If you’re after a mid-size family SUV, you’re not exactly wanting for choices at the moment – any manufacturer worth its salt will already have a contender to this hotly contested market sector. In our video group test, Mat Watson tries out three of the latest additions – the Peugeot 3008, the Toyota C-HR and the SEAT Ateca – to help you make your mind up.
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The Peugeot 3008 is the most expensive car on test, with entry-level models costing £22,495, rising to £33,695 for top-of-the-range versions. The slightly smaller Toyota C-HR costs from £21,065 with fully loaded versions priced around £29,000. The SEAT Ateca is noticeably more affordable, costing from £18,340, although this difference is soon eaten up once you spec the Ateca to the same levels as the other two. All prices are correct at the time of writing.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but few would argue that the new 3008 isn’t a marked improvement over the dumpy old model. In fact, compared to the understated SEAT and the slightly fussy Toyota, the Peugeot strikes a great balance between sophisticated French style and brutish, upright SUV charm.
The Toyota is certainly the most eye-catching of all three with thin, pointed headlights meeting the Toyota badge in the middle, heavily sculpted sides and brake lights that appear separate from the body. Whether you like its bold styling, however, is a matter of taste.
While it’s not unpleasant to look at, the SEAT Ateca’s shape is somewhat nondescript compared to the other two. Piercing headlights and a trapezoid grille lend the front some visual character but little else differentiates it from the equally understated VW Tiguan it’s based on.
Inside, the 3008 becomes a very attractive proposition. It has Peugeot’s latest i-Cockpit design – essentially an oddly small steering wheel and dials you view over the top of the wheel rather than through it. This, combined with the 3008’s tastefully laid-out dashboard and standard digital dials in place of traditional gauges, helps it feel like a thoroughly modern place to sit.
The C-HR’s cabin is more of a mixed bag. The materials used feel of decent quality, the seats are impressively supportive and the stubby gear lever feels suitably sporty, but there are still inconsistencies such as the naff digital clock and the cheap trim around the dials. The worst feature by far is the dated infotainment system, however, with cheap graphics, garish colours and messy menu layouts.
Like the outside, the Ateca’s interior is well built but a little bit dull. The touchscreen infotainment system is fairly easy to use thanks to clear graphics, responsive touch inputs and big physical shortcut buttons on either side. Like the Peugeot, the materials used feel good-quality and are sturdily screwed together but the design is unexciting next to its French rival.
Rear passengers in the Peugeot should be reasonably comfortable while the middle seat occupant benefits from a flat floor. The rear doors don’t open as wide as they could do, making fitting a child seat harder than it could be. The boot is impressive with no loading lip, flat-folding rear seats and a front passenger seat that folds down to fit very long items.
Its small body means the Toyota doesn’t offer as much rear passenger space – a problem made worse by comparatively small windows that’ll leave rear passengers feeling claustrophobic. Like the Peugeot, the rear doors don’t open very wide so fitting a child seat can be a chore. The boot’s around 25 per cent smaller than the other two, and the actual opening is awkwardly shaped making it hard to load heavy items.
The Ateca scores well for practicality. There’s lots of space in the rear row and the large windows help it feel light and airy – a gearbox hump where the centre-rear passenger’s feet go is the only real bad mark. The boot is vast and a usefully square shape – enhanced by a square opening that makes it easy to load wide or awkwardly shaped items.
Driving and engines
The Peugeot’s small steering wheel makes it feel unlike any other car to drive, lending it quick reflexes and making it easy to twirl the wheel through manoeuvres. There’s a reassuring sense of weight and stability which, combined with the car’s generally comfortable ride quality, makes it easy to spend time in. Four-wheel drive isn’t offered but optional Grip Control gives it some light off-road ability. The 3008’s 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine has enough power and remains quiet in most conditions.
You sit comparatively low in the Toyota compared to the other two here so it feels more car-like and less SUV-like to drive – although over-the-shoulder visibility is compromised by massive rear pillars. It strikes a decent balance between feeling sporty and agile while not being too uncomfortable for family buyers, but does let quite a lot of tyre roar and wind noise into the cabin, making longer journeys harder. The C-HR’s 1.2-litre turbo petrol is nice to use and there’s also a hybrid version if you do almost exclusively town driving.
SEAT has a reputation for building sporty cars and the Ateca translates this into a family SUV. The steering is responsive and the car doesn’t roll very much around corners, aided by fairly stiff suspension. Inevitably, the trade-off here is poorer ride quality over rough surfaces and big bumps – especially potholes at town speeds that send shocks through the cabin. The Ateca’s 1.0-litre turbo petrol is sufficiently powerful but the more powerful 1.4-litre turbo unit is smoother and feels more at home on the motorway.
Overall, the Toyota is a decent car but family buyers will be better served by the two larger cars here, plus issues around refinement at speed make it harder to live with than it needs to be. The SEAT is a great all rounder with good engines, useful practicality and excellent build quality but struggles to be as exciting as some cars in this class.
The Peugeot 3008 manages to strike the best balance of family friendly practicality, desirable design and a relaxing driving experience. It offers all the practicality of the Ateca with an even greater focus on style and comfort meaning both the driver and their passengers will prefer the Peugeot.
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