As competing mainstream car brands align themselves closer and closer, seemingly in an attempt to court buyers via familiarity, it’s nice to encounter an occasional mould-breaker like the Peugeot 3008.
While the 3008 Active doesn’t rewrite the rules for medium SUVs, it does dare to be different. Not alienating, just individual.
The first and most obvious take on this is the bluff exterior with its toned wheel arch blisters and floating roof effect. All very classy and well considered – SUV-esque and sharply dressed all at once.
Step inside, though, and Peugeot well and truly defines itself with what it calls iCockpit 2.0 – a system that puts a tiny steering wheel and high-set digital instrument panel in front of the driver. Regular interior buttons and controls have been moved from physical form into the all-controlling central touchscreen, with the exception of a few select shortcut keys.
As the cheapest model in the 3008 range, the Active starts from $36,990 before on-road costs, although it’s currently offered with a $37,990 drive-away price tag as a promotional offer.
That puts clear space of over $5000 between the cheapest versions of cars like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V that compete in the same segment as the 3008, and even sits the Peugeot above the Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Trendline, although that particular spec is on its way out.
That might not seem like the wisest pricing policy from a brand that’s never enjoyed widespread success in Australia, but instead of playing a discount game, Peugeot’s playing the value game. That’s been further bolstered with the addition of autonomous emergency braking to the base model, after initially launching without the much-lauded safety tech.
More than just AEB, though, the 3008 Active also includes lane-departure warning, six airbags, speed limit recognition, front and rear park sensors, dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital driver display, auto lights and wipers, leather steering wheel and gear selector, rear seat air vents and an electric park brake.
That’s a comprehensive starting package, though there are some concessions to allow higher-grade models to stand out, so you only get 17-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, a 180-degree reverse camera (instead of 360-degree), and you’ll still have to insert the key to start the car with no push-button start.
At a fairly trim 1371kg, the 3008 also stands out as being one of the trimmer medium SUVs available. The weight itself isn’t the most important feature, but the impact it has on performance is more significant.
Lined up against some competitors, the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol 3008 doesn’t look like a powerhouse with 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm from 1400rpm. A combination of low vehicle weight and low-RPM torque nature combine to make the little Peugeot feel quite nimble.
The 3008’s standard six-speed automatic works well with the engine, and is free of hesitation at low speeds. Smooth and well sorted for commuting work, and clever enough to strike the right gear for overtaking as you press the throttle.
The driveline combo isn’t one to rush, though. The 1.6-litre engine can’t be revved quickly and the transmission doesn’t flick through gears with the immediacy of a dual-clutch-equipped Tiguan, for instance.
It’ll still launch with verve from a standing start, making stop-start commuting easy to deal with, but rolling acceleration for overtaking proves that the 1.6-litre 3008 is no star performer. Solid, certainly, but not scorching.
That’s hardly likely to be a big problem, particularly if you’re looking for something more comfortable, as between the subtle drivetrain, low engine and road noise, and well-sorted suspension, the 3008 feels more premium than a number of medium-SUV competitors.
That’s particularly obvious in the interior, where the daring design is complemented by a range of high-quality materials and finishes.
The polarising iCockpit layout has the potential to be the 3008’s biggest deterrent. With the instruments positioned high on the dash and the steering wheel placed low in the driver’s lap, the 3008’s driving position won’t suit all shapes and sizes.
If you’re the right fit for it, though, the layout makes good sense and means the multi-configurable instrument display can deliver regular speed, revs and fuel info, double up as a navigation screen, or operate in place of a head-up display that can often be hard to read with sunglasses or on bright days.
The lack of button clutter in the interior makes for an impressive visual statement, but the minimalist approach means that if you want to change the temp of the AC while looking at the media screen, you’ll need to switch out of the radio controls and into the climate screen, adjust the temp, then switch back.
New piano-key shortcut buttons to major landing screens (climate, media, vehicle settings etc) surround the 8.0-inch infotainment display, making the system better than earlier versions in the 208 and 308, but a few more major secondary controls wouldn’t go astray either. Consider it a work in progress still.
Front seat space is plentiful. The high-set centre console doesn’t encroach seat space severely, but does open up a massive amount of space within for storage.
The rear seats are quite roomy too, and generous for head and leg room. The 3008 makes do with a traditional 60:40 folding bench and not the three individual seats of the larger 5008.
Behind those, the boot offers a claimed 591L of space measured to the rather high window line. By comparison, a Hyundai Tucson claims 488L, a Toyota RAV4 maxes out at 577L, and a Mazda CX-5 provides 442L.
The controversy-causing reduced-diameter steering wheel gives the handling an eager and responsive edge. While an SUV may not be the first vehicle you’d associate with go-kart handling, the 3008 delivers an agility more like a low-riding small hatch.
One of Peugeot’s range-wide limitations is a lack of all-wheel drive – not that it’s likely to be missed in the 3008 given its broadly urban skew. There’s raised ride height to tackle rough roads and unmade areas you might like to cross, but that’s it.
A through-the-road plug-in hybrid model (with an electrically driven rear axle) has been shown at the 2018 Paris Motor Show. Should you desperately need all-paw traction, this might be the version to wait for.
Keeping an eye on what’s already available, opting for the 3008 will see you armed with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty including roadside assist, and a capped-price servicing program called Peugeot Assured Service Price Promise that sees the first five years of scheduled maintenance (at 12-month/20,000km intervals) priced at $2977 in total, inclusive of all scheduled fluids and filters.
A competitive warranty is always a plus, but the higher price of servicing might be enough to steer buyers back towards the more affordable upkeep of familiar brands.
By not being a photocopy of your typical medium SUV, the Peugeot 3008 – innovative interior in particular – creates clear space for itself. Close to premium in its presentation, and refreshing in its design.
The cloudy past of French cars that were simply different for the sake of it has gone, and replaced by products that are better considered and entirely functional for their intended purpose. The 3008 is a perfect example of an urban SUV that covers all the needs that couples or young families could ask of it, without too many design-led compromises.
It still won’t suit all tastes, but that’s not really a problem given that it still has the broadest appeal of any recent Peugeot product, while also keeping its individuality intact.