French evolution - Peugeot's premium push boosts 2008 crossover
BASIC economics talks about the link between demand and supply: if you are in the business of making things, it makes sense to understand what the market demands and, even if it means changing what you've been doing for years, supply it accordingly, writes William Scholes.
It's so simple that even a Stormont politician can understand this. Well, some of them can.
Car manufacturers have particularly sensitive antennae when it comes to working out what potential customers want.
One of the recent key trends on the demand side is what marketing types like to call the 'push to premium'.
If this development has fallen into the laps of BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, Volvo and others, then it's been a serious challenge to traditional mainstream brands like Ford and Vauxhall.
Remember when our roads used to be full of Ford Sierras and Vauxhall Cavaliers? Today, BMWs with 3 Series badges, Audi A4s and Mercedes C-Class saloons and estates heavily outnumber Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Insignias.
But the other key trend , which has benefited just about everyone, is the rise of the crossover and SUV , typified by cars like the Nissan Qashqai and BMW X5.
From being a niche interest a little over a decade ago, this class of vehicle now accounts for more than a quarter of the new cars registered in Europe.
As well as the chunky styling, customers like the raised driving position, the practicality and ease of use - it's what today's buyer demands.
Premium brands were quickest to capitalise on the demand, particularly when it came to offering different sizes of SUV.
Mainstream brands, still getting healthy volumes from their hatchbacks, have been a little less fleet of foot, but soon all the major players will have a range of crossovers.
Which brings us to Peugeot. Soon to land in its Northern Ireland showrooms is an all-new 3008, replacing the original car's really quite ugly appearance with a properly rugged looking SUV suit.
Customers have deemed MPVs a bit 1990s so Peugeot has also repurposed the 5008 from people carrier to large SUV.
All of which activity has coincided with Peugeot reworking its existing crossover, the 2008, and means the company will be able to supply SUVs in small, medium and large sizes to satisfy all that customer demand.
The 2008 landed in 2013 as a classic small crossover - essentially a jacked-up 208, in the same way that a Renault Captur is a Clio standing on its tip-toes.
This was a good thing, for the 208 is a fine little hatchback, and the 2008 sensibly added some useful extra space and a healthy dose of SUV-lite attitude.
For the 2017 reboot, Peugeot has given its baby SUV styling tweaks to reflect the design of the new 3008 and 5008, thus the grille is now unapologetically vertical and of a more striking appearance and the scuff plates more obvious. Headlamps and taillamps are of a more complex design, too.
With an eye on the 'push to premium' trend mentioned earlier, Peugeot has also been working hard at giving its cars a more upmarket feel.
Versions of the latest 308 hatchback, for example, have interiors that are closer in quality and execution to Audi than to Volkswagen, and light years ahead of previous flaky Peugeot efforts.
The new 2008 also gets trim that feels of high quality - certainly superior to its main rivals - and the general 'premium' feel can be further enhanced if you tick the box for some of the expensive-looking metallic paint options.
Something that remains unchanged is Peugeot's devotion to fitting a tiny steering wheel. This takes a bit of getting used to - until you do, the car's agility can feel more like nervousness - but eventually you dial in to the way it feels.
Less satisfactory is the way that the position of the wheel rim obscures chunks of the dashboard information. The extent to which this is a problem will depend on how you like to sit in the driver's seat as well as your height.
A minimalist approach to dashboard design means many functions are controlled from a centrally-mounted touchscreen.
Credit to Peugeot for something different, but it means the 2008 is a car that definitely requires a long test drive to help decide if its quirks are something that will annoy or appeal.
Other than that, the view out is great and the seats comfortable. Rear seat space and access is eons ahead of the Nissan Juke, if not quite as generous as the Captur, though the smaller children who are likely to be the main occupants in a car like this aren't likely to have much to complain about. The boot is usefully shaped and sized, and the rear seats fold completely flat.
The test car was equipped with a cracking diesel engine - powerful yet frugal enough to punt the 2008 along briskly without using too much fuel - and a chassis tuned more for comfort and cruising than demolishing back roads. If that sort of driving enjoyment is important to you, then a Mazda CX-3 is a better choice.
Less powerful diesel engines can be specified but unless you cover high mileages, one of Peugeot's modern and very economical petrol engines would be recommended.
No 2008 can be specified with four-wheel-drive - a few rivals can - but Peugeot does fit a trick 'Grip Control' system which, in combination with its 'all weather' tyres, means very little should stop it, even snow on the Glenshane Pass.
The latest version of the 2008 takes the original car and sensibly upgrades it with a more premium, more rugged SUV feel. It's cheap to run, practical and perfectly fulfils the brief of a small family car in the era of the crossover.
If the upcoming 3008 and 5008 are further steps forward for Peugeot, they will be very good cars indeed.
:: AT A GLANCE
Peugeot 2008 Allure BlueHDi 120
Price: £19,820. As tested: £21,765. Options included metallic paint £495, active city brake £250, park assist and reversing camera £500, satnav £700
Engine and transmission: 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel-drive; 120bhp, 221lb/ft
Performance: Top speed 119mph, 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds
Fuel consumption: 76.3mpg (EU combined); 56.3mpg (real world)
CO2, road tax, benefit in kind: 96g/km - not liable for road tax - 19 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (88/77/72/70), 2013