Peugeot 3008 GT puts the ‘‘swish’’ into SUV
Can the European Car of the Year cut it in New Zealand? By
wheels busy in the damp weather we experienced for much of our test-drive time. It’s possibly a bit much for the chassis at times, which can feel abrupt in its responses unless you really concentrate on keeping it smooth.
The 3008 can’t match a Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan for handling prowess and that’s fine with us when we’re talking about such a stylish family SUV. But it would have nice to put even more emphasis on comfort and dynamic fluidity.
In fact, may we digress for a moment? We went straight from this GT diesel to an Allure petrol and it’s much closer to the mark. The 1.6-litre mill is smooth without over-stressing the driven wheels and the smaller 18-inch alloys, with higherprofile tyres, give the ride and handling a level of progression that’s not quite there in the more aggressive GT.
The GT interior is stunning – plenty of premium materials and designed around the secondgeneration of Peugeot’s ‘‘i-Cockpit’’ template, with the tiny steering wheel set low and the main instrument panel mounted high. The idiosyncratic driving position still won’t be for everybody, but it works much better in an SUV than a small hatch because you’re sitting higher over the dashboard anyway.
Not sure how well the GT’s Alcantara dashboard trim will wear over time, but it does feel awfully nice; lesser models have more durable finish.
Peugeot is finally seeing the error of its ways in banishing physical switchgear on earlier versions of i-Cockpit. The 3008 has a plentiful array of shortcut buttons, arranged as a gorgeouslooking row of ‘‘piano keys’’. The main screen is Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatible – although the Peugeot-specific touch-menus are still a tad confusing.
But once you learn your way around there are some gems to be found, like the GT’s i-Cockpit Amplify function: it allows you to configure the mood of the cabin (including lighting and fragrance) between Relax and Boost settings. You can even choose the type of driver-seat massage you get. I recommend the little-and-often ‘‘cat paw’’, which is slightly creepy but brand-appropriate.
The main instrument panel is completely digital and highly configurable – everything from a conventional-looking layout with large (virtual) speedometer and tachometer, to a sat-nav mode that gives over most of the display area to the digital map.
Every time you change mode the transition comes via a series of intricate animations. It might all be a bit gee-whizz for some, but the attention to detail is real surprise-and-delight stuff. Although the left-hand button on the steering wheel-boss controls the right side of the instrument panel, while the right-hand button on the wheel controls the centre-console screen . . . which is on your left. Makes perfect sense in left-hand drive. So you can see what they’ve done (or haven’t bothered to do) there.
The boot’s a decent size at 520 litres and while the rear seat only splits 60/40, the frontpassenger chair can also be folded flat to give potential load length of three metres. Not a new idea, but still a brilliant one that’s not used by many SUVmakers. So while the 3008 is pretty flashy, the practicality is also impressive.
There are disappointments. Lane departure alert and autonomous braking is standard on all 3008s, but our flagship GT is the only model to have the camera/radar combo of advanced emergency braking (it’s otherwise part of a $1750 option pack that also includes GT-standard stuff like adaptive cruise and 360-degree camera).
While FWD is entirely acceptable for an SUV these days, it’d be nice to at least have the option of AWD for Kiwi conditions; instead, the best Peugeot can do is a Grip Control traction system with different tyres and hill descent control, which is still a $500 option on the GT but standard on the Allure models.
And let’s face it: an ornate French SUV will still be considered a risky purchase for many Kiwi buyers, compared with mainstream fare from Hyundai, Mazda or Toyota.
But in many respects, the 3008 is an accomplished and desirable vehicle that makes so much of the competition seem desperately ordinary and unimaginative. In a market so cluttered with medium-sized SUVs, that’s quite an achievement.