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The 2008 is Peugeot's entry in the expanding small SUV niche. At 4.16 m long, it's 200 mm longer than the 208 hatchback on which it is based and is poised to take on rivals such as the Nissan Juke, the Renault Captur and the Ford EcoSport. Mind you, the wheelbase remains the same (2,538 mm) so the extra length is accounted for by the slightly increased front and, mostly, rear overhang that increases boot volume from 295 to 360 lt (VDA).

The design is a collaboration between Peugeot's design centers around the globe, i.e. Europe, China and South America, which is a first for the company. The floating grille and taillights are clear indications of its lineage, as is the interior that's lifted practically wholesale from the 208. However the 2008 sports different headlights, squared-off wheelarches, a high-rising roofline from the B- to the C-pillar accentuated by silver trim and some textbook SUV clues like the black-colored bumpers with metal plates and, of course, a 165mm ground clearance.

The carmaker concedes that 80 percent of B-segment car buyers opt for the default hatchback versions. It's the remaining 20 percent that the 2008 is going after, since SUVs are booming and are set to overtake coupe-cabriolets and estates to become the second best-selling variant.

Seeing a car in the metal, not at a show stand, but in its natural habitat, the road, for the first time is always something I look forward to. First impressions are of the mixed short. Nice headlights and an aggressive stance from the front three-quarter view, not so convinced about the profile, though, which to me at least, looks a bit too generic even with the 17-inch diamond-cut alloys fitted on plush versions.

Climb inside and I'm greeted by the familiar high-placed instrument pod, the small-diameter steering wheel, the multimedia touchscreen and the alloy gear lever of the six-speed gearbox. If the instrument surroundings didn't light up in blue instead of red and the seats were more supportive, I could very well be in the 208 GTi. Sadly, the 2008's top engine is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter petrol unit with only 118HP (120PS). There's a turbocharged petrol 1.2-liter three cylinder down the line with a bit more oomph but it won't set the road on fire.

Compared to the 208, there's one other difference and it's a big one, too: the round knob for the Grip Control system, which lets you choose between different modes according to the road surface. It's Peugeot's way of mitigating for the lack of all-wheel drive that would increase the weight and, perhaps more importantly, the cost. Right now, I leave it well alone as we're on nice French tarmac, fire the 1.6-liter 113HP (115 PS) turbo diesel engine, confirm the preprogrammed route in the easy to handle navigation system and""¦oops, I forgot to release the handbrake ""“ which, by the way, is also different and chunkier than the 208's.

A jack of all trades is, more often than not, a master of none. The 2008 is not quite an exception to the rule, but it comes pretty close to being more than competent in most areas. It's versatile and roomy, handles pretty well, has excellent ride, can venture off the tarmac and comes with a modern and nicely-built cabin and a variety of engines to choose from.

It even offers 11 apps as an option, including Weather, Trip Advisor, Michelin Guide (for restaurants) and Fuel (for petrol stations), with more being developed right now. There's also a personalization range of accessories for the sills, roof bars, mirror covers, vents, center console etc., though some of the colors (pink, yellow, orange) are too flashy for my taste.

What it does not have is the unique styling of, say, a Juke or the all-wheel drive of a MINI Countryman or both its rivals' more powerful engine options. Peugeot says that low weight makes up for some of the HP deficit and deciding to ditch all-wheel drive enabled them to keep the pricing at low levels. After all, the car is targeted at Europe, China and South America and it belongs to a price-sensitive segment. It's a sound reasoning so we'll just have to wait and see how it pans out.

By Andrew Tsaousis

Photo Credits: Andrew Tsaousis / CarScoopS and Peugeot. Full review here:
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