This crossover may look nondescript, but Neil Vorano finds pleasant surprises behind the wheel.
2010 Peugeot 3008
Here at Motoring, we pride ourselves on giving fair reviews of any and all cars available to you, our dear readers. Yes, the 500hp sports cars and little hot hatches are great fun for us to hoon around the Emirates in, but hey, we realise that there may be some of you out there that need a practical car, too. You know, on those days that you need more seats than the two that are in your Ferrari.
And so it is that I've found myself behind the wheel of a car I've admittedly never even seen before: the Peugeot 3008 crossover. And while it's not normally the type of vehicle I dream about in restless slumber, I've grown surprisingly fond of this not-car-not-SUV people mover.
And this is despite its outward appearance, something that can perhaps be described as "awkward". Looking at the car, it's best to lift your hand to cover the front end from view and take in the rest of it. It's really not a bad-looking vehicle from the A-pillar back, even if it does blend in somewhat with other small crossovers on the road. But Peugeot opted for the family look with the front end, and the gaping grille and straked-back headlights just makes the front look so long. It's not offensive, just ungainly.
But inside is a different experience. Passengers sit high like in an SUV with a commanding view of the road in a cabin that is modern and logical, with nice touches like real metal (both chrome and brushed aluminum) trim. The gauges are almost sporty even, and the line of switches at the top of the centre console gives it a very business-like and driver-oriented feel. Overall, not many complaints, but some areas feel a bit low-quality - for example, the cruise control stalk feels a bit flimsy (not to mention the fact you can't even see it behind the steering wheel when you're driving), and the passenger grab-handle feels like it will break if pulled hard enough. The seats, while being an attractive, contrasting bone colour from the overall black dashboard, are made with a cheap-feeling fabric that looks like it wouldn't wear very well over the years.
But the panoramic glass roof is amazing, giving the cabin such an airy feel and making it feel bigger than it already is. (And the car is roomy - easily swallowing five passengers comfortably.) Another notable feature is the techno-geek head-up display, a pop-up glass instrument in front of the driver that displays the speed digitally. And while it has parking radar alarms in front and back, I would have liked a sat-nav and even a back-up camera as options.
But people who need to haul copious amounts of stuff around will appreciate the 512L of space with the rear seats up and 1,604L with them folded down, which also creates a flat floor.
But the real redeeming feature of this vehicle is the powertrain; for a car this size, 1.6L of engine just doesn't sound like enough; you'd think it would be a dog under acceleration around town and on the motorway.
And you'd be sadly mistaken. It's shocking how powerful this 156hp feels like; the turbocharged engine reminds me of Audi's fantastic 1.8L turbo plant in how well it pretends to be bigger than it really is. On the motorway, it has no problem in keeping up with - and passing - other vehicles, even at the higher speeds found on Sheikh Zayed Road. And in town, it's just downright spritely. Don't expect a muscle car to get the kids to school, but not once did I wish for more power from this crossover.
Equally as impressive, and ideally mated to the engine, is the six-speed automatic gearbox. In normal mode, it's set up for economic, low-rpm shifts, yet you rarely feel like it's working against you. But when you want a bit more peppiness, the sport mode has shifts coming higher in the rpm range, and it makes a huge difference. It works better than the gearboxes on many more-expensive cars.
This combination of engine and gearbox gives it outstanding fuel economy: its combined result is listed at 7.7L/100km, and the real reading on the onboard computer didn't stray far from that number, whether in town or on the motorway. And all this with the power of a larger V6.
Also perfectly matched to the power is the handling. A tall, five-passenger crossover has no right to being this fun in the corners. It turns flatter and with more poise than many sedans, and certainly has less understeer. All this despite having one of the most cossetting rides in its class, soaking up potholes, drainage grates and even speed bumps as if the car actually rides on a soft sponge. Rarely do you get a car that has the combination of ride and handling done so well, especially in this price point. It's a feat made possible, says Peugeot, with a rear suspension system that hydraulically couples the shock absorbers, limiting roll.
It's not absolutely perfect, mind you; at times, it seems just a little wobbly at slower speeds, as if all four suspension points are bouncing slightly on their own. It's nowhere near being a worry, but it's just noticeable enough to mention.
If you can get over the stark snout and the cheaper interior materials, the 3008's rewarding drive, good fuel economy and interior space makes this Peugeot ideal for a family mover. It may not quite soothe having to leave the Ferrari parked in the garage, but you may be surprised at how much you'll enjoy the drive.
Price, base / as tested Dh89,900 / same
Engine 1.6L turbocharged four cylinder
Gearbox six-speed automatic
Power 156hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 240Nm @ 1,400rpm
Fuel economy, combined 7.7L / 100km