change.
So even the starting price 2008 Allure is $34,990, in a class where the popular picks including the Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona mostly start for less than $30,000, and the fully-loaded GT Sport is priced from $43,990.
But Peugeot is not planning a full-scale sales offensive and, even though the 2008 is now its top seller in Australia, the numbers are still only in the hundreds and not the thousands.
So the 2008 is not for every, but I’m certain that most people would enjoy the package.
For a start, it looks good. It’s not just a box with a big grille on the front, but a nicely shaped and integrated design that incorporates worthwhile back seat space and a deep and accommodating boot despite its compact dimensions.
It is a little bit sporty, and a little bit trendy, and that continues into a cabin which has a predictable infotainment screen in the dash but also comes with Peugeot’s oddball – and fun, once you learn them – minor switches. The instruments are clear and the controls, even the turn signal on the left-hand side of the wheel, look and feel premium.
The seats are well shaped and nicely finished, the view is good – except to the rear quarters – and I like the squared-off steering wheel.
But I still cannot abide Peueot’s unique and user unfriendly iCockpit system, which puts the instruments – nicely presented with a 3D effect – too high and means they are effectively blanked when I set the wheel to the ergonomically correct position. Why, oh why, will Peugeot not listen?
Anyway, the 2008 is a lovely drive, with a perky engine that’s one of the best three-cylinder turbomotors I’ve struck – short of the Toyota Yaris GR – and an enjoyable eight-speed auto with a useful sport setting that allows changes in race-car-style where you push forward for a downshift.
The ride and comfort is everything I expect from a Peugeot, with a fluid feel and nice cornering balance, and the economy is fine at around 6 litres/100km.
The GT Sport bring big, bold alloys and a giant sunroof, but I’m more impressed by the basic package, which includes all the latest driver aids – and only slightly-intrusive steering assistance – for a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
For me, the 2008 GT Sport is a breath of fresh air in a world where me-too SUVs are spoiling the world of cars.
Price: from $34,990
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Transmission:8-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Position: stylish compact SUV
Plus: design, refinement, not another box
Minus: costly in class, dreadful iCockpit system
THE TICK: a definite yes