First drive: Peugeot 3008 image

The times they are a changing – on its second generation the Peugeot 3008, just like its bigger 5008 brother, has decided to eschew the MPV-esque form in favor of the true SUV type. The original was a crossover, true, so the morphing may not seem meaningful – but it may very well be.

Not long after the worldwide crisis the French group PSA Peugeot Citroen was on the brink of collapse – but now just a few years later and following an inspired management change and new cash infusion via ownership modifications – the brands have rebirth like the Phoenix bird. Citroen has gone down its own route of being affordable and quirky while Peugeot aims to be more upscale and elegant and classy. The embodiment of this desire is the new line of models that begin with the 3008 – some may argue the setting was delivered by the latest 308 but I think it was just a mandatory liaison stage. The best argument from me is not the change of heart from MPV-crossover to “classic” SUV but the introduction of the second generation i-Cockpit. Read on as we discover how the Peugeot compact SUV seems ready not only to influence the entire range of the automaker, but it could also set new stepping stones in terms of interior fashion.

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Discussing the exterior design is never simple – but it becomes as we paint the bigger picture. The 3008 is today just a part of the larger strategy in the SUV segment deployed by the French automaker – which is among the brands with the best representation in the segment. This is because they have the 2008 subcompact, 3008 and 4008 compact and 5008 midsize models. It’s a little crowded even – because the 3008 and 4008 actually compete on the same segment – the latter being the smaller in size despite the denomination. We’re pretty sure everything will be straightened out with the next generation of the 4008 model – that is if the business case warrants one. For now, the Peugeot SUV family is best represented by the facelifted 2008 and the all-new 3008 and 5008 models. In case you look at an ensemble picture you’ll get the point – the front end unity is obvious even when discussing the smaller 2008 who is just updated, not all new.

In particular, the 3008 shows its Peugeot DNA with an exuberant and busy front end that might not be everyone’s cup of tea – because it has three distinct areas (lights, grille and lower grille with bumper) and the teams styling them seemed to have a contest among them for who manages to includes the most elements. It’s not bad and will certainly provide lots of personality and easy to identify elements such as the split design of the headlights (there’s a crease in the middle – though the lights remain a single element, unlike the refreshed and polarizing Skoda Octavia). I especially liked the treatment of the grille, which has an interesting 3D effect – but I do feel that simplicity should have been on the order book as well. The side showcases the SUV credentials best – because this is where the plastic body cladding is most easily recognized – the 3008 has lots of protection areas to safeguard the body from occasional issues in and outside the urban jungle. One thing we should notice – Peugeot is following the latest trend of “encompassing” the side sill in the door, meaning the actual apron is protected from mud and rain – in turn leaving your clothes dry and tidy. The back meanwhile did get the simplicity memo and puts an emphasis on the sporty bumper with fake exhausts and the brake lights that have been styled to resemble the lion’s claws. We should count on the new grille treatment or the taillights to trickle down towards all models in the Peugeot family – even the facelifted 2008 has managed to include them without actually altering the elements too much.

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Moving inside, this is where Peugeot wants to make a stand and assert itself as an elegant, upscale and modern choice for the SUV buyer today. While the exterior showcases the already known Peugeot styling elements and takes them to a new level by refreshing them or introducing new and contemporary designs, the interior takes the whole brand to a completely new level. If you didn’t knew that Peugeot are the only ones putting a very small steering wheel and a lifted instrument cluster you might have thought this is a space ship interior. The second generation i-Cockpit is a stunning departure from the first generation version – which had all the needed elements sans the “wow” factor. Instead, the 3008 and larger 5008 come with a completely new design, especially for the dashboard that has a decisive futuristic – sporty look. There are two important areas – the steering / instrument panel assembly and the central stack. For starters, the steering is even smaller and has two flats now – it almost feels like someone took the racing wheel from a Playstation 4. It takes some time to get accustomed to it – even if you’re familiar with Peugeot’s idea that you can look above it to see the instrument panel. The latter gets a huge 12.3 inch panel in high resolution with lots of different graphic options – some are mere gimmicks and some are useful. In the latter category we can count the navigation setup – which makes the second screen redundant. There are numerous personalization and configuration options available, but we’ll discuss them in a more thorough review later on. The 8 inch touchscreen of the infotainment system meanwhile seems rather small – though it does lend the feeling of a tablet. This takes us to the second part of the cockpit – where a few sporty designed buttons will give immediate access to main functions on the display. It’s as easy as it gets, but in all earnest we’re still coping with the fact that every automaker now has enhanced connectivity and smart features (Mirror Link, CarPlay, Android Auto) – which you have to learn and adjust to, because everyone designs them differently.

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While the exterior dimensions are making the 3008 stand in line with the larger compact SUVs – especially the VW Tiguan, the racy exterior design takes its toll – for example there’s plenty of knee and head space, but not so much when discussing the width. This means four adults will journey comfortably – not five. At least the boot space has gone up – 520 liters with 210 of them under the luggage cover. More importantly, the 3008 is a family SUV – there are perks such as the premium Focal audio system and a long suite of active and passive safety systems, as well as the i-Cockpit Amplify, which includes three fragrances developed with internationally renowned perfumers. The one thing we’re unhappy with is the lack of all-wheel drive, even as an option. We might see here the limitations of the EMP2 platform on which the 3008 and 5008 is based upon – and it might also be a cost-effective measure for the company. Nonetheless, it’s really not enough to offer an SUV with the looks and capabilities (22 cm ride height, satisfactory entry and departure angles) and only get the Advanced Grip Control system. This one is enough for light off-roading, but the fact remains that many customers want the 4×4 systems for the added comfort and safety element.

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The 3008 is available from the start with a good range of engines – two on the gasoline side and two on the diesel side, each having more than one version. For example you can get the 1.2L PureTech with 130 horsepower in manual or automatic guise, the 1.6 THP with 165 hp only with the automatic. There’s also the 2.0 liter and 1.6 liter HDi diesels – we tried two of them. The lowest version has 100 hp and will most likely be a thing for fleet purchases – we tested for example the 1.6 HDi with an automatic transmission and we feel that’s the least you should get with the 3008. There are also the options for the two liter with 150 hp and the GT version packing a feisty 180 hp. When comparing the two diesel engines, we found the two actually looking towards different customers – if you want to. The 3008 with the 1.6 HDi and 120 hp and auto transmission also had the Driver Sport Pack installed, which enhanced several aspects of the overall driving experience by making the steering sportier, the accelerator pedal more responsive, the engine and transmission (on auto) quicker to respond and even digitally reworks the engine sound with a more assertive note (we’re not big fans of this but more and more automakers are using it). The real feel was that activating the Sport button you suddenly had a livelier car at your disposal – though its 120 hp engine quickly reached its limits at highway speeds. But when taking the 3008 up and down a curvy mountain road it certainly helps to get all the enhancements. This is especially true because the suspension setting – while comfortable on rougher patches – can hold its own and make you feel like you’re driving a lower, traditional compact hatchback. Meanwhile, the 150 hp HDi had ample power reserves at any given regimen, though I feel the overall setup here was mainly oriented towards the best level of comfort – especially since the manual gearbox has long and ample changes that don’t invite sporty drivers.