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SUV SHOOT-OUT | 2021 Peugeot 2008 versus Volkswagen T-Roc

SUV SHOOT-OUT | 2021 Peugeot 2008 versus Volkswagen T-Roc

At first glance it seems like a slightly mismatched comparison.   

You might be thinking that the B-segment Peugeot 2008 would find a more congruent adversary in the Volkswagen T-Cross, which sits one tier below the T-Roc in the sport-utility vehicle (SUV) hierarchy of the German brand.   

The on-paper dimensions lend credence, however, to the worth in pursuing a showdown between the 2008 and T-Roc.

Birds of a feather

From an aesthetic perspective alone, both vehicles evince a similar, coupé-like aspiration, with narrow window apertures, blacked-out pillars for further effect and wedged flavours to their silhouettes.

At 2,605mm the Peugeot has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Volkswagen (2,590mm). It is marginally longer than its Teutonic counterpart, with a length of 4,300mm compared to 4,234mm.

But the T-Roc also takes some points in this game of measuring tape Top Trumps, being a little bit taller (by 23mm) and 49mm wider. It has the bigger luggage compartment as well: 445l as opposed to 434l.    

Range flagships   

Both offerings featured represent the peak of their respective ranges. In GT-Line specification, the Peugeot is set apart in grand fashion from its lesser Active and Allure stablemates, both using the same 1.2-litre engine that motivates this flagship.    

We would have preferred the Volkswagen T-Roc in 1.4 TSI guise for the sake of greater equality, but in attendance here is the more potent 2.0 TSI version replete with the R-Line package. This is the most powerful T-Roc you can buy, until the firm decides to supply the local market with the R model.    

Cabin goals   

The French contender largely delivers on much of what you would expect – and then some. Unconventionality is a given when it comes to Gallic automotive fare. Clichéd as it might be, those quirky aspects are what makes brands like Peugeot and sister company Citroën so endearing. You admire them wistfully, even if, at the end of it all, you may end up signing on the dotted line for something more mainstream.    

With its mix of plush materials, a layout that is downright impressive from a visual perspective (tricky from a user perspective) and astounding attention to detail, the Peugeot boasts one of the best interiors you will encounter. Ever.

The instrument cluster has a three-dimensional effect, with elements that appear to be floating in air. The seats are aggressively contoured and bolstered, with lively green stitching.   

Fascia switchgear is a combination of actual buttons that can be physically depressed and touchpads that respond in the same way as keys on a smartphone screen.

That tiny steering wheel relays a sporty feel to proceedings, even if it takes some getting used to. The only part of the cabin that seems misplaced is the chunky cruise control stalk, which still looks exactly like the one on the 2007 Peugeot 307 that my aunt drove.     By contrast, the Volkswagen is more restrained, with some attempts at colour-splashing in a bid to liven-up proceedings. The layout is easier to negotiate and achieve rapid familiarity with than the busy and dial-festooned dashboard of the Peugeot.

Its touchscreen seems to work more efficiently too. A lack of idiosyncrasies was totally expected: despite the vibrant and youthful intended audience, this is still a serious and straight-cut Volkswagen after all.    

But what we did not expect was a lapse in quality standards. Go sit in a Golf 7.5 (the car whose chassis underpins the T-Roc) and you are likely to marvel at how plush the immediate touchpoints are and how solidly the whole thing is assembled. But the T-Roc feels more like a budget car instead of the premium product reflected by its asking price.

From the hard and scratchy plastics, to loose switchgear, it was uncharacteristic of what is generally produced by the company. Even the leatherette upholstery, despite relative newness, was already displaying a sheen after being polished by the various butts that slide in and out of press vehicles.    

On the road   

Where the Volkswagen does redeem itself is in the area of road manners. Its MQB platform holds it in great stead across all disciplines facing the average driver, be it highway cruising, urban shuffling or negotiating winding back roads on route to a holiday destination. Gravel roads? Handle those gingerly: the 158mm ground clearance puts it in the ballpark of a regular hatchback.    

Its four-cylinder, turbocharged-petrol heart (1,984cc) sends power to each corner thanks to the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. The seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission shunts the 140kW and 320Nm on offer with ease, serving acceleration that imbues confidence in overtaking scenarios.

Compared to the pedestrian 9.1-second 0-100km/h sprint time of the 2008, this T-Roc is akin to a GTI at 7.1 seconds. That said, the 1.4 TSI version (110kW and 250Nm) is not underpowered either, employing an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.  

The Peugeot struggles to disguise the coarse, thrumming characteristic often associated with three-cylinder engines. That kind of thing is easy to forgive in a compact car, but a vehicle of this size could benefit from the evenness and added tractability of an extra cylinder. Still, the output and real-world performance of the 1,199cc turbocharged-petrol is more than fair. With 96kW and 230Nm, it moves with acceptable zest.   

On duty is a six-speed automatic gearbox, transmitting power to the front wheels. With a ground clearance of 210mm, it is undoubtedly better equipped to tackle the occasional dirt road – though the compromise of the taller ride height compared to the dynamism of the T-Roc is clear.    

After a week and about 400km, the average fuel consumption of the Volkswagen was 10.1l/100km and the Peugeot displayed 7.1l/100km.

Value for money and aftersales

The 2008 range kicks off between R359,900 (1.2T Active) and R479,900 for our 1.2T GT-Line. There are virtually no options to specify – everything, and we mean everything, is part of the package as standard. Well, except for the panoramic sunroof.

Heated seats, reverse camera with park-distance control front and rear, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, a blind-spot monitor and lane-keeping assistant, push-button start, LED headlights and that fancy three-dimensional instrument cluster are included.    

It makes the Volkswagen look extortive, with prices starting at R489,400 for the basic T-Roc 1.4 TSI. Go for the car tested here and you will pay upwards of R593,600, before options. Of which there are plenty to tick to get it to the level of the Peugeot.

A smartphone interface with inductive charging costs R4,000, add R17,300 for navigation, another R6,200 for a reverse camera and R10,250 if you want a blind-spot monitor.

It has a three-year/120,000km warranty and five-year/90,000km service plan.

The Peugeot offers a longer warranty (five-year/100,000km) but a shorter service plan (three-year/60,000km).

So which should it be then?

The biggest reason to not consider the 2008 would be the comparatively smaller dealership footprint of the Peugeot brand ...

Volkswagen has a well-established local presence and a better reputation when it comes to the aftersales aspect of ownership.

But the 2008 is better looking, better equipped, seemingly plusher and significantly less expensive than the T-Roc, in either of its two guises.

No fence-sitting. We declare it the unequivocal winner of this comparison.