The 3008 compact SUV has oodles of static appeal, but are the GT-Line’s cabin ambience and generous spec list enough to warrant the pricing?
The Peugeot brand has had a tough time locally. Even before Peugeot Citröen South Africa made the decision to cease new-car operations of the chevron badge earlier this year, sales of Peugeot’s vehicles have indicated buyers are less enamoured with the Gallic brand’s products than they should be given its passenger-vehicle line-up’s overall competence.
Of course, Renault South Africa’s success can’t have helped but rub salt in the wounds of the French carmaker. Models such as the Duster, Sandero, Captur and Stepway indicate a great number of South Africans have eschewed their erstwhile bias – one that found footing in the 1990s and 2000s – against all French brands, and the reason is simple: Renault imports vehicles that speak to buyer needs; Peugeot has been less successful in this regard. The 208, 2008 and 308, good products as they are, have historically been relatively expensive and their range compositions often confusing.
Recently, however, Japanese-based company VT Holdings bought a majority stake in the local operations, meaning that Peugeot in South Arica is no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of the PSA Group mother company. With that move has come a new managing director, Francisco Gaie, and a firm promise to focus on aftersales support, particularly addressing the perception that Peugeot parts are expensive and their availability frustratingly patchy.
Coinciding with the sweeping changes at head office is a widespread range realignment. The 308 compact hatchback receives a facelift soon, the 2008 was recently revised to include a 1,2-litre turbopetrol and two diesel variants, and the 208 range rejigged to incorporate only Euro 5 engines. Those changes, however, have been mere warm-up acts for the main event. Fresh from a win as European Car of the Year (an accolade bestowed on the 308 not too long ago), the 3008 ditches the previous version’s globular, MPV-like silhouette in favour of a more traditional compact-SUV shape.
That’s a sensible decision by Peugeot; in Europe alone, sales of this size of SUV have increased two and a half-fold since 2009, when the first 3008 debuted. The local range will consist of five models differentiated by trim but not engine nor transmission. Under the stubby hood rests Peugeot’s familiar 1,6 THP turbopetrol engine, coupled with a six-speed torque-converter that sends power to the front axle. We’re testing the second-tier GT-Line. It costs R499 995, and on more than any other version, style is paramount.
Words such as “traditional” and “sensible” are ones the new 3008 wholeheartedly shuns. Testers returned from driving the new Peugeot full of praise for the exterior design’s proportioning and classy details, and especially filled with compliments for the design and finish of the cabin. We’ll start there. Utilising an evolved version of the firm’s i-Cockpit design approach, which downsizes the steering wheel and places the instrumentation above the wheel’s rim, the cabin of the 3008 looks unlike anything else in this segment. Form and function blend seamlessly, and all testers could find a natural seating position where the wheel did not obscure the speedo and rev counter.
Those dials are part of a crisp 12,3-inch digital screen that’s configurable through five display modes, including an adaptable personal one, and features slick animations and the option of displaying a sat-nav map in conjunction with the eight-inch screen perched atop the dashboard. Talking about sat-nav, it’s but one standard item on a GT-Line spec sheet that would give an S-Class pause for thought.
LED headlamps with a cornering function, climate control, leather trim throughout on seats that are electrically adjustable and incorporate heating and massaging, wireless smartphone charging, ambient cockpit lighting, keyless entry and start, 180-degree parking camera and a comprehensive sound system incorporating MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay, plus safety items such as lane-departure warning, road-sign detection and driver attention alert, are all standard. In fact, aside from the paint colour (including an interesting duo-tone combination, dubbed Coupe Franche, that costs R16 500) and an upgrade to a full maintenance plan from the standard (poor for the class) four-year/60 000 km service plan, there are no options.
But the interior’s real triumph is its material quality, which is at the forefront of the compact-SUV class; the textures of those materials; and perceived build quality, which saw our 3008 test vehicle feel rock-solid even when the tyres wrapping those 19-inch wheels transmitted a touch too much crash and fidget through to the otherwise superbly refined cockpit.
Underpinning the new 3008 is the EMP2 platform that forms the basis of the 308. Millimetres shy of our Top 12 Best Buys Compact SUV, the VW Tiguan, in almost every measurable external respect, the 3008 is a reasonably practical package. Headroom throughout is sufficient without being generous, but rear legroom is good (up 24 mm over the old 3008) and the boot spacious. We would, however, have appreciated a sliding and reclining rear seat to toggle luggage-space/occupant requirements.
What isn’t in doubt is the appeal of the 1,6-litre turbopetrol. Familiar from a number of Peugeots and Citröens (and some previous-generation Minis, too), the THP unit develops a brawny 121 kW and 240 N.m at just 1 400 r/min. Tug the stubby gearlever into drive, set off and what’s apparent straightaway is the smooth pick-up from pull-away and burly performance in-gear; the THP is quicker by a substantial margin across all increments than the Tiguan 1,4 TSI. It’s also a unit that’s refined and frugal, recording an average of 8,1 L/100 km on our 100 km mixed-use fuel route, or 0,2 litres less than the VW.
This version of the EMP2 platform utilises a torsion beam at the rear instead of the more complicated and costly, yet often more sophisticated, multilink arrangement. That means the 3008 can turn flustered when conflicting loads are placed on the rear axle. Drive into a corner at a speed that’s more enthusiastic than conservative, hit a rough patch mid-bend and that axle does a gentle skip sideways. But that happens infrequently.
Driven in a city environment and the polish of the ride quality impresses. As alluded to, there’s an underlying firmness to the 3008’s rolling prowess that clearly marks it out as a product of Western European descent, but the damping is of sufficient quality to err on the side of comfort. The steering is direct, though unwavering in its weighting despite the presence of a sport mode, but newcomers to the i-Cockpit concept might require some acclimatisation with the small wheel; it seemingly makes the 3008 feel a touch top-heavy. Braking was superb, the four discs linked to ABS posting a supercar-rivalling best stop of 2,54 seconds from 100 km/h and an average of just 2,70 seconds.