It’s easy to underestimate the Peugeot 3008. Or, to put it differently: what you see when you first encounter Peugeot’s new crossover vehicle isn’t necessarily what you get. It may look like just another compact-footprint people carrier. But there’s a lot more to this French machine than meets the eye. Problem is you have to drive it to appreciate what’s really on offer. By DEON SCHOEMAN.
At face value, the Peugeot 3008 reflects all the characteristics of a compact MPV: a high roofline, a tall stance, and a boxy, load-friendly rear end.
The front appearance unequivocally confirms the vehicle’s Peugeot identity, although the truly massive grille has all the charm of a feeding whale shark.
But don’t be fooled by any initial preconceptions: the 3008 is not your average people-carrier. Instead, it’s best (and rather vaguely) described as a crossover vehicle, because it straddles a number of different roles simultaneously.
In the South African mindset, a crossover is more SUV than MPV, and is expected to look the bushwhacking, all-terrainer part. The 3008’s mandate is somewhat wider: provide the space and versatility of a compact MPV, the ride and handling of a family hatchback and the all-terrain capability of a soft-roader.
If that sounds like a tall order, it is – and at first glance, the 3008 seems unlikely to deliver on all its maker’s expectations. The stance is raised, yes, but still well below the 200mm-plus expected of an SUV. And a perusal of the technical data reveals that the 3008 retains a traditional front-wheel drive layout.
So, is the 3008 just a compact MPV with pseudo-SUV pretentions? Or is there something more to its make-up? Yes, there is – at least on some models – and it’s called Grip Control.
It’s not some magical system that transforms a people-mover into a go-anywhere SUV. Instead it is an intelligent, electronic system that tailors the responses of the 3008’s Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) to optimise traction in a variety of conditions.
I can tell you that the system works well in practice. But the model under scrutiny here does without Grip Control – and that’s probably a fairly accurate reflection of the local 3008 buyer pattern.
What this derivative does have is an automatic gearbox, which is not only a new addition to the 3008 line-up, but also one that’s relevant to what would-be buyers of such a vehicle are likely to demand.
The gearbox is Peugeot’s latest AT6 six-speed automatic, which features a compact, lightweight design and employs several efficiency-related technologies to reduce friction, enhance shift control and reduce drivetrain losses.
In plain English, it means that the gearbox sucks up less engine power than older designs, which translates into better performance and reduced fuel consumption. The control software affords more succinct, snappier gear changes than the slush boxes of yore, and without any hunting between gears. And sixth gear is an overdrive-style ratio for open-road cruising.
But what I like the most is the sequential shift action, which allows a sportier, more interactive driving experience. And while the 3008 is not a sports car, it has enough get-up-and-go to make that sequential mode worthwhile.
That pep comes from a high-pressure turbocharged 1,6-litre powerplant, which conforms to the latest Euro 5 emissions regulations, and delivers surprising urge. While 1,598cc sounds a little meagre for the Peugeot’s bulk, the output figures prove otherwise.
The 1.6 THP engine pumps out an impressive 115kW and 240Nm, and always feels more powerful than one would expect of a 1,6-litre unit. That the auto gearbox has a decent ratio set to make the most of that muscle obviously helps too.
By now, you may have realised that the 3008 is a bums-in-seats kind of car. Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the driving experience, which easily exceeds expectations – and on a number of levels.
Its on-road behaviour is exemplary, even by sporty hatch standards. That’s no exaggeration, either: there is none of the body roll expected of a car with an obviously raised centre of gravity.
The steering response is crisp and direct, with a fairly neutral turn-in and only mild understeer under duress. In fact, the 3008 loves corners, and is almost disconcertingly entertaining to pilot through the twisties.
One of the contributing elements in this regard is the standard-fitment Dynamic Roll Control system, which hydraulically links the left and right dampers, allowing exceptional composure and resistance to body lean. It also assists traction by keeping more of the tyre footprint on the road, and benefits steering response.
