An award is never a guarantee that a product will turn out to be a commercial success, but it offers a validation that the item is – at least for that moment – perceivably ahead of the rest of the field. When that award is a coveted one, involving representation of sentiment from across an entire continent, then that should provide a pretty good measure of how it is viewed.

For a car, taking home something like the European Car of The Year title is special, a blue riband moment. Sure, there have been some rather dubious choices in the past, but by and large the recipients have been deserving of the kudos presented to them.

The most recent winner happens to be the Peugeot 3008, the subject of today’s examination. The second-generation SUV is, as it turns out, a very different animal to the vehicle it replaces, but just how deserving is it of that ECOTY laurel?

Ahead of a more localised report soon on the fully-imported CBU vehicle, which was officially introduced in Malaysia last week, we take a first look to see if the product lives up to the accorded fanfare via its European international drive, which took place in Italy.

The Sochaux-built C-segment offering, which sits on the automaker’s new Efficient Modular Platform (EMP2) chassis that also underpins the new 308, gets a fresh look – the odd design language of its predecessor is gone, and in comes an SUV styled along more conventional lines.

Regular doesn’t translate into boring, of course – the French automaker has injected enough flair in the new car to keep it from looking staid or predictable. The general proportions are good, and there are plenty of sharp lines – specifically, from the rather vertical front end and high waist line – to make for a strong visual engagement. With the optional gloss “Black Diamond” roof in place, the SUV has quite a striking, distinct personality.

Measuring in at 4,447 mm long, 1,841 mm wide and 1,615 mm tall, with a 2,675 mm-long wheelbase, the new car is about the same size as the first-gen, being marginally longer by around eight cm, while its wheelbase is 62 mm longer.

Despite the face that it hasn’t added much bulk, there are improvement to the interior volume with regards to key passenger dimensions, albeit in small increments – front elbow room is up by 17 mm over the old car, but most of the gains are to be had at the back.

Here, occupants get an additional 24 mm of rear legroom, while headroom has been increased by 36 mm, and an extra four mm of rear elbow room has been eked out. Boot space is also up at 520 litres, an increase of 88 litres from the 432 litres available on the old 3008. With the 2/3-1/3 split-folding Magic Flat rear seats folded to offer a flat load floor-layout, load capacity increases to 1,580 litres.

European buyers get a wide variety of engine choices, with two petrol mills in three variant forms and four diesels in five versions to pick from. The two gasoline units are a 1.2L PureTech 130 S&S (available in six-speed manual and six-speed auto, and in standard and low consumption forms) and a 1.6L THP 165 S&S six-speed auto – the latter is of course the sole engine pick for the Malaysian market.

The PSA Prince unit, here in EP6FDT guise, is good for 165 hp at 6,000 rpm and 240 Nm at 1,400 rpm, and paired with an EAT6 III transmission, gives the particular 3008 variant a 0-100 km/h time of 8.9 seconds and a 206 km/h top speed in its Continental form. A combined fuel consumption figure of 5.7 litres is claimed, though realistically a litre or two should inevitably be added in real-world conditions.

A number of 17- and 18-inch wheels are available for the SUV, and as already defined, five-spoke 18-inch Los Angeles units wrapped with 225/55 profile tyres equip the two specifications that are available in Malaysia, a midline Active and a more upmarket Allure (the baseline trim is called Access). Above the Allure sits a GT Line dress up package and a GT variant, which kits up the SUV further.

Driver assistance systems for the 3008 are led by Advanced Grip Control, an enhanced traction system offering five modes (Normal, Snow, Mud, Sand, ESP Off), and these can be cycled via a rotary dial located next to the button offering hill assist descent control (HADC). Both items are present on the Malaysian-spec cars.

The 3008 can also be specified with a number of items that the automaker has grouped under an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) umbrella. The list includes active safety brake and distance alert, active lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop function, active blind-spot monitoring, speed limit sign recognition and recommendation as well as a Visio Park (360° all-around vision) camera and park assist.

Other items on the safety front on the five-star Euro NCAP-rated vehicle include a six airbag count as well as ABS, EBD, emergency brake assist, traction control, dynamic stability control and electronic stability programme.

The 1.6L THP 165 was the primary focus on the drive in Italy, which started out in Bologna and headed to the south towards the Florentine town of Le Moschere before looping north again over a 156 km-long route. From a performance perspective, there’s a lot to like in how the SUV serves up its wares – it drives a far sight better than the old one, being far more accomplished in both response to steering input and agility.

The few opportunities to try out the handling dynamics on the route revealed the 3008 to have reasonably nimble feet and decent grip levels – simply put, it steers around corners in cleaner fashion and with higher accuracy, and there’s a greater sense of tautness about it compared to the first-gen, which could feel wallowy and ambiguous when pushed.

The ride – at least on European tarmac – isn’t far behind. It’s nuggety but not overly firm, though hard ruts do upset the compliance and otherwise decent composure, which raises questions as to how it will play out under local road conditions, but we’ll find out soon enough. Noise levels, meanwhile, are decent – a fair bit of road noise creeps into the cabin, but it’s not intrusive.

