Peugeot 3008 review – 'Car of the Year' on long-term test

Ed Wiseman
The new Peugeot 3008 has rather distinctive looks, but we've found them easy to get used to

Peugeot dominated the family market for decades, then became a hatchback heavyweight in the Nineties and Noughties. Since then, the lion has appeared on very few cars we've actually liked. The company's recent output has been excellent, though, and the 3008 demonstrates a true return to form. Ed Wiseman is finding out what it's like to live with.

Our car: Peugeot 3008 GT Line BlueHDi 120 M6 List price when new: £27,485 Price as tested: £28,395 Official fuel economy: 70.6mpg

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November 10th

I phoned a Peugeot dealership in Chiswick to book the 3008 in to be mended, a relatively straightforward process considering the fact that they had no idea what I was talking about. It will need to undergo diagnostics before any work is carried out, which apparently takes half a day - the garage has agreed to lend me a courtesy car during this time. I'll report back next week once our Pug has been taken to its appointment. 

September 29th, 2017

After reading my update from early July (see below) the man in charge of the fleet at Peugeot got in touch to say I should take the car in for a free fix. Most buyers do not enjoy the luxury of a broadsheet newspaper in which to whinge about the lack of reliability in their new car, nor do they have a press office monitoring their every sentiment; instead, they just regret their purchase, and muddle through with a badly designed, badly implemented product. I'll book the car in for its service in due course, but I'm mindful of the fact that it was shipped with a problem in the first place.

Once a car has let you down, it takes a while to fully regain trust in it. I say that as someone who's spent the majority of their driving life in the company of decrepit old bangers; as a car becomes less reliable with age and neglect, you grow wary of it, you develop a hypersensitivity to the noises, smells and lights that indicate the difference between healthy progress and imminent mechanical failure. 

That shouldn't be the case in a new car. I shouldn't be listening out for problems in a car that's been supplied by the manufacturer in the past few months, nor should I start subconsciously avoiding a brand new car because of a negative experience with it. But that's precisely what's been happening with the Peugeot 3008 recently - it's been languishing in the carpark, unloved and unused, because I know it's not quite right. 

August 14th, 2017

I've barely driven the Peugeot in the past six weeks, not least because I'm put off by its apparent lack of reliability. It's only the touchscreen, sure, but this is the interface through which so much of the car is controlled. If there's a problem with the electronics, what else is at risk of malfunction - the lights? The handbrake? I'm still alarmed by the fact that the handbrake seemed to disengage during my attempts to switch Smooth FM off on the way back from Goodwood in July (see below) though have not been able to replicate the phenomenon. 

But what I'm even more upset about is the fuse diagram rigmarole. Removing the fuse diagram from the car itself was a monumentally stupid decision by Peugeot, but referring users to a defunct website is truly cretinous. Bah. I'm profoundly unimpressed with the 3008, which is a shame as we started out on nervously fond terms.

July 3rd, 2017

The journey back from Goodwood is an institution as great as the Festival of Speed itself. The endless procession of motor cars trickling through the Sussex countryside, stopping for pints and petrol on the way, is a charming annual spectacle, comparable to the impromptu convoy that leaves Calais and arrives at Le Mans a couple of weeks before.

I enjoy Lord March's garden party as much as the next person, but I hope this is the last time I type the phrase "Festival of Speed" until 2018. This reflects how I felt on Saturday night when I finally escaped on to Kennel Hill having spent almost a week on the Goodwood estate.

The fact that I'd taken the Peugeot 3008 is testament to its all-round affability. Also in the car park when I collected it was a Mini John Cooper Works Challenge, a BMW M4 Competition Pack convertible, a Fiat Fullback pickup truck (why?) and Paul Hudson's long-term Honda Civic. Of these, I picked the Pug. 

My favourite photograph of the Peugeot 3008 (see very far right)

It wasn't until the return journey that I started to regret it. The infotainment system in the 3008 is, in a word, dreadful, which is a shame as it's such a prominent part of an otherwise attractive interior. It freezes regularly, and it has an annoying habit of failing to find any DAB radio stations. It would have been generous to attribute the lack of signal to the undulating topography of the South Downs, but the 3008's radio is just as hopeless on the South Circular in London. 

Radio 2 gave way to silence between Cocking and Midhurst, then continued to provide intermittent company until the A3 crossed the M25. That's where the fun began.

I tapped the touchscreen to skip to the next radio station, which was Smooth FM. It was on quite loud, but for some reason the volume knob wasn't responding to my inputs. Nor were the steering wheel controls. I jabbed the tuner button and that didn't do anything, either. The whole system was unresponsive. 

A succession of very early starts and late nights meant that I was already pre-vexed. I tolerated the relentless, loud Smooth FM serenade for an hour until I decided that something needed to be done.