But these dynamic benefits don’t come at the expense of the traits more expected of a compact, yet spacious MPV. The ride quality is supple and compliant, soaking up road irregularities without feeling soggy or out of sorts.
And this is where the crossover component of the 3008 starts showing its value. That ride quality is true not only of good tarred roads, but also gravel routes – and rough, rutted and corrugated ones at that.
On-the-move comfort levels are also boosted by the accommodation and features provided in the large and airy cabin.
From the front, there’s a commanding view through the huge, raked front windscreen, aided by the raised seating position and a non-intrusive instrument layout. The switchgear arrangement is intuitive and user-friendly, and includes multifunction display for the trip computer and the audio system.
As is so typical of the French, there are a lot of useful, sometimes hidden features, including a generously proportioned centre binnacle cooled by the climate control system, and satellite audio controls positioned perfectly within reach behind the steering wheel rim.
But in terms of roominess, it’s the rear seating that’s a revelation. Think limo-style stretch-out space, and you have some idea of the accommodation on offer for two or even three full-sized rear passengers.
Sure, the 3008 doesn’t offer the seven seats of obvious rivals such as the Toyota Verso and the Renault Grand Scénic. But I’d rather have five real seats than seven compromised ones.
Another impressive trait of the 3008 is the cargo compartment, which features a robust parcel shelf that can be slotted in at various levels to divide the luggage space into an upper and a lower part. Together with a two-piece tailgate, this allows exceptional loading versatility.
Of course, the split rear bench seat can also be folded down, as can the front passenger seat, to accommodate items long than 2m if required.
Standard spec levels of this Premium model include six airbags, ESP, air-con, electrically operated windows and mirrors, remote central locking, a CD receiver with MP3 playback and satellite controls, alloy wheels, and an all-disc braking system with ABS, EBD and EBA.
Externally, the features list includes front go lamps, rear parking sensors, automatic headlight and windscreen wiper activation, 17-inch alloy wheels and colour-coded exterior mirrors and door handles.
Noise levels are impressively quiet, regardless of the road surface, and the overall quality of interior execution is quite superb. It’s certainly approaching premium territory, and the few rattles that did make their presence known on the rough stuff were notable only by their complete absence on tar.
The Peugeot 3008 range currently consists of 13 models, spanning three engine and two gearbox choices, as well as three trim levels and the option of Grip Control. But as much as my personal preference would lean towards a 2.0 HDI turbodiesel with a manual gearbox and Grip Control, the 3008 1.6 Premium Auto tested here may well end up being the local favourite.
It links effortless performance and the convenience of a decent auto gearbox to the Peugeot’s spacious interior, excellent ride quality and – for a turbo-petrol vehicle – surprisingly decent fuel consumption, as long as you don’t thrash it at every opportunity.
It might look big from outside, but once on the move, the 3008 feels willing, entertaining and wieldy. Add robust build quality, loads of standard kit and its five-star Euro NCAP safety rating to the list, and this Peugeot becomes a compelling family motoring proposition.
The arrival of the Peugeot 3008 is only the first salvo in an aggressive strategy to upgrade the image and the product offering of the French car maker. A slick new corporate identity has been introduced, and we’ve already reported on the sleek RCZ coupé, which reaches our shores in the next few weeks
Also, Peugeot SA has invested heavily in spare parts warehousing and infrastructure, and with the support of the French parent company, has largely addressed issues such as parts and service pricing, and spare parts availability.
What remains is to rid the local motoring public’s negative perceptions of the Peugeot brand – and most of those are dealer network-related. Peugeot’s cars deserve a more customer service-orientated approach at dealer level.
If Peugeot here can link the brand’s positive developments to the levels of service the brand deserves, local sales will surely reflect the excellence of products like the 3008. DM
Deon Schoeman can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peugeot 3008 1.6 Premium Auto
In-line four-cylinder, 1 598 cc, turbocharged
115 kW @ 6 000 rpm
240 Nm @ 1 400 rpm
7,7 l/100 km (combined cycle)
R299 959 (including CO2 tax)
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