We pit an unorthodox choice from the orthodox brand against the orthodox choice from an unorthodox brand.
More people should go against the grain. As today's pairing demonstrates, you don't have to go full-alternative to get the result.
Mazda has a history of mainstream orthodoxy in Australia, while also doing things its own way – the MX-5 is one example and rotary-powered 'RX' cars another.
Its MX-30 is equal parts fascinating and weird, but likely to be accepted given the brand from which it comes. It's a four-door SUV in a sense as there are 1.5 doors on each side and another on the back. The last cars to rock 'freestyle' style doors, aside from the current crop of extra-cab utes, were the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Mazda's own RX-8 sports car.
We're testing the latest car with funky doors in its cheapest guise – the 2021 Mazda MX-30 Evolve M Hybrid. All versions coming to the Australian market will be either partly or fully electrified offerings – more on that in a sec.
Squaring up is another unorthodox choice. This time, it's not the product that is peculiar, but the brand.
Everything about the 2021 Peugeot 2008 Allure is segment typical, from the number of doors to its regular petrol engine. Its avant-garde styling and unique cabin layout are less orthodox but very Peugeot.
So it's the brand that fuels the oddness here. Peugeot is currently an unknown in our market; a statement supported by the fact it has sold 868 to the end of May 2021. To provide context, Mazda has sold 5519 examples of its more conventional CX-30 SUV, and 304 MX-30s in the same time.
So, two different choices, but different for different reasons.
Let's see how they compare.
Pricing and equipment
Entry to the Mazda MX-30 range starts with the Evolve M Hybrid priced from $33,990 before on-roads and options. That makes it $2400 more expensive than the more regularly styled and larger Mazda CX-30 that sits in the same segment.
Options include a Vision Technology Pack for $1500 and premium paint as a $495 privilege. Our car's fantastic Sonic Silver paintwork comes at no cost, so consider our test car a circa $38,000 drive-away proposition depending on where you live.
Peugeot's new 2008 small SUV is offered in three trims in Australia: Allure, GT and GT Sport. Naturally, we've lined up an entry model for this test, which has a richer starting price of $34,990. Compared to the larger and also recently updated Peugeot 3008, the 2008 is exactly $10,000 cheaper.
The lion brand offers no technology nor equipment options, just two types of premium paint at either $690 or $1050. Our Platinum Grey finish brings its total list price up to $35,680, or about $40,000 on-road.
As SUVs targeting stylish up-and-coming families, safety ought to be well covered. Mazda includes a good selection of driver assist systems as standard, not limited to blind-spot monitoring, a lane-keeping system that steers away from lane dividers as well as things travelling behind you, forward and backward autonomous emergency braking, and traffic sign recognition.
The Peugeot is still comprehensively equipped, but not to the extent of the Mazda. It doesn't include blind-spot monitoring, and its lane-keeping system only works on road lines, not other cars. Furthermore, the emergency braking system is capable of operating when travelling forward, but not backward too like the Mazda.
Other similarities include LED headlights, push-button start but no keyless entry, DAB+ radio, rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, and cloth seats.
|2021 Mazda MX-30 Evolve||2021 Peugeot 2008 Allure|
|Engine||2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder||1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||114kW @ 6000rpm, 200Nm @ 4000rpm||96kW @ 6500rpm, 230Nm @ 1750rpm|
|Transmission||Six-speed torque converter automatic||Six-speed torque converter automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.4L/100km||6.5L/100km|
|Boot volume||311L (1301L rear seats folded)||434L (1467L rear seats folded)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (tested 2020)||Five stars (tested 2019)|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km||Five years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Peugeot 2008, Toyota C-HR Hybrid, Subaru XV Hybrid||Mazda MX-30, Volkswagen T-Roc, Ford Puma, Kia Seltos|
|Price as tested (before on-roads)||$33,990||$35,680|
Infotainment and technology
Inside, both are laden with fancy screens. Mazda's approach sees it digitise all interaction points, with a dedicated 7.0-inch touchscreen managing climate control, another same-sized screen located in the gauge cluster, and lastly an 8.8-inch non-touch panel in the dashboard for infotainment.
The digital air-conditioning panel adds an aura of sophistication to the cabin, as other cars with a similar interface cost at least three times more. Thankfully it's not a completely touchscreen affair, as a selection of physical buttons do flank the panel. It means not all tactility and ease of use is lost with Mazda's impressive-looking system.
Infotainment is operated via Mazda's smart rotary controller, which can be found perched up high behind the gear shifter. Easy to learn and easy to use while driving, it's a familiar reminder that sometimes our first attempts at vehicular human-machine interfaces are better than what's current (looking at you, BMW).
The Pug is down on screen count but maintains an ace up its sleeve. Two panels feature: a 7.0-inch centre screen for everything from climate controls to smartphone mirroring, and another 10.25-inch three-dimensional display acting as a gauge cluster.
