Peugeot gets it right with the 3008
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A decade ago Peugeot had to rely on Mitsubishi to come up with anything approaching a feasible SUV design.
These days the carmaker goes it alone. And the 3008 SUV may just about be the best thing Peugeot has done without a GTI badge on the side.
Earlier this year the PSA Groupe brands — Peugeot, Citroen and the latter’s swanky offshoot DS — were all let go by their previous Australasian distributor, Sime Darby. On this side of the Tasman, they were immediately snapped up by Rick Armstrong’s expanding Armstrong Group.
Up until now it has been firmly a retail operation but Armstrong was quick to point to nostalgia (the Peugeot marque was his first franchise as a dealer more than 20 years ago) and a huge opportunity as reasons to take on the distributorship.
The Armstrong Group has its work cut out for it. It’s fair to say that, under Sime Darby stewardship, Peugeot and Citroen foundered in the New Zealand market. At a time when other European brands were booming ... well, what’s the French for “tumbleweed”?
Not even a price realignment for Peugeot’s smaller cars – admirably bringing them down into Japanese hatchback RRP territory – had the desired effect. Once Sime Darby had satisfied all the people who wanted a Peugeot hatchback, it appeared to be all out of ideas.
However, away from the empty showrooms of New Zealand, an evolution of sorts was occurring overseas within Peugeot. Whereas Citroen has always had what polite society refers to as “boutique appeal” and remains staunchly avant-garde in its approach, Peugeot’s efforts at mainstreaming its model output have been notable during the half-decade.
That’s not to say the manufacturer has completely homogenised its line-up into scalable identikit cars, a la Volkswagen. But a concerted effort to make, in particular, its 208 and 308 hatchback lifeblood a lot more palatable to a broader audience is obvious. The reintroduction of the GTI suffix a couple of years back also played to the crowd, successfully so.
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And I’d suggest that the arrival of the latest 2008 crossover and 3008 SUV have ratcheted things up another notch for Peugeot. Why? Because thanks to the SUV revolution, Peugeot has rediscovered its mojo for making large cars.
In the 1970s and 1980s it excelled at making big sedans that could traverse a continent (or State Highway 1) in style and comfort. Then the 1990s happened. And no one remembers the 605 or 607 with fondness. Even the more recent 508 fell flat, despite being a good car. But you can level some of the blame for this one on market forces, too.
After all, it appears no one now wants a big sedan.
So, Peugeot has quickly become good at building different sorts of large cars. The new 3008 SUV is the perfect example.
The one I drove recently was the top-of-the-range 3008 GT.
There are other 3008 grades available (entry-level Active and mid-range Allure), but the GT sees extra attention given primarily to the trim (Alcantara upholstery and electronically-fettled seats that can do almost everything except bake a souffle) and the safety equipment.
A $1750 option elsewhere in the 3008 range, the GT comes with Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Collision Warning, a 360-degree virtual bird’s-eye-view camera, Park Assist and an Advanced Emergency Braking system (which can deploy at speeds of up to 140km/h) straight out of the box.
The GT also gets the biggest engine; a 2.0-litre BlueHDI turbo-diesel with 133kW of power and 400Nm of torque on tap. Remarkably, despite the 3008 range extending to four models, there are three different engines on offer.
A 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbo diesel power the other grades. Combined fuel consumption for the diesels is especially good, too; 4.8L/100km for the car pictured and an impressive 4.4L/100km for the smaller 1.6-litre BlueHDI.
And this from an SUV designed to carry plenty of people and stuff, don’t forget.
Two iterations of 3008 feature Peugeot Grip Control all-wheel drive, with modes for mud, sand and snow (the other two are front-drivers).
Often a bugbear in French cars, the six-speed automatic transmission here is excellent; no hunting, no delay and it never once selected a higher gear as I embarked up an incline.
Especially in GT trim, the Peugeot 3008 is a fantastic car. It looks great without looking like every other SUV. There are lots of interesting chrome-laden creases and, on the GT model, a panoramic moonroof.
Inside, it eschews boringness to just the right degree; the so-called i-Cockpit cabin design is elegantly constructed and laid-out, with just a little bit of characteristic quirk here and there.
There are plenty of growing car brands playing in the local market with attractive models on offer, but inside it’s generally the same template skewed in different ways. Peugeot doesn’t follow this line at all and that’s great to see.
The Armstrong Group wouldn’t willingly invest in a turkey. Or even a French hen. A degree of crystal ball-gazing remains, obviously, but the product is getting better and better. The big challenge — something that hobbled Sime Darby — remains supply.
Our part of the world is a long way to send something as large as a car. Add to this our pesky penchant for driving on the right, and the amount of horsepower a French carmaker is going to exert in getting vehicles to the bottom of the world wanes somewhat.
I hope something changes there though, because New Zealand drivers are definitely missing out if they can’t readily get cars as good as the Peugeot 3008.
Engines: 1.6-litre THP petrol (121kW/240Nm), 1.6-litre BlueHDI turbo diesel (88kW/300Nm), 2.0-litre BlueHDI diesel (133kW/400Nm)
Prices: $39,990 (3008 Active petrol), $44,990 (3008 Allure petrol), $46,990 (3008 Allure diesel), $54,990 (3008 GT diesel)
Pros: Space, comfort, exterior looks, internal flair, point of difference
Cons: A petrol GT trim 3008 would make the line-up just about perfect