Saturday 21 January 2017

The inside story: Peugeot heads up revolution with this muscular motor

First drive in Bologna: Peugeot 3008 SUV

Published 26/10/2016 | 02:30

The Peugeot 3008 has been transformed from people carrier to muscular motor
The Peugeot 3008 has been transformed from people carrier to muscular motor
The latest generation i-Cockpit with digital dash
The front of the Peugeot 3008 SUV

Peugeot's new 3008 SUV gets here in late January with a lot more than just its strong looks to talk about.

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In many ways the story of the new compact crossover is about the inside, and how they've transformed the way it conveys and displays key information.

I haven't come across a better example of a digital dash - except perhaps Audi's virtual cockpit. The exceptional use of graphics and positioning creates one of the best display/interface packages around.

And they've used it in a cabin that would not be out of place in the so-called premium segment. It is that good; much better than I anticipated.

The latest generation i-Cockpit with digital dash
The latest generation i-Cockpit with digital dash

This is now a proper challenger in the Crossover stakes (rivals include the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai etc). No doubt about that. Especially when you take some of the more technological driver assist/safety equipment that's standard into account.

They've turned the 3008 from people carrier to muscular motor to meet demand for crossovers - and it has been done with boldness. The front is in-your-face, take it or leave it. I'd take it. The rear is BMW X3-like. And the flanks are strong modern SUV.

This is a substantial change of focus all through: from digital dash to bumper skirts, wheel arches, large wheels, shaped roof bars, and a 22cm lift in ground clearance.

It is 8cm longer (4.45m; good rear-seat room) but slightly lower (1.62m but loads of head room) and the same 1.84m width.

The seating was firm and sturdy (some nice materials); I quickly got a good driving position and settled easily after trying out those buttons and keys that help make the digital dash. It's all part of the latest generation i-Cockpit (standard) and involves a small steering wheel (now even smaller and flattened on top and bottom - and great fun especially on sharp bends) so you can easily see the instruments. Only, they've gone much further this time. The instrument panel is now a hi-res 12.3ins screen. And in the middle of the dash there is an 8ins touchscreen 'tablet' with six toggle switches ('piano keys') for access to the main functions. You can choose from five different display modes, from the steering wheel controls. Even I found no difficulty 'getting' how easy it was to interchange and prioritise what you want to see (speed, nav, music etc). All in front of your eyes.

The main engines for Ireland will be the 1.6-litre 120bhp diesel (excellent drive in this) and the 1.2-litre 130bhp petrol (impressed us big time). There is also a 2-litre diesel (150bhp) and a 100bhp 1.6-litre. All are in or around the €180/€190 road tax mark.

Pricing has yet to be announced. The current 3008 starts at €26,000 on-the-road. With a plethora of spec accompanying the new car on its fresh platform (EMP2), it is only to be expected prices will rise but I was told not by that much at all - that I'd be (pleasantly) 'surprised'. Great.

There will be five trim levels: Access, Active, Allure, GT Line and GT. The price steps between them are: €2,000 from Access to Active; €1,500 from Active to Allure and €3,300 to GT Line. GT itself will have a 2-litre diesel 180bhp with auto transmission (disappointing). All the others come with 6spd manual/automatic boxes.

Standard spec is a good indication of the level of safety/driver aid stuff on board. It includes driver attention alert, lane departure warning, intelligent speed adaption, 17ins wheels, cruise control (speed limiter), semi auto air con, several airbags.

Active adds NCAP safety Pack (advanced Emergency Braking system + front collision warning etc), front fogs, bi-zone air con, rear parking sensors, Mirror Link, 8ins touchscreen. Allure adds 18ins alloys, Safety Plus Pack (+ high-beam assist, driver attention alert etc). And GT Line adds sunroof, park assist, full LED headlights.

They plan on getting a car to each dealer shortly so people can sit in and try it out. They're also getting virtual reality headsets so customers can sample to their hearts' content. Virtual or real, they'll find the cabin roomy and tastily laid out with a large, unusually-shaped central console. Boot space is up 90 litres to 520 (1,580 with the rear seats folded).

Grip Control gives it off-road ability of sorts. It is an enhanced traction control system with five grip levels (Normal, Snow, Mud, Sand, ESP Off) which you choose via a central console knob. It comes with 18ins Mud & Snow tyres and Hill Assist Descent Control (HADC) and costs €375.

On the basis of my first drives, I've no doubt the 3008 SUV puts down a real marker for Peugeot as it pushes for major change in a world dominated by SUV demand. It also precedes many new models: a new 5008 arrives in April while the Expert 9-seater is due soon (from €31,375). And we'll see petrol hybrids and plug-ins from 2019.

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