This second screen is fascinating and functional. It uses its ability to convey depth to prioritise information. For example, lane departure or forward collision warnings appear as if in front of all other information to catch your eye. It also works hard to make the French SUV feel a little more premium.
Its infotainment display isn't as sharp as the Mazda's, however. It also loses usability points being a touchscreen only. You either wave your finger in the air trying to tap accordingly or lean forward out of your seat to chock your hand in an attempt to aid dexterity.
Another strike comes from it being a multi-purpose display that manages climate control, vehicle systems and smartphone mirroring. That means flicking between Apple CarPlay and temperature control is a multi-step process. If neither of those issues concerns you, the Peugeot's display is 1.8 inches smaller diagonally, but still fits plenty in with a taller aspect ratio.
Mazda has tried to make something of an eco-statement with the MX-30 (which will soon form the basis for Mazda's first electric vehicle) and uses a range of recycled and sustainable materials to construct its interior.
One example comes from the felt-like material used throughout, which is made from strands of plastic from recycled water bottles. It sounds like it would be a coarse, rough material, but it's actually rather pleasant.
Another is the use of cork. We have no real idea on its longevity under the Australian sun, but it's another sensational material to see inside a vehicle cabin. That's because not only is it renewable in the sense it comes from tree bark (that grows back), but it's also a wonderfully textural material. Cork is inconsistently knobbly, which gives it a rather handmade and organic vibe.
The rest of the cabin feels slightly left of centre too. The elevated centre console that includes the gear shifter, infotainment controller and touchscreen climate-control system gives the appearance of a floating console. Underneath sits a hidden, cork-lined cavity with two USB ports.
Behind sits a clever pair of versatile cupholders. In drink-holding mode, they do exactly that. However, you can fold down a pair of cork-clad covers that turn them from beverage holder to storage tray. In this setting, you also have free access to the armrest storage area without having to lift the lid.
Other storage areas include door bins capable of homing a medium-sized water bottle, and an oddly-shaped hidden cubby under the steering wheel area.
The biggest question with the Mazda's cabin remains its unique backward-opening half doors – and whether they're a gimmick or usable design feature. If you're wondering how you open them without first opening the front door, you can't.
Climbing into the second row feels alien at first, unless you slide the front seat forward. One thing to note is there's a large latch in the middle of the pillarless area, so watch your head as you climb in. Sitting behind my own driving position, space is tight for the class. My knees were close to the seat backs, feet left with plenty of space, and head equally so.
Guests in the back have access to storage in the half doors and enough visibility to make the experience homely. A point that will bother some, but not all, is the fact its rear windows are fixed and do not open. Child seats will fit, but rearward-mounting them does transpire to a loss of front passenger leg room.
The MX-30's cargo area is small at 311L. Although not as tall, it's a touch longer front-to-rear than the 2008's, and with some clever arrangement will happily accept a fortnight's shopping alongside a small bag or two.
The Peugeot's cabin is also unorthodox, but not in terms of material. You'll find regular car-like plastics alongside cloth and leather-look upholstery. Where it differs is in terms of cabin layout.
The brand calls its design 'i-Cockpit'. To us this means the introduction of a very small, hexagonal steering wheel mounted lower down, and an instrument cluster perched above. Peugeot also claims i-Cockpit refers to a general lack of switchgear, but let's file that under French minimalism.
CarAdvice's Sydney office remains divided on the concept, with some finding the location of the steering wheel uncomfortable when positioned to not obstruct the gauge cluster. Both myself and co-tester Sam Purcell found the experience refreshing and easy, however, especially as the speedo's legibility is improved when mounted in your line of sight.
Other unique aspects of the cabin include a covered storage area that with its lid folded down creates a handy, upright phone storage tray. Located behind this novelty is a pair of large cupholders (finally) and shallow armrest cubby.
The materials, although not renewable, are well thought out. There's a wide gamut of quality cloths and plastics used to form a design that wouldn't look astray coming from a more expensive German prestige brand. While the Mazda's interior is made from unusual materials, the Peugeot looks universally premium and high-end.
Accessing the second row is easier due to conventional doors. There's more room in the Pug, too, the bulk of which comes from extra knee room. It feels airier and more hospitable. In terms of child seats, it does a better job of mounting a safer, rearward-facing item. Simply put, everyone benefits from the fact it has regular doors – not just the owner.
Neither car has rear air vents, but the Peugeot does have a pair of USB charging ports for rear guests.
The Peugeot's boot space measures up at 434L, which is a significant 123L larger than the Mazda. It's also more versatile with its dual-height boot floor enabling you to either level the load sill or sacrifice it for the convenience of more space.
After poking about the pair, it's clear the Mazda's unique door arrangement compromises in the name of design. As small SUVs, they need to remain practical, and the Peugeot wins in that regard.