As for pace, it’s not vivacious, but the turbocharged Prince mill provides enough midband push to keep progression decent, if rather linearly, and on the whole hauls the 1,300 kg vehicle along well enough. Although it’s not the fastest ‘box around, the transmission does its best to add to that cohesion – transitions are fluid and the gearing is suitably scoped.

The GT, in its 2.0L BlueHDI 180 S&S form, was also sampled on the route, and despite its additional mass (1,465 kg) the DW10FC oil burner expectedly impressed with its keen pull, its character always willing. The 1.6 litre petrol however feels more polished both in delivery and scope, and on the whole its intrinsically smoother character made it a more preferable drive – and pick – over the diesel, despite the latter’s superior immediacy from its 400 Nm of available twist.

While we won’t be seeing the 1.2L PureTech 130 iteration of the 3008 locally, some quick notes about it. As you’d expect, there’s less urgency on the whole, but in its manual guise, the shifter keeps interest levels fairly high, and so drivability aspects remain quite engaging. As an urban hauler on the Continent, the lack of outright zip won’t be so pressingly felt.

Sharp looks and good drivability score the 3008 big points, but it is the interior that is the winning card on this one. The short of it is that the cabin is an absolute gem in terms of presentation as well as in materials and fitment. To say that what’s on here wouldn’t be out of place in offerings from more premium brands is putting it mildly. What’s on the Pug could well shame some of them.

The brand’s i-Cockpit dashboard design presents a fascia layout with a driver-centric presence, replete with an angled centre console. Switchgear is at a minimal, but what is there is very well presented, with a row of six piano-key toggle switches and a novel gearshift lever leading the way. The latter is ergonomically sound in operation, despite the fancy looks, and feels good to the touch.

The 3008 also features a compact steering wheel featuring a flat top and bottom, a design said to offer better visibility and legroom for the driver. The rectangular unit is also claimed to be easier to grip – initially quirky in feel, the wheel proved to be as advertised, though certain driving positions have an impact on instrument cluster visibility.

Performance-wise, speed levels are quick, and though the heft feels artificial and the progression is vague off centre, the rack steers the car about nicely enough in its basic form, as shown via the 1.2L variant.

Basic, because better steering involvement can be had by ticking the Driver Sport Pack option, which introduces a firmer and more responsive power steering as well as an enhanced accelerator pedal mapping. It also improves the engine and gearbox response, and also amplifies engine sound into the cabin via a digital amplifier.

The standout item in the cabin is the high-resolution 12.3-inch screen that is the digital instrument cluster. Something that wouldn’t be amiss in a much more expensive or upmarket offering, the display can be completely configured and personalised to preference. Five different display modes are available, selectable via a knob on the steering wheel. A visual treat in every sense, it’s a fantastic piece of kit to have at this price point.

Sitting next to it at the same level is a centrally-mounted eight-inch colour touchscreen – the free-standing unit works the infotainment route and offers direct access to the main control functions (radio, climate control, navigation, vehicle parameters, telephone and mobile applications). The user interface has a clean layout, with operational aspects intuitive to boot.

Elsewhere, the materials on call – with elements including full hide leather, chrome inserts and gloss black trim – continue the great work, and on the whole the 3008’s cabin is appointed to a level that punches well above the weight of its class. This really is nothing short of a blue horizon kind of interior, one that redefines the segment.

Shame that the local car isn’t specified with the optional Focal Premium hi-fi system, which was highlighted in big fashion at the drive – the system, which features a 515 watt, 12-channel amplifier and a 10 speaker array (complete with a subwoofer), adds even more flourish to an already captivating cabin.

The first outing by the French audio outfit in the factory-fit scene has impressive tonality and good punch, and sounds downright spectacular for a vehicle in this price segment. To serve notice of its particular prowess, the company had a home audio setup showcasing one of its high-end Utopia loudspeakers along with a selection of its very tasty-sounding upmarket headphones, of which the Elear sounded particularly outstanding over a quick sampling.

A quick mention of scent, which is also given focus on the 3008, if only to bring to light how serious the automaker is in pushing premium and occupant engagement levels. An optional i-Cockpit Amplify system offers active in-cabin perfumery, with three specially-developed fragances to pick from, to complete a sight, sound and scent trinity.

Other cabin-related kit include a large panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control (with rear vents) as well as a host of connectivity options. The list includes 3D connected navigation, a Mirror Screen function offering compatibilty with MirrorLink protocols on Android smartphones as well as Android Auto and Apple Carplay support. There’s also Qi-compatible induction smartphone recharging in the mix.

Outfitted to the brim, the demonstrator mules in Bologna certainly made a huge impression from the inside. Away from the mesmerising interior layout and trim, comfort levels from the fronts seats were high over the nearly 200 km travelled in total on the route, as were the ergonomics and tactility of the switchgear. The rear bench was trialled briefly, and looks able to offer adequate levels of amenity for short to medium-haul runs.

It’s a truly impressive second try for Peugeot with the new 3008 – from a product point of view, there’s very little to pick with it. Yes, it can be a bit pacier, but it drives well, wears a sharp suit and is well-equipped. That exceptional interior seals the deal, with the automaker’s push to raise the game on this front a defining moment. Worthy then of that crown? On that cabin alone, without a doubt.

You can compare the specifications of the Malaysian Peugeot 3008 THP Active and Allure variants on CarBase.my.