There’s a new group of car buying people out there called the Millennials. These guys make tough demands of their cars, which is why a new segment had to be designed specifically for them
The term Millennials refers to the current generation of young people who were born anywhere from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. This group, also known as Generation Y, follows in the footsteps of Generation X, who followed in the footsteps of the Baby Boomers who came before them.
Why are the Millennials so important? Well, they are the next generation of car buyers and they have finally reached an age when they can afford to splurge on a new car.
The Millennials will be dictating what we’ll be driving for some time, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Take the Peugeot 2008, the latest compact crossover to hit our shores, as a prime example. It’s a car built for Millennials by one of the hippest manufacturers in the history of the automobile. Being hip, however, simply isn’t good enough, so Peugeot had to ensure that the latest member of its line-up catered to all the needs of the Millennials.
This is no easy task, because the Y’s list of demands is extremely difficult to work into one single car. They want something cheap, economical, spacious, good-looking and overloaded with gadgets. To round it all off, the Millennials would like all of the above wrapped up in an SUV body. Jeez, why didn’t they ask for the car to run on compressed air while they were about it?
The Peugeot ticks all of the above boxes, but they weren’t the only manufacturer vying for some Millennial attention. Ford’s EcoSport has been available in SA for a few months, so it was only natural that we matched the two against each other. Which compact crossover best suits the needs of Generation Y?
The funky Frenchman
Only one variant of the Peugeot 2008 is currently available in SA, priced at R259 900. It seems like a steep price for such a small car, but on paper at least, the 2008 promises to be all the car the modern commuter and lifestyle enthusiast could ever need.
It’s powered by a naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with 88kW and 160Nm on tap. Power is sent to the front wheels only via a five-speed manual gearbox.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the 2008 was never intended to be a serious off-roader. It rides higher than the humble 208 it’s based on and has something called Grip Control, but that’s as far as it goes. This is one the reason why we decided to pit it against the EcoSport, which is also available only in front-wheel drive.
Style-wise it’s exactly what you’d expect from Peugeot. It’s funky, without being over the top, which is to say that it stands out in a crowd, but not too much. It has to be said that it looks rather awkward from the side, thanks to the lifted ride height and low-profile rubber. The wheels seem oddly small compared to the rest of the body.
On the inside we have no complaints. As only one model is available, Peugeot made sure that the 2008 included absolutely everything one could reasonably expect.
The contender from the States
Ford did a magnificent job in creating hype around the EcoSport before it made its official debut in SA. We saw a near-production version for the first time nearly two years before it actually reached our shores.
A lot of this hype obviously stems from the styling. We know of no other car in SA, bar a few supercars, that tries as hard to grab the attention of prospective customers and other road users.
Ford did a great job on this, too. We spent an entire week with a Mars Red unit and we still can’t decide whether we like it or not.
It tries so hard to be aggressive, with that angry-looking face, those forceful ST-style alloys and the chunky spare wheel attached to the bootlid, but alas, the word we’d use to describe it is cute. Not exactly what we look for in a car, but definitely something a Millennial will enjoy.
What we do like is the engine. Much has been written about Ford’s ground-breaking 1,0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder powertrain and the fact that the engine block is small enough to fit on a A4 piece of paper, but we couldn’t help but wonder whether such a small engine would suffer a little under the weight of the EcoSport body.
We were wrong to think it couldn’t cope. The 92kW and 170Nm of torque are more than adequate. So adequate, in fact, that the EcoSport EcoBoost is a fun car to drive. It makes a nice noise and its five-speed manual transmission is a joy to use.
On the inside the picture is a tad less rosy. It has all the toys, safety equipment and space one could reasonably hope for, but the build quality is slightly shoddy. The materials feel rough and some of the gaps between the switches don’t line up as well as they should on a car wearing the blue oval.
We’re willing to let this one slide, for now, considering that the top-of-the-line EcoBoost EcoSport retails for just under R250 000.
The testing ground(s)
We had to develop a new testing strategy for these two cars. We realised this as soon as they were delivered and parked next to our Arctic Trucks Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru XV and Project Terios. Next to them, the two compact crossovers looked a bit ridiculous. If we subjected them to the same rigorous off-road testing we do on the other cars, one or both of them would come back minus a wheel.
We decided to do most of the driving in the city, after which we’d spend one day driving them back to back on the muddy dirt roads surrounding Hartbeespoort Dam.
We think this is a pretty accurate depiction of how these cars will be used by their respective owners – mostly for commuting to and from work, with some weekend dirt road driving to get to whatever music festival is taking place that weekend.
With that in mind, let the testing begin!
Under the bonnet
In this respect, Ford is way ahead of Peugeot. Next to Ford’s award-winning turbocharged three-pot, Peugeot’s naturally-aspirated 1,6-litre four-cylinder seems archaic.
The two engines are more or less in the same league in terms of power output, with the Pug producing 88kW/160Nm of torque and the Ford 92kW/170Nm.
The Ford feels livelier, thanks to its turbocharged engine, but you have to keep the revs above a certain point to get the best out of it. Second gear take-offs are simply not an option in the EcoSport. At least the five-speed manual is a joy to use, as it has a super slick and positive shifting action. The clutch is extremely light and very easy to modulate.
The Peugeot’s engine, although outdated compared to the Ford’s 1,0-litre, suits the nature of the 2008 very nicely. The power delivery is very linear, which makes it a great car to live with on a day-to-day basis. Its five-speed shifter feels sloppier than the Ford’s, but it’s far from an awful gearbox. It has to be said that it jumped out of reverse on more than one occasion, which isn’t a huge problem, but an irritation nonetheless.