I pulled into a petrol station in Putney. A handful of customers, mostly pedestrians in search of cigarettes, turned to look at the haggard man clamber out of his Peugeot SUV, Foreigner's 1985 hit I Want To Know What Love Is following him on to the forecourt. I switched the car off, then on again, expecting the radio to revert to its usual state of being unable to find any radio stations at all. Alas, that was not the case.

The Righteous Brothers filled the car. For readers who can't view the embedded video player above, my problem was an unresponsive radio. I could press physical buttons and interact with the touchscreen, and the screen itself would purport to react, but the music was unrelenting. None of the car's inputs had any effect on the radio station or its volume.

Switching the car off, locking it, walking away for a while and then returning had no effect either. I decided to simply remove the fuse for the radio, which seemed like the most straightforward way to make my journey home more bearable. But Peugeot clearly had other ideas.

A frankly unforgivable decision by Peugeot

I'm not sure how difficult it would be to print a fuse layout diagram in the manual itself. Perhaps there's a strong business case for not doing so – maybe the extra page would have pushed far enough into the 3008's profit margins to make the whole model line unviable. I'd like to learn more about what advantages are offered by putting the fuse diagram of a family car on a website, rather than on a piece of paper or plastic somewhere within the vehicle itself. 

Because one of the key disadvantages to hosting the fuse diagram online is that you might not be able to access it. If you're not near the internet, for example, you'll be prevented from performing a very simple piece of car maintenance for what might be the dumbest reason ever. But I had two smartphones in my pocket – surely I could just go onto the website, and view the diagram?

Except, of course, the website was down. The URL – that is, the web address – listed in the manual was as unresponsive as the 3008's volume knob. 

A screengrab from my mobile phone, taken at 22:49pm on Saturday, as I neared the end of my tether 

At this point a cheerful passer-by said that my car looked nice. Most of its doors were open, the bonnet was up, the lid of the fuse box was on the floor and its driver was visibly exhausted, baggy eyes exaggerated by the forecourt's neon lights. The 3008's admirer was right, of course, in that it's a pretty car, probably one of the nicest looking in its segment, but my reply to that effect was drowned out by Gabrielle's Out of Reach.

Disconnecting the battery and then reconnecting it seemed like the next reasonable step. It wasn't difficult thanks to the quick release clip, which was handily a lurid red colour. There were some pretty sparks as I reconnected, followed by a piercing alarm. The car's hazard lights were on, and the instrument binnacle was displaying error messages. For some reason, and perhaps most worryingly, the handbrake appeared to have disengaged.

But the music had stopped.

It took a couple of further 'battery pulls' (that is, disconnecting a battery cable, waiting a few minutes and then reconnecting it) before the car returned to normal service. Blissful silence followed, as the radio retreated to its customary state of being totally, irredeemably useless.

The journey back to the office car park was one of quiet reflection. I like the way the Peugeot 3008 looks, and it's such an easy thing to drive in a mechanical sense that I gladly took it to Goodwood instead of something sportier. But its infotainment system is so terrible that it's rattled my faith in the vehicle itself. The touchscreen controls more than just the music – you have to delve into a sub-menu in order to switch off the stop-start system, for example – and it worries me that the whole system can be so unreliable, especially in a car that's done less than 2,000 miles.

What's more, Peugeot's decision to deprive its buyers of something as simple as the fuse diagram makes me wonder what else is missing from the car. Are the correct tyre pressures also kept on a defunct webpage? If it gets a puncture, will I need a Gmail account to access the spare wheel? Making the diagram online-only, then failing to maintain the website, is a curious mixture of stupid and sloppy that isn't normally found in a modern car.

So the 3008 will languish handsomely in the car park for another week or so. It's meant to be the Car of the Year, a fact that made me nervous when I first received it as a long-termer. After the weekend's debacle, I'm pretty confident that the award judges are completely wrong. In fact, if the infotainment system is anything to go by, it shouldn't even have made the shortlist.

May 23rd, 2017

Until recently my Peugeot 3008 had only done a few hundred miles. I live and work in London – the 3008 has spent almost all its short life within the M25. So with just three figures showing on the odometer, I felt it was high time to stretch its legs with a more serious journey.

The Belgian round of the World Rallycross Championship took place last weekend at the Circuit Jules Tacheny in Mettet, a rural municipality in a picturesque part of Wallonia. It’s around a 300 mile journey from London which, combined with another hundred miles of general faffing at each end, meant adding 700 miles to my fledgling Peugeot’s odo.

Allez-y [Ode to Joy plays]

It’s not a huge trip, but it was long enough for existing annoyances to multiply and become more acute, and for new faults and foibles to raise their heads. But this is a French car and the bulk of my mileage would be spent on the long, sweeping autoroutes of la mère patrie – surely the Peugeot would feel at home?

