When someone or something becomes successful, or merely really good, at what they do, any subsequent fall-off in performance or output becomes measured through a prism of revised order.
So, when, say, a rock band makes a classic record, after a series of duds, or a tech company comes up with a sensational new piece of kit, having been stuck in a rut, everything else they do subsequently is measured against that single achievement and not the dross that went beforehand.
This truism applies to all sorts of activity and industry. And the car business is no different. Peugeot are a case in point.
For decades, the French giant made so-so cars that, while popular enough, never indicated greatness. Suddenly, Peugeot hit a vein of form that propelled them to another level.
This abrupt mushrooming of popularity reflected that the ‘Lion’ brand had started making singularly good cars, having previously excelled at being average.
The 3008 and 5008 SUVs and, subsequently, the 508 saloon and the 208 super-mini, thrust the brand into a new orbit of popularity and profitability, but, on the back of this new-found renown as the maker of really good motors, there was always the possibility that the mask could slip.
Sustained high standards are the stuff of which industrial legends are made and the reason why the Germans, in particular, have been so admired globally and thus so profitable. Conversely, it is also why the British and the Americans have been so weak-kneed.
A single great British success — the Mini — and just one American legend — the Mustang — have given us generations of damp-eyed mysticism about those countries’ collective automotive prowess.
They have not, however, sustained industrial growth.
In the last five decades, the Japanese and the Germans have led all the way, which is ironic, considering they were the big losers in the Second World War and dependent on the Americans, the British, and the French for the tools necessary to rebuild their shattered economies.
That the Germans now own and profitably run pretty much every formerly British automotive brand and that they and the Japanese are the prime movers in UK car-manufacturing are sources of enduring bitterness.
That’s the case, too, in America, where Ford and GM have frequently had to be bailed out by the government and where one of what was ‘the big three’ — Chrysler — is now owned by the Italians.
Well, not just the Italians. And that’s where Peugeot re-enter this narrative. In the dying embers of last year, Peugeot and Fiat agreed to merger terms (with the other French giant, Renault, having spurned offers of marriage to the Italian suitor some months earlier) and, in doing so, will create the fourth-largest car-making conglomerate in the world.
With Peugeot riding the crest of a wave and Fiat not doing nearly as well here in Europe, but maintaining profitability, the $50bn wedding was made in automotive heaven, allowing the newlyweds to potentially save $4.1bn through shared investment in engines and platforms and leveraged scales in purchasing.
That’s all for the future, however, but in the now — as the Americans like to say — Peugeot are doing rather well and, given the critically acclaimed 3008, 5008, 508, and 208, expectations were high for the recent launch of the 2008, the second generation of a previously moderately successful seller.
As a baby SUV, the 2008, which I initially reviewed in 2013, was among the first of the genre and was a worldwide seller, being built in France, Brazil, Iran, Malaysia, and China.
And guess where it was made in China? Wuhan, which has since become infamous and not for building Peugeots.
A compact family five-door, the original 2008 fitted the bill for a wide variety of customers.
While it was a comfortable and able performer, it was a little on the dumpy side and not the essence of elegance you can get from a Peugeot. The new one, on the other hand, while still a five-door, is a paragon of style.
Good-looking in a mini-me 3008 sort of way, the junior car boasts all the neat styling touches of its bigger brothers, including a proud bonnet and grille (rather than the droopy one of yore) and the eye-catching front and rear-light clusters, as well as the ‘lion claw’ LED strip, which runs into the front bumper.
As well as being better-looking, it is roomier and more passenger friendly and the boot is bigger, too.
It is built on the company’s CMP platform, which also accommodates the 208, the Opel Corsa, the Citroen C3, and the DS3 Crossback, and that is a big plus, in terms of family-friendliness.
The new 2008 is also awash with tech, such as the 3D instrumentation, the i-Cockpit, the carbon-effect dashboard and panel finishes, and is not only a pleasure to look at, but a real wow to sit inside.
The GT-Line version I tried had the 130bhp version of the three-pot turbo petrol engine with six-speed gearbox. (There is also a 100bhp choice, but the 130bhp is the desirable one.) This offers a top speed of 196kph and a 0-100kph time of 9.9 seconds, and will return a 5.5 l/100km (50mpg) consumption rate and a 13 g/km emission level, for an annual tax bill of €190.
This engine is a nice performer that has plenty of oomph. While it might not be a tyre-shredder, it is lively enough to placate even demanding drivers.
But here’s where things go a tiny bit astray for me.
While the 2008’s handling and ride are reasonably accomplished, they’re not anywhere near as good as its SUV siblings and certainly nothing like as talented as the 208.
Perhaps it was the 18” wheels that caused the nervous feel, which magnified dips and crests in the road and took the gloss off the driving experience. Grip levels are good and there is no undue body roll, but you will rock into a corner expecting a smooth passage and then find yourself shifting around uncomfortably.
The 2008 did not have the same instant driving appeal and charm as its siblings; it just did not appear to have the same on-the-road chops as the others.
This might have something to do with the other cars in the Peugeot line-up being so good that any small dip in performance is met with a backlash.
The 2008 is a cracking car on very many levels and very good by segment standards. It’s just not quite as good, or as enjoyable to drive, as its brethren.
* * * *
From €23,900 - €29,880 as tested.
Excellent turbocharged petrol triple.
Not much quibble with the GT-Line option.
A really good car, but not as good as its siblings.