Performance, however, is not the most important factor in these two cars. The Millennials are more interested in fuel consumption, and in this regard the Ford is in the lead. It delivers the same sort of power as the traditional engine in the 2008, but Ford claims it uses much, much less fuel. The company gives a figure of 5,1 l/100km, while Peugeot claims 5,9 l/100km for the 2008.
In testing, neither car came close to these figures, but the Ford’s 8,5 l/100km trumps the effort of the Peugeot, which hovered somewhere around 10,2 l/100km. The EcoSport provided for the test had a lot more mileage on the clock than the Peugeot, so it might be an issue of running in the 2008 properly before expecting frugal consumption figures.
Strangely, the EcoSport isn’t as kind to the environment as you’d expect. It emits 131 g/km of CO2, which is just four grams less than the more traditional engine in the 2008.
Both manufacturers did a stellar job in this department. There’s enough space for four people and their luggage in both cars, provided said passengers have packed lightly. Front passengers have loads of head, leg and shoulder room.
The extent of the “toys” inside is staggering. The Ford and Peugeot both come standard with luxuries that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Mercedes S-Class ten years ago. Both have dual-zone climate control, leather seats, cruise control and electric mirrors and windows all round.
In the Ford you get the well-known SYNC system, which is an all-in-one infotainment package. It’s easy to understand and it does a marvellous job of playing whatever the soundtrack of your life may be. It can also be mated to your smartphone for hands free conversations or audio streaming. We particularly liked the speaking function, which copes fairly well with a South African accent. There are many cars out there that struggle to understand an Afrikaans bloke giving instructions in English, but the EcoSport isn’t one of them.
We were blown away by the standard kit in the Ford, until we climbed aboard the 2008. This interior is a notch above the Ford’s, with expensive and elegant materials on every single touch surface. It also edges ahead in the infotainment stakes, thanks to an iPad mini-like device mounted on top of the centre console. This touch-screen houses the infotainment part of the Pug’s interior. With it you can navigate your music, photos and your route home. Yes, that’s right folks — the 2008 comes with a complete satellite navigation system as standard.
It also allows for Bluetooth connectivity for chatting or musical purposes and you get not one but two USB ports. This allows for enough music for a trip to the moon and back.
At the end of the day there’s no real difference between the standard equipment levels, barring the navigation in the 2008. What makes a big difference, though, is the execution. Compared to the luxurious interior of the Peugeot, the EcoSport feels somewhat cheap.
In terms of safety you get the obligatory airbags and acronyms to keep you on the road. The Peugeot scored a full five stars for safety in the Euro NCAP crash test, but the EcoSport has yet to be crashed into a concrete wall to see how many stars it scores.
On the road
There are no complaints in this department. In fact, it’s only once you drive these cars in town that they start to make a lot of sense.
They are the same sort of size as a Ford Fiesta or Peugeot 208, which makes them easy to manoeuvre and park, but because they are that little bit taller, it’s easier to see what’s going on around or in front of you.
The semi-off-road biased suspensions soak up the worst that SA’s roads can throw at them, while the handling on both cars is perfectly acceptable.
On the highway it’s more of the same. The EcoSport is more responsive higher up in the rev range, but the Peugeot isn’t far behind. At 120km/h, both cars settle down nicely, which means they won’t be tiring when the journey is long.
As mentioned earlier, we weren’t expecting the 2008 to fare well in this test. It has low-profile tyres, for goodness sake.
Much to our surprise, it proved to be better suited to gravel road driving than the bullish-but-cute looking EcoSport.
The EcoSport doesn’t mind a gravel road. Indeed, it’s the more entertaining of the two, as it’s more willing to slide around when you lift off mid-corner. We are, however, aware that most people won’t find this feature as amusing as we did, so the EcoSport is not getting bonus points for being tail happy.
We will be subtracting a few hypothetical points for the noise and vibration intrusion into the Ford’s cabin. In contrast, the Peugeot is much quieter, even relaxing on a rough gravel road.
This leads us to believe that the engineers at Peugeot are some kind of magicians. Looking at the car, you’d never guess that it’s as sure footed as it is.
We pushed both cars hard and ended up being amazed at how composed the Pug stayed throughout the day. This could have something to do with what Peugeot calls Grip Control, which is basically a terrain response system with default settings for Snow and Mud. We turned the dial that controls Grip Control multiple times but, honestly, other than an adapted throttle response, it’s hard to tell the difference between the settings.
The Ford’s price includes a standard four-year/120 000km warranty and a four-year/60 000km service plan. Peugeot’s warranty is for only three years/100 000km, but it offers a full five-year/60 000km maintenance plan. The Ford should hold its value better, but that’s for the Millennials to decide.
What we have here is a draw. We drove the cars back to back and still couldn’t decide which one to choose. To be honest, we’d rather spend the cash on a used SUV or bakkie with proper off-road credentials, but if you’re a Millennial in the market for a cheap, frugal, SUV lookalike that’s brimming with features, you’d be as happy as a pig in mud with either of these cars.
The Peugeot 2008 and Ford EcoSport are two very good cars, but that’s not really a verdict a Millennial mind would easily accept. We can tell you that every time we had to run an errand during the week that the two cars were visiting our offices, we always found ourselves reaching for the Peugeot’s keys first.