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The Peugeot 3008 crossover ticks most of the right boxes to be a competitive crossover

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Peugeot has come quite late to the compact crossover market – the niche founded by Nissan at the end of 2006 with the big-selling Nissan Qashqai. And with the Peugeot 3008, there are several boundaries being crossed: this car is part SUV, part estate, part hatchback, part MPV. It’s tall, but (in most models) lacks four-wheel drive, offering instead a ‘grip control’ system that does clever things with the traction control and ESP on slippery surfaces such as snow, mud or sand. 

The exception to that is the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, which Peugeot introduced to the UK range at the beginning of 2012, and which became a pioneer for mothership PSA-Peugeot-Citroen: the world’s first mass produced full diesel-electric hybrid car. An electric-driven rear axle gives this version of the 3008 – and only this one – the part-time all-wheel drive implied by its raised ride height.

The 3008 is also offered as a diesel hybrid with four-wheel drive

But all-wheel drive capability is hardly the main point of this car. As Nissan has done with the Qashqai, Peugeot seeks to appeal to buyers’ fantasies by offering a taste of SUV without the weight, expense and social opprobrium of the real thing. In Nissan’s case, so successful was the idea that the company abandoned the idea of a regular hatchback altogether; Peugeot won’t go quite that far. Instead, the 3008 is midway in length and price between the Peugeot 308 hatch and the Peugeot 308 SW estate, and is sold alongside both.

There is no direct history for this Peugeot because the Peugeot 3008 is the first of its line. But in its conception, if not in its genes, there is something of the rugged 404, 504 and 505 estates about the car. The larger 4007, broadly a rebadged Mitsubishi Outlander, is the one previous Peugeot crossover. It does have four-wheel drive,but it’s a much more ‘by the book’ medium-sized SUV than this high-rise hatchback.

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DESIGN & STYLING

Peugeot 3008 headlight

The 3008, and the RCZ coupe, will be the last Peugeots to wear the firm’s oversized rictus grinning grille up front, and we should probably be pleased with that. At least the 3008’s is squarer and less caricatured than others.

Peugeot’s crossover does convey a credible faux-SUV ruggedness, though, with its butch stance and its fake front and rear skidplates. The arrowhead-like taillights are interesting – as is the fact that, amazingly, the aerodynamic drag coefficient is just 0.296.

The 3008 cuts an imposing shape on the road

The 3008 uses a version of the PSA group’s familiar Platform Two, which also underpins the regular 308, the new Peugeot 5008 MPV and their Citroen relatives. That means the rear suspension is by a simple torsion beam – Peugeot has long since abandoned the fully independent trailing arms that were once its chassis signature, on grounds of cost – but in the most powerful 3008s the rear suspension contains an extra, central damper designed to reduce body roll

The system is neat and simple. It was developed by Japanese company Kayaba, whose KYB dampers are found in many new cars. Mounted on the torsion beam, a central hydraulic cylinder is linked to both rear dampers. It contains a floating piston, above which is gas pressurised to 20bar. On a straight road, the piston is free to move against the gas pressure so it can accommodate displacement of both dampers’ oil. During cornering, the valving in the piston is locked by the pressure difference between each damper so there’s no escape route for the pressure build-up in the outer damper. This stiffens the damper’s action and the 3008 stays level.

The cheapest 3008 is powered by PSA’s 1.6-litre, 118bhp petrol four-pot engine, and from there upwards there’s a choice of 154bhp turbo petrol power, or 110bhp, 148bhp or 161bhp turbodiesel engines.

The range-topping Hybrid4 model combines Peugeot’s 161bhp diesel combustion engine (driving the front wheels) with a 36bhp electric motor (driving the rears). Its combination of 197bhp of performance, with emissions of less than 100g/km, makes it unique in the hybrid market.

INTERIOR

Peugeot 3008 dashboard

Multiflex is the name given by Peugeot to the Peugeot 3008’s interior configurability. The promise doesn’t extend to rear seats that can slide, recline or be removed, but the backrests fold flat automatically when you pull each one’s handle in the boot space. The cushion part of each seat moves forward and down slightly to make room for the folded backrest.

