Three hours and forty-two minutes. That’s a lot of time, enough to fly from the east coast of Australia to New Zealand, or listen to an entire debate in the Senate about how to waste $122m of tax payer’s money. The choices are endless.
For us, though, that's how long we sat back as our car controlled the brake and accelerator pedals entirely by itself, reading the speed signs along the way and allowing us to adjust accordingly during our trip from Newcastle to Brisbane. No, it’s not a Tesla, it’s the 2018 Peugeot 3008.
But here’s the thing – French cars are a bit quirky. They are like that annoying kid at school, the one everybody knows is smart but never applies himself. There is so much potential, but it often goes unrealised.
Usually, we would say nice things about French cars, and then tell you that unless you’re willing to put up with the perceived risks of reliability and resale value, it’s probably best to stay clear. With the new Peugeot 3008, though, the positives are so heavily stacked in its favour, it’s simply impossible to ignore if you’re in the market for a medium-sized SUV.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way.
Firstly, it’s not a choice you’d make on cost alone. Pricing starts at $36,990 for the petrol, entry-model Active, stepping up to the Allure for $39,490, GT-Line for $43,490 and, if you really have the cash to burn and want a diesel engine and some massaging seats, the top-spec GT comes in at $49,490. Full a full rundown of pricing and specifications, click here.
Secondly, while it has some amazing technologies fitted as standard (more on that later), the base and mid-spec miss out on Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). That’s a poor omission for a brand-new car being launched in 2017, and one that is slated to help relaunch the brand in Australia.
Thirdly, it needs a longer warranty and industry-competitive servicing costs, to assure first-time buyers looking to switch from the Japanese, Koreans or the Germans and take a chance on the French maker. Peugeot needs to offer a certain level of reassurance a three-year warranty simply doesn’t provide.
Other than that, this is now the best SUV in its class.
For this reviewer, at least, the 3008 sets the benchmark in this segment. Sure, if you’re thinking about it as a cold logical decision, it’s probably not the best value for money, nor is it likely to have the best resale, or stack up in terms of longevity against the traditional Japanese players. But the 3008 is also the type of car you actually want to drive. It’s not just an appliance. It’s not a Toyota.
It has enormous emotional appeal, both inside and out, and through our 10 hours and more than 1000km behind the wheel, we noticed its ultra-modern European styling and badge turned plenty of heads.
When you see a new 3008 from the outside, it has an immediate visual impact. It’s a very busy design with a lot going on, both at the front and rear. But, unlike the folks who work for Lexus or Honda, 'busy' in French designer language happens to be beautiful, not simply overdone.
The rear, in particular - in any colour but black - really stands out. The black eyeliner across the tail-lights contrasts with the paint and is then backed up by even more contour and chrome and dark highlights on the bumper. It’s a pretty thing, and in this segment, where the new Volkswagen Tiguan oozes the same level of visual excitement as a dying snail, that’s a rarity.
Really, though, we were expecting to jump inside and say ‘Aha!’ having realised its beauty is only skin deep. However, the interior is really the highlight of the 3008.
Peugeot has gone all out on its design and implementation, and though we don’t usually care much for 'Car of the Year’ awards, the 3008 has won the European Car of the Year, and we can actually understand why.
As mentioned in our Peugeot 2008 review, the French are the experts at selling high-end feeling interiors for a good price. The 3008 takes this to the next level. To be fair, this SUV packs a nicer interior than this reviewer’s own Jaguar F-Pace – which cost well-and-truly more than double.
The digital instrument cluster is something you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz or an Audi, and its visual impression is very strong. The 8.0-inch touchscreen runs an infotainment system we found to be actually good. The processing power of the system is almost overdone, meaning inputs to the screen are met with immediate response (even complicated ones) and the navigation system itself integrates into the instrument cluster flawlessly.
It also supports Apple CarPlay, which – for the absolute first time in any car we’ve tested so far – we felt was slower to respond than the car’s own infotainment system.
Ignoring the fancy screens for a moment, the cabin itself is gorgeous. The Lamborghini-style switchgear and the tactile sensation of the surfaces is first rate. There are a lot of different surface textures, too, which really breaks up the cabin into visually enhanced sections. The seats really stand out on the higher-spec models, and there's a general sense this car should cost more than it does.
We did notice some uneven and unsightly gaps on the dashboard on one of our test cars, but by that point, we were trying hard to find any little fault because, as far as the interior goes, the 3008 is in a league above its competition.
