► Peugeot 3008 1.6 THP auto tested
► Radical i-Cockpit interior overhaul
► 1.6 petrol Allure priced at £26,395
If there was ever an example of the changing trends of the British car buyer, then the new Peugeot 3008 is it. Gone is the French brand’s frumpy MPV, and in its place a new, sharper SUV – bowing to the demand of the faux-4x4-obsessed car buyer.
So it’s an all-new model?
Absolutely. It may be based on the EMP2 platform which underpins the 308 and 308 SW estate, but make no mistake – this is Peugeot’s first foray into the medium-sized SUV market. And not a moment too soon, either, with rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar taking up the lion’s share of sales – and having a big head start over Peugeot.
What makes it stand out?
Looks. Both inside and out the big Pug is striking, for better or for worse. It banishes any memory of the armadillo-esque profile of the previous 3008, while a high waistline and black trim inserts around the wheel arches ramp up its SUV credentials.
Such styling won’t be for everyone, but Peugeot’s design department has done well to shy away from the angled panels and square jawline of its rivals.
The interior, too, is something of a pleasant surprise – the 3008 featuring the latest Peugeot i-Cockpit design. Most of the controls are still operated via the eight-inch central touchscreen – à la the Peugeot 308 – but now there’s another, larger digital display to glean information from.
It replaces the traditional instrument cluster, just like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, with a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen. Five display modes are available, including a Saab-style night panel set-up that displays just a dimmed digital speedometer.
The display isn’t quite as comprehensive as the aforementioned Audi set-up, but the graphics are noticeably slicker and easier on the eye. Plus this isn’t some pricey option available on only the highest spec 3008s. In a real poke in the eye for the Volkswagen Group, the full i-Cockpit (including both high-res screens) is standard on all models. Impressive.
Elsewhere, the quality and layout is impressive. Yes, some drivers will still need to peer over the top of the minuscule steering wheel to see how fast they’re going, but lowering it to fit in with the 3008’s high driving position has helped.
Peugeot even reckon that moving the wheel down helps reduce fatigue on long journeys thanks to the driver not having to hold their arms up. The jury is still out on that one...
How does it drive?
Very well – so long as you pick the right engine and gearbox. And, unfortunately, the 163bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol teamed with Peugeot’s six-speed EAT6 torque converter automatic gearbox isn’t that. As a combination, it’s pretty woeful.
For the most potent petrol model in the range, there’s little evidence to suggest that this engine is packing more punch then the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel we drove back in October 2016. Any real urgency is stymied by an unresponsive transmission; even when it finally picks and engages a gear properly, the engine’s responses feel decidedly strained.
You can try and drive around it, by sticking to low revs and hoping that the gearbox doesn’t get confused – but the smarter thing to do would be to opt for the cheaper 128bhp three-cylinder petrol and manual gearbox option. So, unless you really need an automatic version, it’s best avoided.
And aside from the lacklustre engine?
Point the front-wheel-drive only 3008 towards the nearest heavily rutted road and ride holds up well, even on the larger 18-inch wheels. Body roll is also well controlled and the car feels safe and predictable character. Not massively exciting, sure; more unwaveringly consistent in its ability to stick to the road.
On the negative side, road noise could be reduced and a vagueness to the steering means the 3008 isn’t as sharp to drive as rivals such as the Seat Ateca.
This does, however, mean it’s exceptionally easy to drive, with a suitably reassuring heft on fast roads. Thread your way through town however and the 3008 pulls off a clever trick, feeling compact and wieldy. It’s relatively painless to slot into a parking space, too.
Peugeot has the recipe for an excellent SUV in the 3008 and it’s genuinely their most interesting car for years. Bold styling and a crisp, futuristic cabin will appeal to a wide range of buyers swayed by the promise of an intriguing alternative to the 3008’s blander, more established rivals.
Team it with a lower powered engine and a manual transmission and you’ll have a fine car, as evidenced by our four-star experience previously. Pair it with the 1.6-litre petrol and automatic tested here, however, and you’ll end up with a jarring juxtaposition of the very best – and very worst – that Peugeot has to offer.
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