Peugeot has released details of its new 3008 Hybrid4, the world's first hybrid production car with a diesel engine under the bonnet. So far all car makers dabbling in hybrid technology have plumped for petrol engines, primarily on the grounds of cost and the fact that countries such as the US, Japan and many emerging markets still prefer unleaded to derv.
We saw the concept 3008 Hybrid4 in 2009 at the Frankfurt motor show, and now Pug has turned it into reality.
Talk me through the emissions and economy of the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4...
The Hybrid4 employs PSA's 2.0-litre oil-burner allied to an electric motor, and offers claimed fuel economy of 74mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km, slipping – just – under the 100g/km barrier. This enables the Hybrid4 to qualify for the lowest rate of road tax, while making the regular 2.0 HDi-powered 3008's figures of 50mpg and 146g/km seem almost supercar-esque in their profligacy.
When both powertrains are working together, the 3008 Hybrid4 puts out a fairly meaty 200bhp (163bhp from the engine and 37bhp from the batteries).
So the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 is basically a diesel Prius?
Not as much as you'd expect, actually. Yes, it's a hybrid, but a key difference with the 3008 (drinking habits aside) is in the way each powerplant is deployed. Being four-wheel-drive, the electric motor can power the rear wheels while the engine takes care of the fronts, which gives the Hybrid4 more flexibility.
There are four 'driving modes' from which to choose. The most popular for town driving will be 'Auto', which is more or less self-explanatory, and 'ZEV', which enables – battery charge notwithstanding – the 3008 to be driven on electric power only; the diesel motor will cut in if you mash your foot to the floor.
There's also a 4WD mode, the selection of which enables the permanent engagement of both petrol and electric motors for effectiveness in tricky conditions, and a 'Sport' option, which optimises gearchanges to probably not quite turn the 3008 into a B-road monster.
Why have we not seen a diesel hybrid before?
Good question. You'd think that combining battery power with a derv engine rather than a more thirsty petrol would be the optimum choice when it comes to chucking the least amount possible out of your exhaust. And you'd be right. The problem has come with the cost of producing such a combination – which has so far pushed the theoretical price of diesel hybrids to a point where you'd have to drive to the moon and back to recoup the cost.
So how much will the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 cost?
They've yet to release details on pricing for the 3008 Hybrid4; with the non-hybrid model coming in at just shy of £20,000, though, we'd probably expect Peugeot to charge about £25k for the Hybrid4. That may seem somewhat steep for what is essentially a large hatchback, but if you cover enough miles, the gains in economy will justify the extra outlay, insiders promise.
What with Peugeot's new styling direction, the drop-dead gorgeous RCZ and now this hybrid diesel tech, it seems that the formerly dowdy French brand is finally firing on all cylinders. Let's hope the renaissance continues.