There is a reasonable amount of room in the second row and two kids' seats (front or rear facing) would easily fit back there. Taller passengers may find the headroom a bit lacking in the back, but for those of us measuring south of a 180cm, it should be a non-issue. The boot measures at 520 litres with the back seats upright, expanding to 1580 litres when folded flat.
The rear seating row split-folds 60:40 to offer a fully-flat loading space.The boot floor also has two positions: flat for easy loading across the length of the space, and sunken for extra vertical space.
In terms of cabin space and storage, there is plenty to go around and, in fact, the centre storage compartment under your left arm is both broad and very deep. You can fit a tonne of stuff in there. It has USB ports that fast charge the phone and we found the stereo system to be reasonable, though lacking a bit of bass.
Apart from the top-spec diesel (which you don't need), the French SUV is powered exclusively through the front wheels by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 121kW of power and 240Nm of torque. Yes, that isn’t much on paper but it's plenty to get the thing moving in and around town and even on the highway.
Peugeot quotes a 0-100km/h time of 9.9 seconds, but it feels quicker than that. The six-speed transmission is smooth and you really don’t even know it’s there, which is the best praise one can bestow on an auto ’box.
Our fuel economy, over predominantly highway driving, was around the 6L/100km mark (95 RON minimum) but when we reset in Brisbane for the general daily commute, it averaged around 7.4L/100km, which is pretty close to Peugeot's claimed figure of 7L/100km.
In terms of driving dynamics, the 3008 is very French, meaning it's highly competent around corners, with limited body roll and engaging driver feedback through the miniature-sized steering wheel. Speaking of which, the wheel may take a bit of time to get used to, but it works all the same.
Ride comfort is perhaps a little less sorted than its dynamics, or likely affected by its dynamics as a compromise. It’s not uncomfortable or particularly bouncy; it’s just not as soft as we would like from a car in this category. If you frequent mostly city roads you won’t even notice, but find a country road with a severe case of potholes, and you will be wishing you had a softer ride.
Frankly, this is a car made for urban environments. That's no surprise, but it did make us wonder what Peugeot Australia had us doing in an off-road course, which helped convince us that the 3008 is definitely a soft-roader. Look, it has grip control systems that can even do hill descent (poorly) and modes to deal with sand or snow, but really, stick to the bitumen and be assured that if you happen to find a dirt road by accident, the world won’t end.
For us, the sweet spot in the range, if you can stretch to it, is the $43,490 GT-Line. It comes with all the active safety gear you want, plus adaptive cruise control with full stop function, 360-degree camera, self-parking (not that you’d ever use it), full LED headlights, dual zone climate control and heaps more. If that’s too much, go with the second from the bottom Allure and option up the AEB.
So, back to the start.
Nearly four hours of no input other than steering on the highway is very impressive. Actually, the Pug can indeed steer itself, but Australian regulations state you can’t have your hands off the wheel, so the steering assistance is limited to around 10 seconds before it starts beeping at you in the way French cars do – with a melody, which gets more Germanic as it becomes frustrated with your lack of input, then finally just does its best impersonation of a Parisian waiter being asked to speak English and gives up entirely.
The lane assistance systems are very good in the way they save you from accidentally leaving your lane. We had literally 1000km to test it and it was as good as anything we’ve seen from the Germans.
We were very impressed by its speed recognition system, too, which links to the active cruise control system, so when there is a speed change it alerts you to adjust and you can choose to do so. This is the type of tech that doesn’t yet exist at this level of integration in cars costing five times as much. We tried to trick it, thinking it wouldn’t read roadwork digital signs or those sitting high in tunnels, but the bloody thing read every single sign we passed, on the spot. It’s actually remarkably accurate.
It’s genuinely hard to fault the Peugeot 3008 as an SUV. With a new distributor in Australia, the brand is now undergoing a revitalisation program like never before, but it can do more to win customers at this early stage and we hope to see that happen.
For now, though, if you’re after a medium SUV, and you can’t stand the thought of joining the hordes of CX-5 or Tuscon owners, go and test drive the Peugeot 3008. It will make you realise what is possible in the segment.
For us, we liked the 3008 so much we decided we might keep it for six months and see if it stands the test of time, so check back in the next few months for updates.
Click on the Gallery tab for more photos of the Peugeot 3008.