Technical innovation isn’t always pretty. At least, we hope that somewhere deep within the Peugeot empire, the 3008 was born out of a spat between and designer and an engineer. The latter clearly won, for although this awkward, lozenge-shaped family car is an intriguing piece of technology, as well as a fine place to sit, it’s just not the finest thing to look at.
As we never tire of saying, Peugeot has a great design heritage, and the company is making bold strides towards recapturing the crisp edged brilliance of its past. The 508 and RCZ are fine-looking cars, and initial reports suggest the forthcoming 208 will recapture something of the sparkle.
But no matter, for underneath the 3008’s ungainly skin, there lurks the germ of a brilliant idea; a diesel-electric hybrid. Up until now, the hybrid market has been dominated by petrol-electric models, with heavier, more complex diesel not deemed suitable for pairing with a hefty battery pack.
In some respects, the 3008 Hybrid4 rather proves the point, for it’s no more economical than the equivalent diesel model, rather more heavier, expensive and prone to a thumping ride around town thanks to the hefty boot-mounted battery pack (which also robs you of some useful luggage space).
But there are benefits. The four-wheel drive system was an undeniable comfort in the recent snowy conditions, the whisper-quiet electric drive makes a three-block potter less of a conscience-crushing journey and the interior, as a whole, is well laid out, comfortable and superbly spacious (a full length glass sunroof is the kind of optional extra that every car should have in this day and age).
And twirl the drive selector round to ’sport’ and the electric motor dovetails neatly with the workings of the 160-odd bhp diesel to give you just over 200bhp to play with, making the car uncharacteristically brisk.
As technology evolves, we can expect systems like Hybrid4 to start paying their way a little more effectively. For now, the same drivetrain is in place in the elegant Citroen DS5, the upmarket new crossover built by Peugeot’s sister company.
Right now, we’ll wait for the upcoming Peugeot RXH to adopt the system and give the technology the elegant casing it deserves.