British cars generally come with both imperial and metric figures marked on the speedometer. The 3008’s newfangled digital readout, though, doesn’t have this simple design feature; the animated speedo ‘dial’ shows only miles. After ten fruitless minutes deep inside the 3008’s clunky touchscreen menus, I called off my campaign to change the units into kmh, confident that I could do the requisite arithmetic to stay off the radar of the gendarmerie.

The 3008 sips diesel when there's just one person in the car, but I roll deep – how will the 1.6-litre cope with four passengers?

At least I could read the road signs, which is more than could be said for the Peugeot. At first I put it down to it being geographically confused, perhaps second-guessing the speed limit as it would be in the UK. But the dashboard displayed the wrong number so frequently that not only did I write a comment piece when I got back, but started to just ignore what the car was telling me. Sometimes it would just give me a random number (145 was the highest) and it would consistently get confused by the speed limit on slip roads as I passed them.

Other frustrations included an over-eagerness to start Apple Carplay when I plugged in my work iPhone to the USB socket, and the fact that there’s only one USB socket anyway. Like drug dealers, journalists often have two phones, and it would have been nice to charge both simultaneously. For a family car, the availability of just one charging point seems like the start of an argument.

Half way through this internal grumble I realised that I’d never filled the 3008’s tank. Judging by the miles it had covered (around 400 by this point) it had only ever received one full tank of diesel in its life. Its second meal took place in Belgium, where it swallowed an abstemious 50l of gazole.

The Peugeot 3008 helpfully suggested we drive down a bridlepath 

It’s an unwaveringly smooth ride at speed. A tall sixth gear means real refinement at high speeds, even if the 1.6-litre diesel can have a slightly agricultural tone in other areas of the rev counter. For what I’ve been using it for – short trips around town – the diesel has been very much the wrong engine, but let loose on European motorways it’s extremely agreeable.

All of my complaints on the outward journey pertained to the digital elements of the 3008. It’s a space-age looking car, for sure, but it’s still a car, with an internal combustion engine and four pneumatic tyres. In terms of its mechanical behaviour I’ve found it hard to fault, but my time in France raised some very difficult questions...

May 2nd, 2017

As predicted, the 3008's various novelties have started to wear off. In particular, the relentlessly cheerful notifications that erupt on that instrument binnacle are growing wearisome, like the faux-jocularity of a charity fundraiser asking how you're feeling. The centre-mounted touchscreen is far from the worst system I've used, but I've started to resent how frequently I'm forced to wrestle with it: turning the stop-start system off should require the touch of a button, not several jabs at a ponderous computer interface. And perhaps most annoyingly, there are grammatical errors on at least one of the dialogue boxes.

What remains brilliant is the overall design of the cabin (including the ergonomics) and the eyecatching exterior. It's probably the best-looking car in its category, and manages to turn more heads on my street than cars worth twice as much. Even in this deeply unsexy family SUV market segment, the French cars have a certain je ne sais quoi.

The only physical fault I've encountered so far is a strange, very gentle snatching of the brakes at low speed. I'm not sure what's causing it, or whether it's some side-effect of a safety mechanism, but it manifests as a very gentle brake pressure that lasts for half a second when my foot isn't anywhere near the pedal. It's only happened three times – and only in Camberwell, weirdly – but I plan to get to the bottom of it before undertaking any long journeys.

April 18th, 2017

Economy this week: 50mpg (though a little early to tell)

The Peugeot 3008 was crowned European Car of the Year around a month before this example was dropped off at Telegraph HQ, ready for its new life on our long-term fleet. It’s a handsome machine, seems practical, and was perfectly amenable on the ten-mile journey from the office to my house last night. But it still puts me under a lot of pressure.

What if I don’t like it? It’s been given its prestigious title by the continent’s most respected car critics, our own Andrew English included, who chose it from a list of other excellent models. If I disagree, is it me or the European car industry that is wrong?

During my first hour of ownership, I’ve had no real reason to disagree with them. The position of the wheel within the cockpit-style cabin only momentarily distracted me from the charming interior of the GT Line. The environment that Peugeot has created inside the 3008 is a real treat, punching well above its price-point in terms of looks and all-round interestingness.

There’s a slight disconnect between the innovative interior design and the chuntery grumble of this diesel engine. Certain road imperfections seem to find their way into the cabin, tearing through an otherwise silky ride, but these were few and far between on my initial drive on the South Circular. A crunchy six-speed manual also feels anachronistic in what could at first glance be mistaken for a space ship.

My favourite feature so far (after an hour or two of ownership) is the central cubby box, softly lit with white LEDs and accessed via a button-activated, split-folding hatch. It’s the perfect width and depth for secure, secret stowage of a McDonalds bag, which I suspect may have been the clincher during COTY assessment in February.

Pug 3008 gif

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I like this big French SUV. I have two big trips planned in it, as well as several smaller ones – let’s see if I’m still as delighted with it by this time next week.

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