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Peugeot’s new 3008 crossover

2010-02-23 15:26

Angus Thompson

Peugeot’s 3008 wants to be a car, an SUV and an MPV. Is it ingenious...? Or just confused.  

When describing Peugeot’s new 3008, you have to imagine a pregnant woman dressed in hiking boots and a French silk dress. Not exactly pretty is it. Well neither is Peugeot’s 3008 to be honest. But, like an expectant mother, it has a huge belly, plus MPV-like interior space and caters for a young family’s transportation needs.

Its hiking boots take the form of Michelin’s 17-inch low resistance offroad tyres that, together with a new 4x4 system (which Peugeot has dubbed Grip Control) and 16cm of ground clearance, allowed the crossover to traverse the well maintained dirt roads of Bitterwasser in Namibia at the vehicle’s local introduction.

Dressed in the latest in French fashion, the 3008’s silk dress underlines the brand’s future styling direction, together with an avantegarde appeal and some slightly odd proportions.

The overall exterior design has a tall MPV-like quality, similar to Renault’s RX4 Scenic, with an SUV-inspired demeanour characterised by its split tailgate, elevated driving position, short overhangs and reinforced front and rear protector plates.
There’s no doubt that the styling will polarise opinion as its soft lines don’t bark with masculinity. But like most moms’ taxis, it’s positioned as more of a safari accessory for the city commute than a chiselled all terrainer.

As a crossover, Peugeot hopes to compete head to head with vehicles in divergent market segments (compact SUV, hatch back and MPVs) with a one size fits all approach taking on the likes of VW’s Tiguan, Renault’s Koleos (similarly Nissan’s X-Trail), Hyundai’s forthcoming ix35 (formerly Tucson) as well as existing crossovers like the Dodge Caliber and Mercedes B-Class.  

The 3008 is based on the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group's Platform 2, which also underpins the 308 hatchback. In reality, the 3008 doesn’t match the offroad capability of its rivals, but does feel a lot more solid and substantial than the Peugeots of the past.  The 16-cm ground clearance is also lower than most compact SUVs in the offroad sector, but the ride quality over bumpy terrain is excellent with good torsional rigidity, comfort and insulation.  

The crossover positioning of the 3008 is highlighted by the new Grip control traction system, which is available as a R2 000 option on high-spec 3008 1.6 THP and 2.0 HDi models.
The Bosch-developed Grip Control system electronically varies the traction control and the amount of wheel slip to both front wheels across five driving modes (Standard, Snow, All-terrain, Sand and ESP Off) accessed via a Land Rover-like rotary control on the centre console.

While we didn’t experience any obvious benefits from the system on the thick sands of the 3008’s launch route, Peugeot say that it varies the traction control system catering for slight wheel slip to aid momentum (in the Sand setting), while allowing for a high level of slip (on the loose wheel) in Mud mode and redirecting the majority of torque to the wheels with traction. This is similar to BMW’s X-Drive system in function, but would ultimately work better with a low range facility or limited slip differential.

While Jean Francois Bacos, Managing Director of Peugeot Motors South Africa, doesn’t foresee any issues with the replacement cost and availability of the Michelin Latitude Tour HP Mud & Snow 215/60 R16 tyres or the low sulphur diesel required for the diesel 3008 HDi units, we have our concerns on availability north of the border.
That said, the 3008 performed very well on and off Namibia’s tamer dirt roads and the 115kW 1.6 THP (Turbo High Pressure) petrol engine is a real peach with 240Nm of shove underfoot.

The other two four-cylinder units in the range include an entry-level 88kW 1.6 VTi petrol with Variable Valve Lift and 160 Nm of torque, as well as a refined 2.0 HDi turbodiesel unit that develops 110 kW and 340 Nm torque, crediting the HDi with a 5,6 litres/100 km fuel consumption for the combined cycle.
Previously Peugeot’s gear linkages were so soft one often mushed each gear into place in a similar motion to stirring a wooden spoon around a mixing bowl.  The 3008’s six-speed manual by comparison (available on the 2.0 HDi and 1.6 THP) is far more positive in its shift action with less lateral play, while the entry-level 1.6 VTi engine prefers a traditional five-speed manual shifter.

Other practical features that impressed and reinforced the 3008’s broad positioning were the air-conditioning system, which in heat of the Namibian sun provide excellent ventilation via four vents in the fascia panel, as well as two adjustable vents for the rear passengers.

There are also around 50 litres of under foot storage compartments, a handy fridge in the centre console, and a split rear luggage compartment with a cargo space divider that can be placed in three different positions.
At base level, the full cargo area of 512 litres is available with a 2,62 m load length, from the tailgate to the fascia panel, when the backs of the rear seats and the front passenger seat are folded down. In this position the 3008 has a total loading capacity of 1 604 litres.
As the vehicle is fairly top heavy, the 3008 is fitted with Peugeot’s Dynamic Roll Control system, which acts like a third shock absorber, increasing the damping effect when cornering. By interacting with the two rear shock absorbers to reduce body movement mid corner, the DRC system increases ride comfort and stability during straight-line driving.
Peugeot have bolstered the 3008’s options list with their own version of BMW’s Head Up Display (HUD) as well as a Distance Alert (Peugeot’s version of Merc’s Distronic minus the physical intervention), an automatic electric parking brake and Hill Assist (the latter two standard on all models), and USB/Bluetooth connectivity.

With the improvements in the build quality, driving dynamics and loading versatility it’s not surprising that the Brits from the UK’s What Car? Magazine crowned it as their Car of the Year for 2010 as well as the magazine's top choice in the Crossover category.

Like BMW’s 5 Series GT, the 3008 attempts to be a vehicle that offers everything to everybody. But in reality in can’t match the dynamic ability or desirability of a hatchback onroad or the prowess of compact SUV offroad. It’s essentially an MPV and on that count it delivers.

But in South Africa, French carmakers like Peugeot face a tougher battle than just positioning the right product to the right market. The biggest challenge is aftersales service at dealer level. The perception of high parts pricing still lingers although we’re told that under the newly formed PCSA (Peugeot Citroen South Africa) logistical costs and a more favourable exchange rate will reduce costs in the future.

But when I questioned Jean Francois on the replacement cost of the 3008’s large 1,7m2 panoramic front windscreen on the top-of-the-range Executive model, he replied that it cost in the region of R16 000 retail… to the dealer.
Top-of-the-range Executive versions add a 1,6 m2 sunroof, increasing the total glazed area to 5,34 m2 is immaterial if you consider the cost if one crack or chip appears. The French may feel the 3008’s silk dress is ingenious and ideally suited for our African bush, but in reality its not going to be cheap to maintain and unlikely to be a practical option to venture very far off the beaten path given the likely availability of low sulphur diesel and those Michelin boots north of the border.  


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