The European Car of the Year award can be fairly controversial at times. There are occassions when you look at the judges’ decision and wonder what on Earth they were drinking – the 1996 Fiat Bravo winning ahead of the Audi A4, for instance.
But there are other times where five minutes in a car convince you that the’ve got it absolutely spot on.
The Peugeot 3008 is one of those cars and more than five minutes only goes to convince you further.
The first generation of 3008 was a slightly odd thing, aiming for a spot in the crossover market but looking a bit half-hearted and too much like an MPV for many people.
Peugeot 3008 GT Line PureTech 130
Engine: 1.2-litre, three-
cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
For this second generation there’s no such ambiguity, this is an SUV aimed at toppling the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca from their spots at the top of the C-segment heap.
From the outside it looks the part. There’s a mix of aggressive lines, chrome brightwork and LED lighting to give it a classy, mature look plus some black cladding to emphasise its crossover pretensions. It’s not the prettiest car in the class but it’s a big improvement on the droopy curves of its predecessor.
Inside, the fanfare has been all about i-Cockpit 2.0. This dash/instrument arrangement hasn’t proved universally popular, with some testers feeling its layout restricts visibility. For me it presents no such problems and is a fresh, user-friendly approach. The tiny steering wheel does take a bit of getting used to but looking over rather than through it quickly feels completely natural and makes for great visibility of the instrument cluster that sits at the heart of the i-Cockpit.
The 12.3-inch screen is sharp, clear and bright and its various different configurations look great and make sense. As well as a traditional dials setup you can opt for a full-screen navigation display or a driving assistance information mode. My personal favourite, though is the “minimum” setting that hides everything except your speed, the current limit and any driver aid information. It’s simple and removes so many of the distractions of modern instrument displays.
Next to the instrument display is an eight-inch touchscreen housing the main navigation and media systems. Like the instruments, it’s a slick and simple system to use and features a row of metal “piano key” switches to access the most-used functions.
They follow the theme of bright metalwork highlights that dot the cabin and contrast nicely with the broad-grained plastic and a fantastic fabric finish that covers the lower dash and sweeps around onto the doors. The overall effect is high-class and high-quality and the quilted leather of our GT Line car’s seats only added to that.
The cabin’s only downside is that rear legroom isn’t great if your driver is tall, and the high beltline and swooping roof make for a slightly dark rear space. Still, if you’re not happy there you could always climb into the huge boot.
From the driver’s seat the 3008 continues to impress. The tiny steering wheel makes for some very quick steering. At first it feels too quick but you soon adapt and appreciate a directness lacking from some rivals.
It blends handling and comfort better than many rivals as well. There’s not a lot of body roll considering its size but the control hasn’t come at the expense of the ride, which is pleasingly absorbent on rough roads without feeling overly soft.
The 3008 is available with a choice of six engines. Our test car was the 1.2-litre 130PS (128bhp) petrol, which on paper barely sounds enough for a C-segment SUV. Yet, like the PSA group’s smaller Puretech, 110 it impresses with performance that you wouldn’t expect. Even from low in the rev range it has plenty of guts to get going and never feels like it’s struggling. Admittedly, our test was carried out with just one person on board, how it would cope fully laden may be another matter. If it struggles there’s always the option of a 163bhp petrol or a brace of torquey diesels.
The C-segment crossover market is a hellishly tough one, with entrants from just about every brand fighting it out. It takes something special to rise above the masses but the 3008 is just that. Its interior quality, technology and driving experience are easily enough to justify the plaudits laid upon it as one of the best in the class.