The fake boot floor can be adjusted through three positions, lifted up in a quick sequence of tilt-and-pull movements to two higher levels, creating a useful covered storage area beneath. The middle position coincides with the level of the folded backrests and also the drop-down lower tailgate, a rugged construction able to take 200kg. Regrettably, some of this cargo bay flexibility is lost in the case of the Hybrid4 flagship, where the car’s multilink rear suspension, its electric motor and its nickel metal hydride battery pack eat into the space you could otherwise make more practical use of.

The centre console cubby has a lid that is hinged on the right-hand side, so the driver has to reach over it to get any items inside

The rear cabin provides­­­­­­­­­­ ample room for legs and heads and the high vantage point gives a good view forward. Indeed, the 3008 is a roomy car all round, and it’s well served for storage by door bins, a box under the front central armrest and two underfloor bins in the back. The glovebox is laughably small, though, despite its large lid.

There’s an air of slightly richer-than-the-mainstream quality to the 3008’s cabin finish. On higher spec levels, you’ll find padded surfaces on the door waist rails and fascia top, and plentiful chrome or aluminium-look detailing around instruments, vents, switches and handles. The centre console is high, cordoning off the driver in what Peugeot likens to an aircraft cockpit.

The driving position can be set SUV-high, or low enough to feel more conventionally car-like. The problem with doing so is that the high, rearward-rising waistline then makes close-quarter manoeuvres hard to judge, a snag that is only partly addressed by the rear parking sensors. The rear three-quarter view is particularly poor. Seat comfort and the scope of adjustments are fine, however.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Peugeot 3008 side profile

The Peugeot 3008 2.0-litre HDi 150 is smooth, quiet, punchy, crisp-edged in its sound, and has little of the clatter that was once an integral part of diesel driving. The 2.0-litre, 16-valve engine’s peak power arrives at just 3750rpm, but the Peugeot offers useful urge right up to 5000rpm.

A long-legged sixth gear – over 30mph per 1000rpm – gives very relaxed cruising, helped by low levels of wind noise and surprisingly little road roar. But make the best use of the torque, which peaks from as low as 2000rpm, and the 3008 proves a keen overtaker. From a standstill to 60mph takes 9.4sec, and the way the Peugeot 3008 storms up significant hills in high gears is very impressive.

The diesel engines are relaxed cruisers

Despite its more powerful combustion engine and electric assist, it’s disappointing to note that Peugeot’s Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 is little faster than the 2.0 HDi 150 when accelerating through the gears. Although the diesel hybrid’s in-gear acceleration is strong (50- to 70mph in 6th gear in 8.6sec versus 9.5 for the HDi 150, for example), it’s still only four tenths faster than the conventional car to 60mph according to Autocar’s timing gear (9.0sec versus 9.4). Blame the hybrid’s automated manual gearbox, which is slow-witted and clunky when charged with anything more than about 50 per cent throttle.

The hybrid will appeal to fleet users via its low CO2 statistics, but those minded for real-world, high-mileage economy would be better off with the cheaper 110bhp 1.6 HDi engine, which is torquey enough to haul the Peugeot 3008 along authoritatively, and can easily match the Hybrid4’s mid-40mpg economy on a long distance run.

None but the Peugeot 3008’s baseline petrol engine will demand frequent gearchanging. The car’s gearshift proves easy enough to use but is hardly a joy-giving interface with its slightly vague, rubbery action. Also disconnecting the driver from the driving process is the electric handbrake, which works well enough (if noisily) and has an automatic release. But despite having a hill hold function, it’s no substitute for a proper handbrake when manoeuvring in a tight space.

RIDE & HANDLING

Peugeot 3008 rear cornering

With the 3008, Peugeot faced the perennial challenge of making a tall car both handle and ride. Lots of roll stiffness can sort out the handling part, but often the ride goes to pieces as a result. The Peugeot 3008’s rear axle Dynamic Roll Control system seeks to cure the conundrum. Does it work? Up to a point, yes.

First impressions are of an unusually agile car for one so tall and SUV-shaped, with quick, precise steering, surprising front-end bite and plentiful grip. The steering is light and self-centres easily but not overly quickly, and it has a natural feel, because it’s a hydraulic system assisted by an electric pump rather than a full electric arrangement. There’s a touch of torque steer on a slippery or uneven surface, but seldom more than a gentle tug.

