Ever since Peugeot entered the Philippine market in 2012, the French brand has struggled to make an impact in the auto industry. The reason is simple: pricing.
Peugeot used to import their cars from Europe, which means they're unable to enjoy the free trade agreements rival manufacturers are taking advantage of. The result? You're getting a car that isn't meant to rival BMWs or Mercs, but it's priced pretty similarly. For the typical Filipino buyer, that's a non merci.
But that's all in the past. Peugeot has a new factory in Malaysia where they can source their cars and new management that's driven to increase the brand's market share in the country. That's how we ended up with Peugeot's most affordable offering: the 2008 which retails for PHP 1.55 million.
With crossovers being the hottest commodities in the market, Peugeot needed this. Unlike its bigger brothers, the 3008 and 5008, the 2008 is all-new from the ground up for this second generation; believe us when we say, it's a big difference compared to the first-gen model they launched here in 2015. Now that it's ready to compete, does it have enough tricks up its sleeve to go against its established rivals? Will it be a better choice when compared to Chinese-made competitors that have been stepping up their game?
To start, I have to say Peugeots have really come a long way in terms of design. The lion-inspired philosophy is simply much more appealing compared to their odd-looking creations from around 10 years ago. From the outside, the 2008 follows that new aggressive motif and it has a more muscular appearance than its bigger siblings.
Of course, it's not a full-grown king of the jungle yet. The bold front fascia with the three-claw LED headlights makes the 2008 look like a roaring cub, which makes it stand out from the sea of crossovers roaming around the metro. I've lost count on how many times the 2008 turned heads while I was driving it around.
I'm not really a fan of orange, but the color did the trick as design details of the 2008 popped out, especially on the sides. While it has that typical crossover cladding underneath and the blacked-out D-pillar for the floating roof effect, the unique thing about the 2008's side profile is the two triangle-shaped character lines pointed to each other. Other manufacturers opted for character lines, but Peugeot chose triangles (character triangles?) and somehow they pulled it off. Someone at Peugeot definitely paid attention in geometry class.
There's not much to comment about the back of the 2008 apart from the fact that Peugeot kept it simple to achieve an aggressive look – just a black tab between the three-claw LED taillights above, and a twin-tip exhaust down below. Nothing more, nothing less. No complaints at all.
When you step inside the 2008, you'll find a concept car-like interior design, complete with its quirks. For a moment, I thought I was in a Star Wars fighter cockpit when I sat inside; the steering wheel with the holographic 3D i-Cockpit display behind certainly gave off that vibe. While there are plenty of plastic bits, the black interior combined with faux carbon fiber panels, chrome and piano black accents, and leatherette seats plus ambient lighting still gives off that premium car feel.
There are two USB ports in the center console – one for charging and the other for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and they're placed just below the toggle-type switches for things like the door locks, the hazard buttons, and the A/C ventilation modes.
However, as much as the front rows feel very much like flying first class, the second row somehow finds you wanting more creature comforts. Why? Well, unlike the 3008, the 2008 doesn't have rear A/C vents, rear charging ports, or even a center armrest. Undoubtedly, this is where the 2008 falls short compared to its competitors. Maybe a GT-Line variant somewhere down the road would address this issue, though expect a price bump for that.
But despite those shortcomings, the 2008 makes it up with impressive luggage space. With the rear seats up, the 2008 could take in up to 434 liters of cargo. By those numbers, that is around 100 liters more than the likes of the Honda HR-V and the Geely Coolray, while falling short by only 6 liters compared to the Toyota Corolla Cross despite being 160mm shorter and narrower by 55mm. The rear seats don't fold fully flat, but it could still take in 1,456 liters of cargo. There seems to be enough length to fit in a mountain bike with the front wheels removed.
I had such an enjoyable time with the 2008 despite doing most of my driving in Metro Manila. It could win you over with the way it drives. While it does have its suspension on the firm side, the 2008 keeps its composure both at low and high speeds. Outside noises rarely intrude into the cabin, and there's very minimal road noise. That applies whether you're weaving through Quezon Avenue or cruising along nicely along the expressway. It's that refreshing.
The 2008 also has that inherent vibration normally associated with 3-cylinder engines, but it eventually goes away once you start moving. Power-wise, the turbocharged Honda HR-V and the Geely Coolray have the edge, but the 1.2-liter Puretech turbo has a distinct character you won't find in its rival crossovers. The tiny engine gives out a deep growl that makes you think there's something bigger under the hood, a bit like an inline-six or a V6. The engine note can be quite addicting.
The 2008 is always keen to accelerate and could reach cruising speeds with minimal pedal effort. To be honest, I didn't even try out its manual mode, as the good 'ol 6-speed slushbox always finds the right gear depending on my needs. I do have to say it's one of the smoothest torque converter automatics I've ever driven so far.
For its fuel efficiency, I did 9.4 kilometers per liter in the city at a 15 km/h average speed, and 21.7 km/l at a 75km/h average speed on the highway – and these are indeed respectable numbers.
Perhaps one of the notable issues I had with the 2008 was related to its ergonomics. Like the 3008, the smaller Peugeot also has its steering wheel obstructing the view of the beautiful 3D instrument cluster. You can adjust your steering tilt to compensate, but it just feels unnatural to me. Plus, there's the lack of a physical panel to adjust the climate control settings; you have to cycle through on the infotainment screen.
The other thing that's missing is the panoramic glass roof that the first-generation model had, but that may be a minor detail to some. I also found the step sills a bit high when exiting the vehicle. If you're not being careful, or when you have big feet, you could easily hit the protruding lower black cladding on the running boards. But you know, these issues are not deal-breakers, and it's something you need to become accustomed to on a daily basis.
In terms of pricing, the Peugeot undercuts its Japanese rivals, the HR-V turbo and the Corolla Cross Hybrid while offering similar levels of equipment; well, just except for an Adaptive Cruise Control. The Chinese-made Territory, MG ZS, and the Coolray are still the kings of value for money, but they don't have that distinct character and flair of the 2008. It's not something you can put your finger on, but you know it's there and it feels really distinct.
If you want something that offers a unique look and feel in a competitive crossover market, then the Peugeot 2008 is indeed making a compelling case for that. And yes, get an orange one.