Peugeot 3008 Media Drive 21

Cars are generally cast into rigid segments, each featuring a set range of competitors with the same bodystyles, virtually identical dimensions, similar engine capacities and carefully-matched performance and fuel efficiency figures. The advent of the crossover with its off-road-ready exterior shrouding a resolutely on-road chassis has muddied things a little bit, but by and large, shopping for a particular car is still almost always fairly straightforward.

Not so the Peugeot 3008, introduced here back in 2010. Built on the bones of the previous-generation 308, it featured a small, turbocharged engine and promised the rufty-tufty looks and high driving position of an SUV, the versatility of an MPV and the driving manners and compact dimensions of a family hatchback. Even against its immediate rivals in the crossover sector the 3008 was a fairly oddball choice, and combined with the, um, challenging aesthetics it looked like a recipe for disaster.

Except it wasn’t – the 3008 found homes in many Malaysian households over the past four years, appealing to people who wanted a commanding view from the driver’s seat without having to suffer the ordeal of parking and manoeuvring an actual SUV. For them, the appearance was easy to overlook – it did at least look rather tough, and to most people buying a crossover, that was exactly what they wanted.

And now the 3008 has been given a refresh, with a number of subtle tweaks inside and out as well as a bit more power. Hopes for the new model run high, with official distributor Nasim expecting it to play a vital role in the company’s plan to shift 7,000 Peugeots this year. So, have the upgrades brought anything new to the crossover table?

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The 3008′s looks have never been held in high regard in the office, with many colleagues expressing their dislike in particular of the awkward front end, the narrow triangular headlights, expanse of black plastic and large egg-crate grille giving a passing resemblance to an evil-eyed troll. Thankfully, the facelift has addressed that, giving the 3008 the friendlier Peugeot corporate face first seen on the 508.

The new grille is slightly smaller, rimmed in tasteful chrome and feature just two horizontal chrome ribs as opposed to the multiple slats that gave the old car a rather toothy look. A classy “Peugeot” badge is set into the top edge, under the traditional lion logo.

Directional bi-xenon headlights replace the halogens that came before – they now feature a 2008-esque forked design and kinked LED daytime running lights on the bottom edges. The fog light surrounds are also smaller than before and they too are complemented with subtle chrome detailing.

Compared to the front, the rest of the car has seen relatively little changes, but it does gain a nice set of LED tail lights with three light bars representing lion claws, as well as new 17-inch “Aregia” split-spoke diamond-cut alloy wheels.

Overall, while you still wouldn’t call the 3008 handsome – it’s still saddled with ungainly, front-heavy proportions – it is at least no longer offensive, and the new chrome details and head- and tail light jewellery do give the car a more upscale aura that mostly eluded the original.

If there was anything from the old car that deserved to be kept, it’s the attractive, well-built and premium-feeling driver-focused cockpit. To that end, Peugeot has done very little to alter the cabin, only adding a flat-bottomed steering wheel, new audio and media controls, navigation, a rear-view camera and a new head-up display unit that displays different colours for cruise control information as well as the distance alert function that alerts the driver if they are driving too close to the car in front.

Another new feature is the Available Space Measurement (ASM) which works with the four rear parking sensors and six new front sensors to measure parallel parking space and informs the driver of the feasibility of the manoeuvre. No, it doesn’t park the car itself, but it will surely help make slotting the 3008 into an available slot a lighter affair.

The new retractable seven-inch LCD screen, adjustable for tilt, does look a little out of place, perched high up the rakish dashboard and facing straight instead of towards the driver, but the graphics look great and the whole system is quick and works well once you master the slightly confusing menu and control layout.

The HUD, on the other hand, looks cool in the showroom, but the height-adjustable display is too low even in its highest setting, so you still have to look down to read the information anyway.

What the 3008′s interior has always been lacking (and where its regular hatchback roots are most apparent), however, is the amount of space on offer. It’s a big problem, especially in such a family-oriented segment, and unfortunately it’s here where the new car still falls flat.

While the front occupants will do just fine, with lots of adjustability in the supportive and comfortable seats (mercifully, Nasim has finally specced electric operation for the driver’s seat) and all the toys, the rear passengers will be finding their quarters rather cramped indeed.

There’s no problem with head- or shoulder room, but legroom is at a premium, especially when sitting behind taller people. At least the rear air vents ensure that sitting at the back is still just about bearable.

No complaints with the boot, though – a wide aperture and a low sill height make the generous 512 litre luggage space very accessible and, if need be, you can fold the 60:40 split rear bench remotely through levers in the boot to boost that space further to a massive 1,008 litres.

Those figures are achieved with the movable boot floor in its lowest position – you can move it up a notch to be level with the folded rear seats, or one more to create a split space. There’s even a handy removable torchlight that doubles as a boot light when stowed, as well as a split tailgate, so you even have somewhere to perch on after a round of heavy cargo lifting.

Before I pass judgement over how the 3008 drives, it has to be said that the test route in Penang only covered a short distance from the launch event in Queensbay Mall to the hotel in Batu Feringgi, shared with two other journalists (including Izwaashura Sadali from our sister site InfoKereta.com), so there wasn’t a lot of time to actually drive the car. Still, some of the car’s nature did shine through.

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The 3008′s ubiquitous Prince 1.6 litre twin-scroll turbo four has been updated to produce 163 hp, a mere nine more horses than before but done at the same 6,000 rpm. Torque has held station at 240 Nm, made from a low 1,400 rpm all the way to 4,250 rpm.

Setting off from a standstill, that abundance of torque – a figure matched only by the equally turbocharged Ford Kuga but achieved over a thousand revs earlier – makes itself clear, pulling the 3008 (along with three adults and all their luggage) with ease and sustaining the momentum throughout the rev range. No qualms about the six-speed automatic gearbox, either, which shifts smoothly and swiftly.

Refinement is also first-rate. Even at higher speeds the engine simply hums along, and both road and tyre noise are kept at comfortable levels. Shame about the nuggety ride, though – the clever Dynamic Ride Control of the previous car has been removed, and without it, you do get a sense that the engineers had to stiffen the suspension a fair bit to stop the tallboy body from rolling too much in the corners.

The new car does still lean when you pitch it into turns, but not as much as you would expect given the way it looks. There is lots of grip, and the all-around disc brakes are strong and dependable (maybe a touch too grabby initially, but familiarity breeds smoothness), but the steering is very light, if reasonably accurate. It’s not too bad, but a hot hatch it ain’t.

But of course, you’re not buying a hot hatch; you’re buying a crossover, and its slight handling foibles are forgivable. What isn’t so easy to overlook in a car generally intended for the school run and the occasional balik kampung trip is the ride and the lack of space in the rear compared to many of its rivals.

If you are looking for the ultimate family holdall that will swallow five adults with plenty of room to spare, you really should be looking elsewhere. Nevertheless, the facelifted Peugeot 3008 still a likeable car – much better to look at than before, still a lovely place to spend time inside (at least for the people in front) and perfectly fast enough.

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As for the price, well, a ten-grand premium over the outgoing model means the 3008 is no longer such a bargain alternative to the usual crossover brigade, sitting at RM153,888. That said, you still wouldn’t feel shortchanged, considering the amount of new kit on board.

More importantly, safety equipment remains unchanged, so you still get six airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, stability control and ISOFIX child seat anchors on the outboard rear seats. That’s still one airbag less than the Kuga, but the Ford does cost six grand more…

For further reading, research the Peugeot 3008′s specs, price and equipment on CarBase.my and read owner reviews as well as our CarBase.my expert review.