Peugeot’s closet cross-dresser

27 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Peugeot’s closet cross-dresser
Peugeot 3008

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First Drive | Dubrovnik, Croatia | Peugeot 3008 |

And you thought the Ford Kuga was a late-comer! Peugeot has finally gotten around to launching its first crossover vehicle, but is the 3008 another me-too offering or does it bring something new to the game?

In the Metal

There are two ways you can look at the Peugeot 3008. As a people carrier, it’s gorgeous; it has got chunky front-end styling with really well-resolved detailing, subtle wheelarch bulges and a reasonably dramatic shoulder-line and glasshouse design, while the rear is no better or worse than most of its people-carrying rivals. As a crossover, however, it’s rather lame.

It doesn’t have any ground clearance worth talking about, there are very few SUV-styling cues and the backside is round and frumpy – boomerang-style tail-lamps or not. Riding on anything less than 18-inch wheels the 3008 also looks bloated and over-bodied so compared to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga it’s really a bit silly-looking. The sad thing is it could be quite a pretty car if Peugeot had only decided exactly what it was going to be before they started.

The interior, in contrast, is rather interesting. The dashboard comprises many familiar PSA components but never before have they been so beautifully arranged and so solidly screwed together in a Peugeot. Moreover, the design is also exceptional – the huge, Audi-style centre console dominates the front portion of the cabin, giving the driver and passenger their own separate cockpits, while the piano black and chrome finish of our test car gave it a classy and upmarket finish.

The seven toggle switches beneath the vents are another neat touch although, worryingly, three of them operate the optional head-up display and two control the optional proximity alert system. If you don’t order either feature, will be you be forced to endure five blanking plates right in your eye line for the duration of your ownership? Thankfully, the driving position is spot on, with huge clear dials, well-positioned arm rests, great visibility and comfortable and supportive seats.

The rear is also roomy and comfortable, even for six-foot adults, although the rear seats don’t do anything vaguely trick.

What you get for your Money

Actually, we can’t tell you a lot on that front, as the 3008 doesn’t arrive on UK shores until October/November of 2009. In a Peugeot spokesperson’s words, pricing is volatile at the moment so he wouldn’t be drawn on a starting point or trim levels. However, it should all be comparable with the 308 SW and should also sit between the best-selling Nissan Qashqai and the VW Touran.

Driving it

We were expecting the 3008 to be a wallowy pile of mush, but Peugeot has been getting its handling groove back on of late and as a result, the 3008 is a surprisingly fun car/SUV/MPV/thingy to drive. Although the suspension is very basic, nobody can work a torsion beam quite like Peugeot and as a result the 3008 boasts quite surprising levels of grip, body control and poise even along some of southern Croatia’s more challenging mountain roads.

Although the 3008 is front-wheel drive only at this stage, at no point did it feel that it would be a better car if only it had all-wheel drive. Thankfully, Peugeot spared us from having to negotiate a contrived off-road course and instead used a video to show off the 3008’s new five-setting traction control system (only available on models with 16-inch mud and snow tyres, incidentally).

Our first test car was the powered by the 1.6 HDi engine in conjunction with a manual gearbox, which will probably be the most popular model thanks to its minimal thirst for fuel (55.4mpg is the official combine-cycle figure) and low CO 2 output (137g/km). With 109bhp and up to 192lb.ft of torque at its disposal from as little as 1,750rpm it feels reasonably quick and up to the task of hauling 1,425kg of 3008 around.

That said, overtaking requires some planning and sustained progress requires a willingness to work the gearbox hard. Again though, Peugeot serves up a surprise here because the gearbox is unusually slick and precise. The pedals are even well placed for heel-toe downshifts – not the kind of stuff you’d expect from a. er. thingy. The 1.6 HDi does without Peugeot’s new Dynamic Roll Control anti-roll system, but to be honest, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference.

For the record, it’s a passive hydraulic system that links the rear shock absorbers, stiffening them during cornering and softening them in a straight line. The only real blot on the 3008’s dynamic score sheet is the low-speed choppiness, but this might not be such an issue on models with smaller wheels.

The only other engine we got to sample was the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit that packs 148bhp and 177lb.ft of torque from just 1,400rpm (even lower than the diesel’s peak torque engine speed). Not only is this car noticeably quicker (8.9 seconds to 62mph and 125mph all out, versus 12.2 seconds and 112mph in the diesel) it’s also considerably happier being thrashed, which makes it a lot more fun to drive overall. There is more torque steer though, and the traction control light comes on more often when you’re in a hurry, while its 179g/km CO 2 emissions and 38.1mpg economy do dull its appeal somewhat.

Worth Noting

Peugeot’s 3008 is the first car in its class to have a head-up-display, but it’s a convoluted effort that uses an electrically elevated glass screen to reflect only the most basic information back to the driver. It only shows the car’s speed and some basic distance control warnings, which means you have to glance at a second dot-matrix display between the dials or the pop-up dashtop screen for satellite navigation updates.

Quite why Peugeot couldn’t have reflected the information off the windscreen, BMW-style, I can’t imagine but they must have their reasons. The adjustable boot floor, by comparison, is a remarkable piece of simple, clever thinking – without using any levers or hooks or clips it’s possible to set the boot floor to any of three settings using only one hand, which makes the 3008’s boot hugely versatile by essentially splitting it into two.

A power tailgate will also be offered, as will a full-length panoramic roof, Xenon headlamps and a Bluetooth phone kit. By 2011 the 3008 will be offered with all-wheel drive when the ‘Hybrid 4’ goes into production. The rear wheels of the Hybrid 4 will be driven by an electric motor (with power coming from an under-floor battery pack), while the front wheels will be powered by a 2.0-litre HDi engine.

It is expected to have a combined output of about 200bhp and 369lb.ft of torque, but manage almost 70mpg and pump out only 104 grams of CO 2 per kilometre.

Summary

Leave the subjective matter of looks and the silly names to one side for the moment and there’s much to like in the new Peugeot 3008. It’s fun to drive, spacious, comfortable, extremely well finished inside and it’s likely to be competitively priced and well equipped too.

The only real issue we have with the 3008 is that it doesn’t really make any kind of a statement: it doesn’t look particularly tough, nor is it especially versatile or practical, which means when people ask you what it is you won’t have an answer. It might be the best car/SUV/MPV/thingy you can buy, but when it’s the only car/SUV/MPV/thingy on sale at the moment that doesn’t really mean very much, now does it?

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