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2008 THINKS BIGLittle SUV from Peugeot ready to large it up with its rivals, writes IAN MALLON

I HATE small cars, but this is different.

The best thing about being a car reviewer is that there are more cars to drive than weeks in the year.

The way it works, you take delivery of a brand new model on a Monday, and it is returned the following Monday. Easy.

Simple arithmetic shows that there are 52 weeks in the year, then you factor in that you will drive the same car for the two weeks of Christmas holidays, the same car for at least two weeks of summer holidays, and you come up with a nice round number of 50 cars.

There is probably an availability of up to 70 cars for motor writers with the national press, and of course there are the generous suppliers such as Ford who would have you drive the whole year round in their models if you want.

So, the good news for the fussy reviewer is that we can be very selective in what we pick and what we choose to check out for you, the dear reader.

BEAUTY

I DON'T ASK FOR MUCH WHEN IT COMES TO FILLING MY DIARY, BUT I AM NOW AT THE STAGE IN LIFE AND FAMILY WHERE I TEND NOT TO GO FOR THE SMALLER MODELS.

I LEAVE THAT TO THE PURIST IN OUR STABLE – OR BIG PHIL AS HE'S KNOWN.

Big Phil has been know to drive around in cars no bigger than your thumb and to "ooh and aah" about it afterwards as if he's just driven around in a Rolls-Royce Wraith.

But this week, Peugeot offered me the 2008 – the 2013 Irish Small Car of the Year, they'll have me know.

The 2008 is a mini-SUV, and yes, you may ask what's the point of such a thing; it's a bit like Rugby Sevens – it's not quite the real thing, rather a smaller version of something that should be much greater.

Well, that's what I thought too until I got my hands on the 2008 and realised that while this is a small SUV its beauty lies beneath – or rather within.

For a car that doesn't look in any way imposing from the side, it's inside that there's a real feeling of substance.

Sure, it's smaller than the real thing, but there were five of us packed inside and all quite comfortably and with enough wriggle room to enjoy.

For someone like me who isn't keen on the smaller cars, this was absolutely fine – it's probably for families with small kids or more independent folk who like the idea of a smaller car – but with a bit of a punch.

The Peugeot 2008 comes in petrol and diesel with three different engine sizes – 1.2 in the unleaded variant and 1.4 and 1.6 in the oil-burning variety.

The drive is unspec- tacular, but you get the feeling that anyone looking for a small SUV is certainly not in the market for thrills and spills.

Take-off and acceleration are just fine, handling unremarkable (always a good thing) and cruising absolutely smooth and indeed capable. A big winner for this car and indeed for most Peugeots these days is that it looks very attractive, so much so if it were super-SUV-sized it would literally stop you in your tracks.

Because it's small, it can go somewhat unnoticed, but this is an attractive little beast, from the front where it looks sumptuous and from the side where it looks sleeker and more attractive than one of its big rivals, the Nissan Juke.

There are lots of extras depending on the models: the top-of-the-range Allure will give you among a host of other things a panoramic glass roof, stop-start technology in the Active and Allure and Bluetooth in the Access.

The Peugeot 2008 starts at €18,595.


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