Five minutes with a Peugeot 3008

What is it?

The Peugeot 3008 has been around for nine years, and it – along with its ’00’-badged siblings, the 2008 and 5008 – is part of the French company’s stable of bigger machines.

Previously, the 2008 was a small crossover, the 3008 was a sort of crossover/SUV/MPV thing, and the 5008 was an out-and-out MPV.

All three are being overhauled, though, and Peugeot is going to make them all clearly SUVs, or at least heavily SUV-inspired in the styling stakes.

This is particularly good news for the 3008 MkII, launched last year, because the original car was hideous to behold.

This one, though, is stunning from the outside (any car which can carry off brown paint successfully has got to be worth a look).

It competes in a class alongside any C-segment-sized SUV-esque machine going, like the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan, SEAT Ateca, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson… we could go on, but we think you get the point: this is a congested and highly competitive marketplace.

Why are you driving it?

Because the 3008, despite being up against some pretty stiff competition, has just been crowned the European Car of the Year for 2017.

This in itself is no guarantee of brilliance, as some incredibly clunky duffers from the annals of motoring history have scooped the title in years gone by (the Fiat Bravo/Brava, original Fiat Tipo and Ford Scorpio all spring readily to mind).

So, although Peugeot has picked up ‘ECotY’ twice previously in the 21st century – somewhat justified in 2014 for the largely excellent 308 hatch, utterly undeserving in 2002 for the awful 307… that year, the Fiat Stilo came third, which gives you an idea of the ‘strength’ of opposition that Pug was up against – this time around it seems like a more notable, worthwhile honour.

That’s because the shortlist of seven machines that were up for the award included some mighty good cars, like the Nissan Micra (no, really), the Toyota C-HR (again, give it a chance…), the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

So could the 3008 really be that good? Good enough to see of this exalted calibre of opponent? Time to find out…

What do you like about it?

Everything. For a company that has been in the doldrums for far too long, the new 3008 isn’t just simply ‘better than the mediocrity that went before’; it’s actually the best mid-sized crossover in class – and that’s even more of a glittering accolade than ECotY.

Underpinning the Pug’s masterful performance is the best car interior we have seen in decades.

If Volkswagen had given this passenger compartment to the world, the whole of humanity would be fawning all over the German company as if it had just invented sliced bread, but because it’s ‘less fashionable’ Peugeot, people seem to underestimate just how good the interior of this car is.

It’s like something lifted wholesale from a motor show concept vehicle. There’s a slick and intuitive touchscreen above a row of seven lovely, piano-key switches which control various shortcuts for the infotainment and climate.

Then there’s the scalloped-out dash structure, that provides real visual appeal. Everything is made of high-quality materials and it’s all intelligently laid out. And finally, there’s the tiny, flattened-off steering wheel and the most exquisite, configurable 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster in the business.

Honestly, the graphics in this make even Audi’s Virtual Cockpit look a bit clunky and outdated.

So blindingly good is the interior that you almost forget that the diesel engine is wonderfully cultured and muscular, or that the ride quality is near-unimpeachable (even on bigger alloys), or that it handles pretty decently for a tall-riding vehicle, or that it functions superbly as a family vehicle because there’s a load of space for people/luggage on-board, or that the cabin is an incredibly hushed place to be, even when the 3008 is moving at speed.

In short, it’s a brilliantly resolved car in all the chief respects that really matter. It’s an astounding turnaround for a company that, not so long ago, was knocking out dross like the 307 hatch and 1007 city car.

Any issues?

Umm… we’re struggling.

OK, for the GT Line model we’re driving here, you’ll be looking at around £30,000 to sit in it, which is a lot.

The handling might be good but it’s not sensational; an Ateca drives more sweetly than this. And, er… well… hold on… ah yes, the indicators make a funny noise. That really and truly is all we can think of.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

The 3008 with this 120hp diesel engine is a good choice for the business user, as it comes in at just 19% for Benefit-in-Kind and it can return up to 71mpg, although on the rural lanes we have here in Lincolnshire, it was turning in more like 44mpg in reality.

Admittedly, with more motorway miles, that number should at least rise into the 50-60mpg bracket.

And, if you do a lot of distance annually on the roads, for £560 you can have a driver’s seat that’ll give your back a massage, which is a lovely comfort touch.

Where does it rank in class right now?

As we’ve already said, it is top of a ferociously competitive and enormously lucrative section of the market.

There are some corking vehicles in this mid-sized SUV/crossover class and yet the Peugeot has come from almost nowhere to eclipse them all.

It looks great. It drives smartly. It’s incredibly refined and comfortable. There’s a wealth of useful equipment included. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is a little gem and, of course, it has an utterly show-stopping interior that redefines the segment.

OK, the Peugeot 3008 might not be exactly cheap, but it’ll still undercut a Volkswagen Tiguan by a significant degree – and it’s so special to be in and to drive that it might even have you questioning why you’d need a BMW X1 or X3, or one of its similarly overpriced Teutonic rivals.

The 3008 is a genuinely game-changing piece of kit and it couldn’t be any more remarkable, rewarding or sensationally brilliant if it tried. European Car of the Year, for all the right reasons, then.

TECH SPEC

Model: Peugeot 3008 1.6 BlueHDi 120 S&S GT Line
Price: 3008 range starts from £21,795; 120 S&S GT Line from £27,345
Drivetrain: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
Economy: 70.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 104g/km – £140 VED annually; 19% benefit in kind
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
Power: 120hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 1,750rpm