Mazda claims its cheapest MX-30 Evolve uses 'M Hybrid' technology to improve efficiency. The package includes a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, an upgraded alternator now gives back instead of just leeching, and there's a 24-volt lithium-ion battery. All up, there's 114kW and 200Nm to drive with.
While it proudly wears the term 'Hybrid' as part of its model name, Mazda's system is what's known as a mild hybrid. That means the electric side can assist the engine, or shut the engine down sooner, but isn't a full-scale fuel miser in the way, say, a Toyota hybrid might be.
Be that as it may, fuel efficiency must still be scrutinised. According to Mazda, the MX-30 Evolve should achieve 6.4L/100km over a combined driving cycle. Ours returned 6.9L/100km, which in isolation is good, but not segment-leading at all.
The problem comes because the Peugeot – which claims to be nothing more than a regular car – achieves 6.2L/100km over the same drive loop, compared to its official 6.5L/100km claim. Our route consisted of highway driving, faster country roads, and a return leg through suburban traffic during peak-hour.
Peugeot's approach to efficiency is far simpler: a lightweight ethos coupled with engine downsizing. Compared to Mazda's relatively large 2.0-litre engine, the 2008 employs a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder with 96kW/230Nm.
Ironically, it was this pint-sized motor that was the best performer on the day. Due to being turbocharged, its torque is accessible nice and low from 1750rpm, which greatly aids drivability. Another fun factor coming from the cylinder count is the noise. While not important to most, it creates an engaging, gruff melody that can't be ignored.
The Mazda makes noises, too, but likely ones you'd file under irritating. It requires more effort to drive above the pace of traffic, and in turn creating unpleasant thrashiness and vibrations from the engine. Neither car is fast, mind you, but the Mazda takes time to build up torque, with the peak figure arriving at 4000rpm. This point alone makes it feel down on performance versus the Peugeot.
As a consolation prize, the MX-30 will sip regular 91-octane unleaded, but the 2008 requires a premium 95RON diet.
On the road
Both cars deliver above expectations.
Mazda's engineers have taken an honest approach to the MX-30's steering and suspension. It's supple enough when it needs to be, yet sports the right balance of firmness. You'll detect some vibration over continual sections of pitted roadway, but that's genuinely as bad as it gets.
It showed no issues being pushed at pace either. If anything, it's at speed where the Mazda surprised the most. It felt engaging and most importantly direct, which translates to confidence behind the wheel. Its steering isn't hyperactive like the Peugeot's, but it does feel more authentic as a result. It loads up feeling natural, which makes it an easy car to learn and understand.
The Peugeot is the sportier option of the pair. What stands out is how little steering is needed to negotiate turns. A quarter turn is generally enough for most scenarios, and it's this speediness that you'll spend time familiarising yourself with. It feels heavier, however, which some will prefer.
Parking the illusion cast by its swift steering aside, the 2008 instantly feels more agile. The data points confirmed this suspicion, as there's a difference of over 200kg between the pair. Weighing around 1200kg in total, the Peugeot is a pleasant reminder of what cars used to feel like. It's not uncommon to see 1400kg attached to modern small hatchbacks; a point that it exposes.
Changes in direction are handled better by the Pug, as are general road imperfections and defects. Up at pace it engages, too, not feeling shy about wanting to carry speed either. Such positive attributes pay their rent to its overarching lightness.
The 2008 also has the edge in terms of cabin quietness, as coarse-chip roads caused more vibration and buzzing in the Mazda.
In terms of the drive, you won't be let down whichever way you go.
Both cars are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The Mazda MX-30 must be maintained either yearly or every 10,000km, whichever milestone is achieved first. Five years of servicing costs $316, $443, $403, $550 and $316, totalling $2028. Prices include all extra items including both engine and cabin filters, as well as brake fluid.
Peugeot's 2008 goes longer between intervals at 15,000km or one year, which matters to those travelling closer to the annual Australian average. Five-year prices are $347, $584, $347, $597 and $360, or a total of $2235 over the warranty period.
That makes the Mazda about $200 cheaper over a five-year period.
If you're considering either option, you clearly value individuality.
Both cars will draw attention differently. One will spark a conversation with your local French car lover, the other multiple conversations with more generally intrigued punters.
However, one must consider more rational elements. Mazda takes the lead on offering more active safety gear, but the Peugeot offers more space, more usability, and ironically more efficiency – despite not being having Mazda's supposedly more frugal mild hybrid system.
The situation with Mazda's doors also has us divided, but not equally so. A smaller camp, including yours truly, values the fun they bring and how they make you feel over any potential downside. However, the majority saw them as a gimmick likely to become tiresome.
As both are small SUVs, however, we place a greater weight on the practical and ergonomic aspects. That sees the Peugeot 2008 Allure nose just ahead in this one, but only by millimetres, and not centimetres.