Real-life road test review: The one where we take the Peugeot 3008 to France
Crossovers are ridiculously popular right now, and as such we’ve had a number of them pass through our car park in recent weeks.
Well, they claim to offer that added bit of practicality over lowlier hatches for a start, which on paper makes them an excellent choice for families. But is that really the case?
To find out, we put the Peugeot to task with a slightly more interesting challenge than our usual commute through suburban South Manchester – a continental road trip. Well, if you class Northern France as continental, anyway.
It would be an ideal opportunity to see if this kind of car is any more practical than a hatch or estate alternative and, more importantly, answer some questions about the Peugeot that you just can’t on a rainy Tuesday on the A34.
For example, does the automatic tailgate still make sense when the boot is packed to the rafters? Even more importantly, does ‘cat paw’ mode make the optional massage-function driver’s seat worth the extra £620? We reveal all…
The adventure kicks off on the car park that is the M6 southbound on a Thursday morning. With a few hours to kill before picking up two more fellow passengers, the next few hours would be an ideal opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the Peugeot’s tech-filled interior.
With a felt-covered dash, neat ambient lighting in the doors and brushed aluminium ‘piano key’ switchgear, the 3008 stands out from some of the rather drab interiors you’ll find in most of its rivals.
After shouting at me for not asking Peugeot for the larger 5008, and laughing at me for picking a 1.2-litre turbo petrol rather than a diesel (more on that later) my passenger set about giving the infotainment system a thorough testing.
You can summon menus via those aforementioned fancy buttons on the dash, but for the majority of functions you’ll be making use of the 8in touchscreen. It protrudes from the dash in a way that fools you into thinking it’ll fold away, a bit like an old Aston, but it doesn’t.
He promptly found one function that I had not: our GT-Line 3008 is equipped with an ‘Amplify’ system that allows you to switch between different ambiences. It adapts the mood lighting, speaker settings in-car fragrance diffuser and, most interestingly, by turning on the driver’s massage-function seat (if you pay for the £620 option). It’s quite a pricy option at £620, but the ‘cat paw’ mode is not at all disagreeable.
Now, these kinds of systems aren’t what you’d call revolutionary, but combined with the rest of the interior it's an indication of Peugeot’s ambition to move upmarket. And we haven’t even mentioned the main attraction yet…
In front of the driver you’ll find the 3008’s most significant bit of tech – Peugeot’s iCockpit digital display. It’s a standard feature across the 3008 line-up, and again a signifier that Peugeot is upping its game. For the most part, it works well. We won’t go as far as saying it’s as good as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – it lacks the sharpness and ease-of-use of the German system for a start – but it achieves everything it sets out to do, and on the lowlier trim levels is excellent value too.
Enough ogling of the interior though, what about practicality? Another dreary two hours later and it'd be time to find out, by picking up two more passengers... and their luggage.
At this point I should explain we aren’t going for a relaxing weekend in the French back and beyond. The destination is actually Croix en Ternois race circuit, where two of said passengers are set to race with the (aptly named as it turned out) Crisis Racing. The result is that a multitude of race-related paraphernalia must somehow fit into the 3008.
My fellow travellers looked on a little concerned. After being shouted at again for not bringing a 5008, I assured them the Peugeot has a class-leading boot, and that fitting everything in would be a doddle. In fairness I should have done my research on that one. While the 3008’s 520-litre boot is larger than the Qashqai (430 litres) and the Seat Ateca (510 litres) it’s not what you’d call class-leading.
After much careful arranging though, there were no problems. Admittedly the parcel shelf had to be ditched, but after making use of the adjustable boot floor and a bit of ingenuity with the Peugeot’s many and varied cubby spaces, everything went in with little trouble. The automatic tailgate did mistake the rucksack for a small animal, but that’s certainly not an issue limited to the Peugeot.
What is worth considering, however, is the Peugeot 308 hatchback has 470 litres of boot space – that’s short of the 3008 but, considering the massive increase in dimensions, it’s not all that much larger on the inside.
Before reaching the tunnel, it’s time for a fuel stop, and quite a pleasant surprise. You see, I didn’t ask Peugeot for an effortlessly torquey 2.0-litre diesel for this 700-mile trip, oh no. The GT-Line in question here makes use of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol.
It was chosen for two reasons: firstly, it’s the most popular 3008 derivative on ContractHireAndLeasing, and secondly, in these days of declining diesel numbers I thought it’d be interesting to see if a tiny turbo-petrol can ever hope of achieving the same kind of economy as Peugeot’s impressive diesels.
Throughout the trip, the Peugeot managed to maintain just over 42mpg – not bad considering the amount of luggage on board. This could go some way to explaining why it won International Engine of the Year. On that note…
Rivals such as the Seat Ateca and Mazda CX-3 are proof that crossovers needn’t be dull to drive and, while the 3008 isn’t quite on par with the best in class, it certainly comes close.
That tiny turbo thrums away in a manner only a three-cylinder can – a nice break from the usual diesel drone. If you want to increase this thrum further, there’s the obligatory ‘Sport’ mode, which amplifies the engine noise via the speakers.
Aside from the increase in decibels, it also tightens up the steering – nicer than the slightly disconnected feel it otherwise has. So while it's not an Ateca, it isn’t meant to be: comfort is the order of the day in a French car and, with no complaints from any of the passengers, I assume it scored well in that department too. Or maybe they were just being nice.
Now to the race. Three laps in an erroneous Belgian causes quite a mess. It looked like our race was over, or so the not-so-mechanical spectator in me thought – two hours later and the car was back on track. The two-hour lull provided a good opportunity to take some pretty pictures of the Peugeot.
In a segment that jam packed with rather samey, drab designs, it’s a breath of fresh air. Rather than good looking, I’ll use the word striking, or as striking as a reasonably priced family car has the right to anyway. An an example, have a closer look at those rear lights... Mustang anyone?
So, what can we conclude from our continental(ish) crossover adventure?
First off, don’t discount the small petrol engine. With four passengers and a bootful of luggage, 42mpg is an impressive feat. As for space, well, everything and everyone did fit in, but if you’re after space then you shouldn’t automatically assume a crossover is the best bet; I’m adamant a 308 would have coped equally well with the task, and been slightly nicer to drive, and cost you less than a 3008 too.
What the 308 doesn’t offer however, is that desirable lofty driving position, an interior that feels truly premium and a curvaceous stand-out exterior. If those are where your priorities lie – and it appears that they are for an increasing number of people – then the 3008 should certainly be on your shortlist.