Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first of all – the fact that the original Peugeot 3008 wasn’t exactly pretty. Its cheese cutter chrome grille and slab sided looks did the crossover no favours in the looks department, though these were improved with the 2012 facelift. Sales last year failed to reach 10k, compared to more than 60,000 for the Qashqai and 23k for the Sportage, so it’s fair to say that Peugeot’s medium SUV has been underperforming in one of the car market’s biggest growth sectors. But that’s all set to change with the launch of the astonishingly good second generation 3008, which has been reimagined in just about every way. Cover the badges on the interestingly shaped steering wheel of the latest car, and ask people what car they are sitting in, and we’re not exaggerating when we say that most would probably say Audi. Quality has taken an Olympic-sized leap compared to before, with plush feeling plastics, nicely crafted real wood appliques on this top-spec GT model, and switches and buttons that have just the right amount of damping. The 12.3-inch digital instruments are reminiscent of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit in that they can be configured to how you desire, including the navigation mapping, except in this 3008 it all feels a generation ahead of the German brand, with nicely thought out graphics and crystal clear displays. The 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is perfectly angled for ease of use, and is coupled with a series of piano-style buttons that are shortcuts to the most commonly used functions. We’ve often criticised manufacturers for lumping all of the controls into a single touchscreen, where you need to navigation your way through layers and layers of menus to get at a function, so this solution is incredibly welcomed. Elsewhere, the gear lever is more like a joystick on automatic editions, but feels perfectly natural once you spend a few’ moments getting used to it.
The overall feeling is of sitting in an aeroplane’s cockpit, yet it doesn’t feel closed in, and is airy and spacious, no doubt assisted by the panoramic glass roof. The driving position is command-like, with a good view’ out, and in any case there’s a reversing camera and sensors to help with parking in tighter spaces. Up front there’s a generous amount of leg and headroom, while in the back there’s more than enough space for a trio of adults. Boot space of 591 litres with the seats up and 1,670 litres with the chairs folded down flat is almost class leading, with only the Volkswagen Tiguan bettering it for cargo carrying capacity. The engines in the latest 3008 are carried over from its predecessor, with the addition of this flagship 178bhp 2.0-litre unit from the308 GT and an entry-level 98bhp 1.6-litre powerplant. We spent most of our time with the 3008 GT, which is interesting because it exploits a gap in the market for a powerful, sporty looking edition.
Paired exclusively to a six-speed automatic gearbox, the changes are smooth and slick, while the engine remains quiet, even in the upper reaches of the rev range. Refinement levels are quite simply top notch, with any road and tyre noise nicely isolated, and wind flutter suppressed. Off the line the engine doesn’t immediately feel particularly quick, but it’s the strong mid-range torque that tells you that you’re driving something meatier. Handling is taut, with body lean nicely contained, and excellent grip through the bends. Thanks to Peugeot’s trademark small steering wheel, there’s a greater feel of agility to the 3008 than in many rivals, with nicely judged turn in, good accuracy and plenty of feel. Light around town, the electric power assisted steering weights up for extra feel as the speed increases. Even with the 19-inch alloy wheels, fitted to our test car, the ride comfort is nicely pliant, albeit with a firm edge to it. Low to medium potholes are shrugged off with ease, with only the deepest imperfections transmitted into the cabin.
At motorway speeds the ride is calm, reinforcing the 3008’s comfortable mile munching capabilities. Peugeot has teamed up with French audio specialists Focal for its optional premium audio upgrade, with ten speakers and 515-watts of power. A full suite of safety equipment is included, too, with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, driver drowsiness detection and adaptive cruise control all available on the new car, in addition to an automated parking system, blind spot monitoring, road sign detection and automatic high beam for the headlights. When the order banks open next month, ahead of its arrival in UK showrooms in January, the 3008 wall be offered with a choice of four trim levels -Active, Allure, GT Line and flagship GT.
A selection of four BlueHDi engines will be available, all including selective catalyst reduction to tackle harmful nitrous oxides. The 118bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 engine is offered with the option of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox, while the entry-level 98bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 and 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 are mated exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission. Like the 208 GTi and 308 GTi models, the 3008 GT Line and GT models are offered with special ‘Coupe Franche’ dual colour paintwork, which no doubt will split opinion. But whatever 3008 is your particular bag, we can’t wait to drive it for longer on UK roads.