Suppleness over small bumps is much better on 17in wheels than on 18-inchers sampled on the press launch

The low degree of body roll feels almost uncanny at first, and the way the outside rear wheel is loaded up by the levelling effect of the roll control system certainly helps the 3008 to point keenly into a corner. But the scope for amusement is ultimately curtailed by an ESP system that can’t be switched off once you’re past 37mph, so if you push too hard the Peugeot slows itself down.

Even without the artificial stiffening at the back brought about by the roll control, the 3008’s ride is quite firm, although small bumps are soaked up well. Uneven surfaces set up a rock-rolling motion at low speeds, which causes occupants’ upper bodies to be jerked side to side in a way typical of cars which seat their occupants well above the roll axis, but this effect reduces as speed rises. On balance the suspension settings are a good compromise, given the unpromising starting point of a tall vehicle.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Peugeot 3008

Peugeot’s 3008 is compelling value for money, priced at a rough £700 premium over an equivalent 308 SW estate, and at considerably less than an equivalent Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra wagon. Strong demand is keeping residual values unusually high (by Peugeot’s standards) at the moment, making now a good time to buy.

Buy a mid-spec car, as most will, and you’ll find that the likes of full-screen sat-nav and automatic climate control are extras, but that parking sensors, cruise control (with speed limiter), alloy wheels, a leather-clad steering wheel and an MP3-compatible stereo are all standard. Adding £1400 to reach the top-rung version buys you, among other things, a full-length glass roof and a head-up display – but it must be said, neither item of additional equipment is really worth the premium.

We were unable to get near the claimed fuel consumption promised from the impressive-sounding Hybrid4 model

Running costs should be low, at least as far as fuel is concerned. The rated CO2 output of a 2.0-litre HDi 150 manual is 146g/km, making road tax is £125 per year, and our real-world fuel economy figure during our test on the car was a creditable 44.0mpg.

Unless you’re paying company car tax, we’d warn against buying the expensive Hybrid4 range-topper. Our economy test on the car demonstrated decidedly underwhelming economy from the diesel-electric 3008 – at 41.4mpg on average, almost 10 per cent worse than that of the lighter, manual-equipped 2.0 HDi 150. Used in exclusively urban modes, the hybrid would begin to earn its keep – but not compared to the likes of a Toyota Prius or Lexus CT200h. And for us, that’s just not enough of a recommendation.

A 3008 1.6 HDi would make a fairly frugal, usable purchase, but avoid the low-emissions eHDi if you can bear to: it’s saddled with the same clunky automated manual gearbox as the hybrid, and still won’t quite match Nissan’s 1.6-litre dCi Qashqai (manual) on emissions.

VERDICT

3.5 star Peugeot 3008

Sales figures show that a lot of us like cars with a bit of visual toughness, lots of space and a high seating position. It’s not a true SUV we want, merely the outward trappings of one, and this is exactly what the Peugeot 3008 provides. It does so at a very competitive price, while proving lively, refined and economical. 

The 3008 also handles surprisingly crisply, and its Dynamic Roll Control seems to help significantly here. A tall hatchback this may be, but Peugeot has succeeded in taming its body roll without hobbling it with a lumpen ride, and smooth, accurate and feelsome steering make the car pleasing to steer too. PSA sister brand Citroen could learn a great deal from this car when the time comes to update its similar but much less well-mannered DS 4

Well packaged and comfortable, the 3008 is let down by poor low-speed ride and visibility

Elsewhere, the 3008’s interior is versatile, spacious, comfortable, well-equipped and even a little upmarket in its aura. That high seating position means you can slide in and out without bending down, and also enjoy an enhanced view of the road ahead from the driver’s seat. And experience tells us that it’s these attributes, and not the ruggedized looks or four driven wheels, that users really cherish about their full-on 4x4s.

There are snags: the Peugeot 3008’s fidgety low-speed ride can be annoying and the view aft is poor. Few would call the car beautiful, either. But it’s a good car to drive, with promising signs that Peugeot is rediscovering its past chassis expertise. More importantly, although a couple of years late, it looks like the right car for these times.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Peugeot 3008 2009-2016 First drives