The prospect of a family-sized crossover with zero road tax is a tempting one, and doubly so for those in the vicinity of London, who would enjoy congestion charge exemption into the bargain.
Using both an efficient diesel engine and hybrid technology, thats exactly what Peugeot is offering with the 3008 HYbrid4. But is it worth the extra cash over its regular diesel stablemate and can it match the lofty economy claims? Weve been driving an example to find out.
Ungainly. Gawky. Lardy. Flabby. Chunky. All are fairly unflattering adjectives, but all could reasonably be applied to the 3008s exterior.
Suffice to say, the 3008 HYbrid4 is not a pretty vehicle, and there are very few angles from which you can eliminate any of the descriptors above. The side profile is perhaps least afflicted, with a chunky silhouette and big blistered wheel arches that subtly imply all-weather ability, if not exactly off-road prowess.
The curved roofline is a nice touch too, but the front and rear – and by definition, any angle that incorporates their details – are too fussy, with an overly large front grille and haphazardly-designed rear light clusters. And on economy-enhancing 16-inch wheels, it also looks oddly proportioned.
In its favour, the splashes of chrome and metallic bronze paint do give off an air of expense, which is just as well considering the price tag – more of which later.
Thankfully, things are much better inside. Some commentators have likened the 3008s cabin design to that of the Audi R8
, which can only be a good thing. We see the resemblance, though naturally the driving position is a little higher and Peugeot hasnt yet matched Audis quality levels.
Still, its a good effort, and most of the plastics used avoid feeling cheap. Splashes of leather also help, and the unique dials, head-up display and curiously-shaped gear selector all provide visual interest.
The driving position is good, with a fair range of adjustment. Other passengers fair okay too, with plenty of space in the back and comfortable seats for all.
The inclusion of hybrid gubbins beneath the boot floor doesnt harm the 3008s practicality either. The split tailgate is still a useful feature, allowing you to sling bags through a large gap without them falling out, or dropping the bottom section to load larger, heavier items. Drop the rear seats – a flick of a handle sends them tumbling forward – and a nearly-flat floor awaits. Theres also space for smaller items in an under-floor boot tray.
Downsides? Well, we still dont like Peugeots infotainment system. Its needlessly tricky to use, wouldnt hook up to an iPhone 4, and even makes playing a CD more difficult than it needs to be. Peugeot seriously needs to work on its in-car entertainment.
Much of the driving experience is dominated by the hybrid system, which is covered in detail in the next section.
The rest of it wont leave you too disappointed, though. Firstly, the 3008 HYbrid4s cabin is a refined environment, particularly at lower speeds when electric propulsion is the order of the day. The silence does mean you can hear knocks and bumps from the suspension a little more, but thats something common to all hybrids.
Ride quality is a little crashy on some surfaces, despite the relatively tall tyres – so wed avoid the larger-wheeled options if you value a soft ride. It does improve with speed though, and for a relatively heavy crossover, the handling isnt bad either.
Its all very safe and predictable, and in the unlikely event you drive your hybrid family vehicle like a hot hatch, the stability control cuts in relatively early to keep you pointing the right way.
Listen up, as things might get a little complicated. The 3008 uses a 2.0-litre HDi turbodiesel with 163 horsepower. Its punchy, frugal and fairly refined. It also uses a 37 horsepower electric motor to drive the rear wheels. It gets power from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, which in turn is charged either by the engine, or by regenerative braking when you lift off the gas pedal.
You control all that via two devices. One is a gear selector, with neutral, reverse, drive and manual functions (the latter controlled by steering column-mounted paddle shifters), and the other is a rotary dial with Normal, ZEV (electric), Sport and 4WD options.
ZEV is most suitable for low speeds, and offers a few miles of range. In Normal you can do the same with some careful driving, but larger prods on the accelerator will rouse the diesel engine for more power. In either mode, the car is very refined and electrically-smoothed gearchanges are fairly unobtrusive.
At higher speeds this unfortunately isnt the case. While the engine remains very quiet, higher-speed gearchanges illicit a large pause as cogs are swapped. When accelerating hard, its both frustrating and uncomfortable as youre rocked back and forward. Things are better in Sport mode and better still in Manual, but who buys an automatic to drive it in manual the whole time?
On-paper performance isnt bad, with 8.5 seconds to 62mph and a top end of 118mph. Between engine and electric motor theres plenty of shove, and motorways are a breeze.
Aside from the staccato gearchanges, we noticed one other peculiarity from the car, related to the regenerative braking. Down a particularly long, 50mph-limited hill, the electric motor actually disabled itself and a warning appeared on screen. With only the electric motor holding the car back, we expect it overheated part of the system, and it took around 20 minutes to work again. Presumably it disabled the motor to prevent damage, and is therefore not a reliability concern, but it points to limitations with the design.
Value for money
None of the 3008 HYbrid4s closest competitors manage to offer the same free road tax and zero congestion charge, which immediately gives the car a unique selling point. You do have to pay a little up-front though – prices start at 26,995.
That seems a little steep, and if you want a special edition SR or 104g/km model with larger, more fashionable wheels, that price rises further. The well-specced and similarly-sized Mitsubishi ASX 4 we drove back in April was over 5,000 cheaper.
Throw in the Peugeots extras though – that road tax exemption, an automatic gearbox, more power and better economy – we managed 54mpg on average, to the Mitsubishis 46mpg in our hands – and you can see where the money has gone.
That economy figure is some way short of the claimed 74.3mpg combined, though, and realistically we expect many owners may not see more than 50mpg. Since the cheaper, non-hybrid 3008 HDi 163 wouldnt be far off that, albeit with a manual gearbox, youd have to think carefully about which model really suits your needs.
Still, equipment levels are high, and like all 3008s, the HYbrid4 gets a full five-star crash test rating from EuroNCAP.
As a family car, the 3008 HYbrid4 scores highly. Its comfortable, extremely well-equipped, very practical, avoids road tax and congestion charging, has some nice high-tech touches, and its usefully economical – though the latter very much hinges on making best use of the hybrid technology.
In other areas, we rate it less favourably. The jerky transmission verges on the unacceptable in an age of slick dual-clutch gearboxes and syrupy-smooth autos and CVTs. Wed also like those mpg figures to be a little easier to attain. And its not a pretty vehicle.
Buy wisely. You might find the regular diesel ones to be more economical, unless youre prepared to adapt to the intricacies of the hybrid drivetrain.
What the press think
Most reviews of the 3008 HYbrid4 are actually fairly positive, citing its practicality, performance and refinement. Several have reservations over the price, and like us, some are finding that the real-world economy is barely better than the significantly cheaper non-hybrids.
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