It might have lost its title of top selling B-SUV to the Captur earlier this year but Peugeot’s newly updated 2008 is suddenly outselling its rival in France.

The revised version of Peugeot’s smallest 4×4 still can’t be called that, as its power and torque are sent to the front wheels only. PSA gambled on that not being an issue for buyers in this segment and the company got lucky. 

With Volkswagen still absent from this vehicle class, these small SUVs don’t sell that well in Germany. In the UK, however, they do, and in France they’re big business for both Renault and PSA. FCA and Opel also do well with the 500X and Mokka.

In October, what’s been newly renamed as the 2008 SUV trumped the Captur 5,387 sales to 4,255 in the French market. The trend might be with the Peugeot but with 58,916 deliveries compared to the 2008’s 56,027, the Captur remains ahead over the ten months. Yet by year end, PSA’s car could well become France’s new number one SUV.

The Captur’s home market sales were down by 28% in October. That’s largely the result of the fresh 2008 SUV and Renault’s mistake of not having updated its car since sales commenced in April 2013. Which is short-sighted, as the 2008 was launched only a few weeks after the Captur. A facelift for the Renault won’t happen until 2017.

The 2008 SUV is a derivative of the 208, with variants for European markets built at Mulhouse in France. Dongfeng Peugeot makes its version at the Wuhan 3 plant in Hubei province. Production got underway there in May 2014, followed eight months later by build in Brazil at Porto Real.

The 2008 was, meanwhile, one of the models named by PSA and Iran Khodro in a January 2016 media release concerning production of Peugeot models at a IKCO plant in Tehran:

This 50/50 joint venture lays the foundations for a strategic partnership between the two companies. This joint venture is expected to invest up to €400 million over the next five years in manufacturing and R&D capacity. This investment will contribute to facilitate the development of a competitive manufacturing base for producing, launching and marketing Peugeot 208, 2008 and 301 models, fitted with latest-generation engines.

The first vehicles will roll off the production line at the factory in the Iranian capital during the second half of 2017.

The little Peugeot SUV is one of the most compact models in its segment, measuring just 4,159mm from bumper to bumper. The wheelbase, at 2,538mm, isn’t too generous either but PSA’s designers and engineers have been clever at not only disguising the car’s height (1,556mm) but taking full advantage of it by positioning the back seat fairly upright. Further, those in the front are not as far back from the windscreen as is the usual norm in many other SUVs.

Does sitting in this little hatchback make you feel as though you’re a tad too upright? Not at all. The waistline is high but the windowline isn’t, with the effect being a feeling of spaciousness.

This being a Peugeot, there’s a great little steering wheel which is most comfortably positioned lower than in other cars. Some don’t like the so-called i-Cockpit but I’m a fan. The best thing about it in the 2008 is you don’t feel like you’re driving a sensible family mini-bus. OK, there’s not much in the way of sportiness going on but for such a lanky vehicle with a wheelbase that’s anything but lengthy, ride comfort is surprisingly good and body roll is well under control.

The interior has had only a minor makeover. The car as tested was in second from the top Allure trim (Access and Active below it, GT Line above) which gives you tasteful cloth seats and a soft grey finish for the dashboard. I also loved the illuminated light blue outlines for the instrument cluster. The headliner has an unusual touch which gives a pleasing effect after dark, as it has laser-cut slashes into which LED ambient lighting is set.

From some of the 2008’s details, you can see that PSA is still cutting costs as much as it can in an attempt to becoming sustainably profitable. The plastics around the rim of the roll-top cubby box are almost sharp and the sliding lid itself does feel too durable.

As well as Active City Brake (GBP250), Park Assist & Reversing Camera (GBP500) and SatNav with Connect SOS/Assistance (GBP700), the 1.2-litre petrol press loaner had pearl white paint (GBP645). The last of these options might have been why the door trims had a kind of sparkly-gritty finish on them. 

In addition to the 130hp 1,199 three-cylinder engine, there are 110hp and 82hp versions of the same unit, plus a 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel with outputs of 75hp, 100hp or 120hp. The lowest CO2 number is 96g/km, though even the worst – 82hp petrol without stop-start – emits only 114g/km. The range starts at GBP13,970 and rises to GBP20,920. The car lent to me was priced at GBP18,470 including options.

The 2008 SUV uses the PF1 architecture, which, while not exactly the newest platform out there, has one big advantage: it’s light. Not having an AWD system helps too, which is how the relatively high-spec model I tried weighed only 1,160kg. 

Economy is spectacular, as you’d expect, provided you don’t push the car as hard as you can sometimes need to (the 82 and 110hp petrol engines I would advise against). Zero to 62mph takes 9.3 seconds and top speed is 124mph, while the Combined number is 58.9mpg. Worth noting that the 130hp engine is the only petrol unit to have a six-speed manual gearbox – PSA’s penny pinching again. Yes, it’s almost 2017 and the lower powered versions must make do with an old-school five-speed transmission, which is another reason to avoid them.

Should you want an automatic, you have to have the 110hp petrol engine. This transmission is a proper old-school torque convertor unit supplied by Aisin Warner’s EAT6. Even though there is no diesel-auto combination, two of the three diesel engines – the 100hp and 120hp versions – at least have a six-speed manual as standard.

I haven’t mentioned the Grip Control system, which is the substitute for all-wheel drive availability. This is controlled by a five-option dial positioned between the seats. Almost all owners will likely leave it in the default Standard position, but you have the other options of switching off ESP, or else selecting either Mud (lets the tyre with the least grip spin to flick the mud off it), Snow (for steep hills too) or Sand (allows simultaneous spin of both tyres to lower the risk of getting bogged). 

Conditions were dry every time I drove the car so I can’t comment on Grip Control, other than to say it worked at preventing much in the way of slippage pulling out of junctions in a hurry. The best test would be in the 120hp diesel, which has to also put 300Nm of torque through one axle. That’s 70Nm more than what the 130hp petrol I tried has.

The first generation A94 series 2008 SUV should have roughly another 3-4 years of build remaining with production likely to peak either this year or next. VW’s B-SUV is said to be 18-24 months away so the established players will be very happy about that. 

A challenger from SEAT is out next year, plus Hyundai should also offer one to European buyers, with Kia following. Plus of course there is a new Juke, the Opel/Vauxhall Crossland X, and the Captur will be facelifted, so the 2008 has rivals coming at it from many directions. If PSA is smart, it will get the next generation model onto the market in 2019, instead of trying to save money by keeping A94 in production until 2020. 

An electric future?

There might be an EV version of the next 2008: at the presentation of the DPCA strategic plan on 11 May 2016, Carlos Tavares and Zhu Yanfeng, the respective chairmen of DPCA’s two shareholders, signed an agreement to design an electric version of the Common Modular Platform (CMP). The future e-CMP will be the basis for electric B and C segment vehicles for the Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Dongfeng brands from 2019. DS is likely to have the first car for this platform, with a Peugeot following it.