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In the hunt

By Paul Acres

The first version of Peugeot’s 3008 was a very different car and, with its MPV styling, it was a bit of an ugly duckling. Thankfully the French firm decided to go back to the drawing board for the second generation – although sales, not looks, was probably the driving force behind that decision – and this rather smart compact SUV is the result.

The styling is convincingly rugged with broad, flat surfaces, raised waistline, sharp creases and black plastic cladding around the wheel arches and on the bumpers. The proportions are nicely balanced, the wide grille framed by fine projector headlights and LED daytime running lights giving the 3008 a feline look.

Chrome inserts sweep back from the headlights to the base of the upright windscreen creating a sense of fluidity, of motion. The signature rear lights, which are meant to resemble a lion’s claw, are integrated into a glossy black strip.

The styling does a commendable job of concealing the 3008’s size – it’s 80mm longer than the model it replaces, particularly with the optional black contrast roof and, while the looks might not suit everyone’s tastes, there’s no denying that Peugeot’s designers have successfully nudged it upmarket.

That ambition has been realised to even greater extent on the inside. The first thing that grabs your attention as you climb behind the wheel is how cosseting the cabin feels, from the driver's perspective at least. The dashboard wraps around you, placing all the controls within easy reach, and making you feel cocooned in the driver’s seat.

Peugeot have adopted their ‘small steering wheel, high-set instrument cluster’ layout for the 3008 and, while not as bad, the same issue with finding the ideal driving position without obscuring a portion of the binnacle that now houses a 12.3in digital display instead of analogue gauges remains.

The cabin is a lovely place to be. Peugeot have clothed the interior with a variety of soft-touch fabrics that give a homely, welcoming ambience. There has clearly been a focus on detail, with delightful piano key-style switches adorning the centre console beneath the 8in capacitive touchscreen multimedia system.

It runs the latest version of Peugeot’s Connect infotainment software. The 8in touchscreen is standard across the range, although base models have to make do without the sat nav. It does come equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink compatibility which gives owners access to their smartphones’ apps.

The Connect system also offers DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity and, in the GT Line version that I was testing, a wealth of high-end features clustered around the Amplify system, including multi-point massage seats and a fragrance dispenser that offers a selection of scents to choose from depending on the mood you’re in.

As odd as that might sound, it’s much more pleasant than the majority of car air fresheners that you might dangle from your rear view mirror. And less distracting too.

I’m glad to see that physical buttons – there are also controls for the air con – haven’t been completely abandoned. There are some functions that you often need to perform on the fly and poking blindly at a touchscreen is far from ideal in those circumstances.

The view from the front seats, then, is pleasant, warm and welcoming and that ambience is extended to rear seat passengers who will enjoy ample – if a little short of class-leading – head and leg room.

Under the bonnet of my GT Line test car was Peugeot's 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech 130 petrol engine, with 129bhp and 230Nm on tap. It's available with either 6-speed automatic or manual gearboxes. I got to try out the manual.

It's a sweet little engine and works surprisingly well partnered with the 3008's chassis and gearbox. It's quiet at low speeds but will emit a sportier sound when pushed. It's quite punchy, too, with 62mph arriving in a respectable 10.8 seconds.

The manual gearbox is a delight. It's slick and precise and the ratios are well-judged.

The ride is on the firm side of comfortable. Peugeot's engineers wanted to deliver a car-like driving experience and erred towards a stiffer set-up in order to keep the 3008 as flat as possible in the corners.

The end result is a car that's composed through bends, with excellent body control and plenty of grip. It responds well to incremental adjustments and the small steering wheel further enhances the sensations of a nimble, agile vehicle.

The steering has a nice meatiness to it and it does, at least, send some information about what's going on under the front wheels back to the driver.

The 3008 continues Peugeot's good run. While the styling might be a little divisive, I think it's one of the better-looking compact SUVs on the market and there's little doubt that the looks lend the car a little gravitas, something to set it apart in what is a crowded marketplace.

The interior is magnificent, the clever use of fabrics makes the cabin a kind of place you don't mind spending time in. Passenger and boot space is excellent, with plenty of room for four adults and their luggage.

The 3008 has got it's work cut out but, judging by the number I've seen out in the wild, it's proving up to the challenge.

Peugeot 308 GT Line

Price: From £25,319

Engine: 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Max power: 129bhp

Max torque: 230Nm

Max speed: 117mph

Acceleration (0-62mph): 10.8sec

Urban: 47.1mpg

Extra urban: 62.8mpg

Combined: 55.4mpg

Emissions (CO2): 117g/km

For more information visit www.peugeot.co.uk

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