As mid-life facelifts go, I’d say this is a pretty successful one. Peugeot’s compact crossover no longer resembles a 208 that’s just had a nasty shock, and now cribs a few styling cues from 2014’s Quartz concept to look a more convincing baby SUV. The grille’s been pulled upright and peppered with a set of 3D-effect plastic inserts, and the wheelarches and sill scuff plates pushed outwards for a bulkier stance. Minor changes, but enough to give this small-ish car a bigger on-road presence.
It still is a 208 of course, carrying over the supermini’s floorpan, engines and dashboard more or less wholesale, albeit with posher materials and finishes (and a bizarre aeroplane throttle-style handbrake). That means a similarly attractive but flawed cabin, in eluding its trademark massive touchscreen and shrink-rayed steering wheel combo. I’ve got used to the latter but still find the former a little fiddly and distracting at speed. Ditto the grape-treading pedal placement, knuckly gearchange and ineffectual air-con, but the cabin’s ergonomic shortcomings are balanced by the feet that it’s likeably novel – at least Peugeot’s designers are willing to take a risk or two.
Besides the buffed-up styling there’s a new trim level at the top, GT Line, with red ’n’ black interior colours and a blingy set of alloys. It’s a GTi-lite recipe that’s worked successfully elsewhere in Peugeot’s model range. Of the three-apiece petrol and diesel engine levels to choose from, we’re testing the most potent (and pricey) 118bhp 1.6 diesel. Its fuel efficiency and decent turn of pace both impress, but its lopsided power delivery doesn’t. After an initially laggy response there’s a big wodge of torque in the middle, which requires a bit of adapting to. Lopsided handling, too. The weeny wheel has an unusually quick power-steering set-up, intended to feel sporty and kart-like, but in the top-heavy 2008 it seems mismatched. If anything, it feels too fast for the rest of the car, and only served to highlight our test car’s rather clumsy body control.
The 2008 is a product in the right market at the right time, but it’s not quite the right car – yet. Its new look adds appeal, but for now there are still too many flaws to recommend the 2008 against a growing set of talented rivals.