Tough LIT­TLE CROSSOVER

Whether you’re do­ing some light bundu-bash­ing or ma­noeu­vring into a tiny park­ing space, the new Peu­geot is well worth the money, writes Ané Theron

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With our some­what ill-main­tained South African roads, more peo­ple are opt­ing for small, fuel-ef­fi­cient crossover ve­hi­cles. Th­ese usu­ally have higher clear­ance, roof rails, skid plates and higher pro­file tyres to with­stand the odd pot­hole or two, but quite of­ten th­ese off-road em­bel­lish­ments are just cos­metic.

The new Peu­geot 2008 (R269 900), how­ever, had its out­door abil­i­ties thor­oughly checked when I took it to Ri­et­fontein in the Agul­has Na­tional Park.

The 2008 looks typ­i­cally French with that fresh, stylish, quirky character, com­bined with oo­dles of prac­ti­cal­ity and solid build qual­ity. The steer­ing wheel (with satel­lite con­trols) is quite small, so you have an un­ob­structed view of the in­stru­ment panel, which is placed quite high. This means your eyes hardly ever need to leave the road. The Smeg 18cm colour screen in the cen­tre of the dash is touchen­abled and home to the stan­dard in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which in­cludes a GPS and sound sys­tem with Blue­tooth stream­ing and hands-free tele­phony.

I had some dif­fi­culty en­ter­ing a new ad­dress into the GPS and be­cause I try to avoid in­struc­tion man­u­als, I felt that it should have been more in­tu­itive. The footwell also seems a lit­tle cramped, with the clutch and brake pedal sit­u­ated quite close to each other. But I reckon it’s some­thing one will get used to. With the kids strapped in the back, we set off. The first stretch of road to Stan­ford is tarred, yet bumpy, but the 2008’s sus­pen­sion is quite soft and the kids even man­aged to doze off. After driv­ing through Gans­baai and past Fran­skraal on the end­less and de­serted R43, I fi­nally spot­ted the turn-off to Ri­et­fontein.

I hit the dirt road a lit­tle too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally and got that un­fa­mil­iar feel­ing of un­cer­tainty as the tyres skid­ded on the gravel. For­tu­nately, sta­bil­ity con­trol is stan­dard, and I could feel how it kept us on the right path, so to speak.

Then the road got re­mark­ably worse – it had re­cently been bat­tered by the last of the win­ter rain­storms. The 2008 fea­tures nifty grip con­trol with a se­lec­tor knob sit­u­ated above the con­tem­po­rary­look­ing hand­brake, so I turned the ro­tary dial from its de­fault “nor­mal” set­ting to “all ter­rain” for in­creased sure-foot­ed­ness. Other op­tions are “snow” and “sand”.

Just be­fore lunchtime, we ar­rived at the Agul­has Na­ture Re­serve sign, and here I turned the dial to “sand” to avoid get­ting stuck. Well done, 2008! I wouldn’t take it on any ad­vanced 4x4 cour­ses, but at least you won’t have to catch a lift to ev­ery pretty pic­nic spot. So what about space, per­for­mance and other mod­cons? The 2008 seems very com­pact from the out­side, but I was quite sur­prised by its am­ple rear legroom. I also man­aged to fit three weeks’ worth of lug­gage for three peo­ple into its 350-litre boot.

The 2008’s 1.6-litre en­gine is mated with a fivespeed man­ual gear­box. Be­cause of the 2008’s com­pact di­men­sions, the 88kW en­gine is more than up to the task. At higher speed, there’s a fair bit of road and en­gine noise, and a sixth gear would have come in handy. Still, it’s not enough to put me off buy­ing one if I had the cash. Fuel econ­omy is a pleas­ing av­er­age of 7.2 litres per 100km.

For a full list of spec­i­fi­ca­tions, visit peu­geot.co.za

PHOTO: ANÉ THERON

The writer with the new Peu­geot 2008

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