Hybrid [noun], mixture of two very different things

Road test: Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4

The interesting aspect of Peugeot’s 3008 Hybrid4 is its diesel-hybrid drive, the first mainstream use of a diesel engine in combination with electric motors. It works well; the engine is very refined and the sound and vibration insulation are extremely effective. In fact it’s not always obvious whether the diesel unit is running at all (unless a window is open). The diesel unit powers the front wheels, electric motors the rear.

There are four main drive modes. Auto is the normal operating mode, automatically switching between diesel, electric or both as required by the driving style, terrain and state of the battery. The computer is effective, managing to do the right thing at the right time and other than seeing what’s on the displays it’s often hard to tell what’s propelling the vehicle. Sport sharpens throttle responses and generally abandons tree-hugging tendencies; 4×4 puts power to all the wheels via their respective drivetrains. The interesting mode for me is ZEV: running on battery power alone. It can’t do this for very long – it is ordinarily designed to dip in and out of pure electric drive and tops up through regenerative braking or use of the diesel engine. Any spirited driving forces the 3008 back into Auto for a little diesel help but quite a distance of gentle crawling in traffic can be achieved on electric only. However, I live in a hilly part of the country and it is actually impossible to drive up a quarter mile 1-in-6 hill without killing the battery and forcing the engine to kick-in. That said, the regeneration achieved when travelling down those same hills boosts the battery levels considerably so it feels like the net energy loss is not too great.

Importantly, the slow changes of the robotic manual gearbox (which took the shine of the otherwise excellent 508 e-HDi) are much less of an issue in this installation. With gentle acceleration, the dip in power delivery is barely noticeable; when pressing on, the additional power available from the electric motor helps fill the gap while the robot does its stuff.

Low speed ride is somewhat coarse, but move away from hilly, potholed terrain and the 3008 becomes a little more serene. Indeed, the smart interior ergonomics, panoramic glass roof and high driving position all contribute to a relaxed cruising experience. The interior is certainly worthy of a few more words: this is an area in which Peugeot has been working hard for some time and the effort has paid-off. The fit and finish is good and the overall design is smart. Seating is attractive and comfortable and the gentle rake of the central console is very pleasing.

While the general picture is good, there are some detail issues which a man with a clip board should have spotted. First, there’s the switchgear. It’s difficult enough seeing the multiple switches on each of the four steering columns stalks because of their positions behind the steering wheel but what little visibility there would have been is obscured further by the gear change paddles. Not only are the stalks hidden, there is a plethora of twiddly bits: rollers, end buttons, buttons on the back, things to rotate… Unless the 3008 is driven regularly, pressing, prodding or turning the controls is unlikely to deliver the desired response first time. The easiest option would have been to place some of these functions on the steering wheel where they can be seen.  There are also a couple of hang-overs from the 3008 being designed for left-hand-drive: the cubby box between the two front seats is hinged on the wrong side; likewise the lettering by the oddly-shaped gear lever is obscured by the lever itself.

I’d describe the exterior as tidy and functional rather than jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Just like the 207, the second contour following the wheel arch line, front and rear, isn’t actually radial and while it seems to work at the back, it leaves the front wing looking a tad bulbous. A useful feature is the split boot lid; the main part opens normally (i.e. hinged at the top) and the lower section drops down to minimise loading height and provide a sensible platform. In the closed position it prevents cargo spillage.

This Hybrid4 comes with toys aplenty: Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity, sat-nav (sadly 4-digit post code search only), front and rear parking sensors, electric folding mirrors and leather trim.  There’s also a pseudo head-up display, reflected on a small retractable panel. The parking sensors are far too sensitive though, even complaining about street furniture on the pavement as I crawled in traffic.

The ultimate question then: Is it all worth it? After my initial obsession with whether the engine is running, whether there is any charge in the battery and how quiet the car is, I found the path of least stress: switch off all information except the permanently-displayed power/eco dial (located where a rev counter would ordinarily sit) which merely encourages a gentle right foot. I did a very unkind 100+ miles, crawling through traffic, many short journeys and up and down those hills – and managed barely more mpg than the 2.0 Golf diesel on fleet: mid 40s. However, on gentler runs it approached 60 mpg which isn’t near the promise on the tin but is still respectable for a 2¼ tonne car.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 104g, £28,495 (Additions on model tested: £1,050 heated/electric/leather seats, £210 front parking sensors and £370 for paroramic glass roof.  Hybrid4 range starts at £26,995; 3008 range starts at £15,495.)

Diesel power: 163 bhp (3,750 rpm)/torque: 300 Nm (2,000 rpm), motor power: 37 bhp/torque 300 Nm, combined emissions: 104 g/km CO2 (band B), 0-62 mph: 8.5 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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