Peugeot Citroen have been showing Hybrid4 concepts for three years now - and finally the wait is over. The new Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 is here - and we've driven it. UK sales start in November 2011.
This is a significant car on numerous counts. It's the first series production diesel-electric hybrid on sale. It's the first time you or I have been able to buy a PSA Hybrid4 vehicle. And, if Paris is to be believed, it may yet revolutionise the way hybrid cars are put together and sold.
Read on for CAR's first drive review of the new 2011 Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4.
Peugeot Hybrid4: a history lesson
A quick recap on the PSA hybrid solution. The French have long championed diesel, and there's been much oh la la and gnashing of teeth to be heard in the corridors of Peugeot Citroen HQ as the world switched on to petrol-electric hybrids, many of them fearsomely expensive, bespoke models with knee-high emissions and sky-high price tags.
PSA, with a lot of help from Bosch, has come up with what it argues is a much simpler system: Hybrid4. It takes an existing combustion-engined model - step forward 3008 - and bolts on a relatively low powered 27kW electrified rear axle. Clever electronics control the interaction between front engine and rear electric motor, with not a single physical link between the axles.
It means that every model in Peugeot Citroen's range can theoretically be hybridised relatively cheaply, at a premium of some £2500-£3500 over a regular cooking petrol or diesel engine. PSA is launching the diesel first (because they're French/because of its inherent 30% mpg benefit), but unleaded hybrids will follow.
Does the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 work well in practice?
First impressions are good. This really is a 'normal' hybrid car. There are no glitzy controls to scare you off, no weird-looking body panels. Your next door neighbours will be hard pushed to tell you're driving a clever-clogs sub-100g/km CO2 car. There's just that niggling doubt over a price tag of £26,995 which seems at odds with the 3008 Hybrid4's populist roots... Cheaper hybrids will follow, engineers assure us.
Step onboard and where you'd normally find the 3008's Grip Control button is a hybrid controller, letting you pick between ZEV for full electric mode (it'll run as a RWD for up to three miles if the battery is full); Auto (where everything is done for you); 4wd (where both axles are powered for better traction in slippery conditions); and Sport (where the automated manual six-speed transmission clings onto gears for longer).
Turn the key to start up and the silence is golden. Progress is smooth, as we pull away in Auto mode. Peugeot has tuned the gearbox to use the electric motor's torque to smoothe off gearchanges and progress is sweeter than in regular 3008's with the jumpy automated manual. Creep forwards and you can indeed drive in EV mode up to around 30mph before the 2.0-litre HDI diesel kicks in. The transitions are smooth and there's no kangarooing to speak of.
Don't like the cheap plastic paddles, though, and it's hard to tell which mode you're in as the controller has tiny lights. But initial driving impressions are good.
What about at higher speeds?
The 3008 is no powerhouse; that modest rear electric motor is a fifth the power of a Prius's, remember. But you've got that stonking 2.0-litre HDI engine, which rows the chunky - 1660kg - 3008 Hybrid4 along very nicely.
Regular 3008 traits remain: a lofty driving position for good visibility (bar some hefty A-pillars), storage spaces galore for family duties, a plump ride, quite agile steering and a slightly fiddly parking brake. You won't see a % power indicator in a regular or garden Pug, though. It's more Rolls-like.
We tested it in 38deg C heat with the air-con blasting away in mainly urban conditions - average speed 23mph - and gobbled diesel at a rate of 49mpg. We'd say that's quite impressive for a large five-seater that can double up as a van. The 3008's loadbay loses around 15% of its space, but you've still got 420 litres, stretching to 1501 if you drop the rear seats.
Just remember you need to pick the base car with 16in wheels if you want the magical 99g/km CO2 figure. At current tax rates, that'd mean you'd be exempt from annual road tax and London congestion charge for life. But the higher-spec Hybrid4 model we tested had 17s and 104g/km. Every digit counts nowadays.
We admire the Hybrid4's plug-n-play nature. That you can apply this tech to any car based on the large or mid-sized PF2 or PF3 platforms in the Peugeot Citroen empire is a neat engineering trick. It's a clever way of hybridising large numbers of cars quickly, and a plug-in version with lithium ion batteries and a fourfold increase in ZEV range is coming in 2014.
While we may struggle to call a £27k hybrid affordable, it's obvious PSA has elected to launch the Hybrid4 at the top of the 3008 range. Once it percolates down to smaller engines, we'd wager it'll make more sense to more buyers.
>> Read the new October 2011 issue of CAR Magazine for a more detailed review of the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4