So far, hybrids haven’t eclipsed diesels as champions of efficiency, but that could soon change. Peugeot’s new 3008 HYbrid4 is the first full hybrid to use diesel instead of petrol, and the company believes that this drivetrain means its stylish MPV can do the job of several cars in one.
To test that theory, we’ve lined it up against a conventional rival, the VW Tiguan, which matches the Peugeot’s space and high driving position, but uses BlueMotion technology instead of batteries to reduce its emissions.
Despite the 3008 HYbrid4’s mechanical ingenuity, there’s little to separate this model visually from the rest of the range. Apart from some subtle silver badges on the wings and bootlid, it’s identical to the regular version. Chrome trim and 17-inch alloys are standard, but it looks ungainly at the back thanks to thick C-pillars and bulbous rear arches.
There’s less design flair evident on the understated Tiguan, as it closely resembles its bigger brother, the Touareg. Yet it still oozes class, and with a plastic underbody, expansive wheelarches and high ground clearance, it’s ready to tackle anything.
Step inside, though, and it’s hard not to be disappointed. Despite the premium image, the VW’s cabin feels utilitarian, with an upright dashboard that looks pieced together using bits from the company’s parts bin. We can’t argue with the build quality, and the driving position is excellent, but at this price, a few luxury touches wouldn’t go amiss.
Initial impressions in the Peugeot are much better. With a raked windscreen set far forward from the driver, a seven-inch integrated colour display and an attractive wraparound dash, it instantly feels more upmarket than the spartan Tiguan. However, the plastics lack the sturdy quality of the VW, and niggles like the fiddly stereo controls and small glovebox are frustrating on a family car.
Plenty of thought has gone into making the 3008 easy to live with in other areas, with a sunglasses holder on the driver’s side, a big storage bin hidden beneath the central armrest and a handy split-folding tailgate.
The HYbrid4 does compromise on luggage space, though: the batteries have eaten into the boot, which is 158 litres smaller than in the standard diesel 3008, at 354 litres. The rear seats fold flat at the touch of a button, but fitting four passengers and their bags in for a long trip would be a real struggle.
The HYbrid4’s four-wheel-drive system splits the workload evenly between its two power sources. The 163bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine drives the front wheels through an automated manual gearbox, while the rear axle is powered by a 37bhp electric motor.
A rotary switch on the centre console allows you to choose one of four driving modes: Auto, Sport, ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) and 4WD. Each setting gives the 3008 very different characteristics.
In Auto, drive is swapped between the engine and motor seamlessly; this uses the batteries at low speeds and only switches the engine on when required. ZEV mode gives a pure-electric range of about three miles, while Sport maximises performance with a combined 200bhp. As a result, the 3008 was a second quicker than the Tiguan
in the 0-60mph sprint, but as our time of 10.1 seconds shows, the batteries have to be fully charged to make the most of this mode; Peugeot claims a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds if they are at maximum capacity.
Many drivers will leave the car in Auto, which gives the best possible economy and all-wheel-drive grunt when required. But the Peugeot is still far from a driver’s car. The batteries add 108kg and the suspension has been stiffened to compensate for this extra weight, making for a very firm ride, and the body rolls heavily in corners.
In contrast, the Tiguan’s 2.0-litre TDI engine and six-speed manual gearbox are simple. Although the VW can’t match the 3008’s silent running in town, the 4Motion four-wheel drive serves up good grip and the car remains balanced and composed, even during committed cornering. Direct steering, a smooth engine and a supple ride make the Tiguan a joy to drive.
Unfortunately, despite featuring stop-start and energy recovery systems, it can’t match the HYbrid4’s 40.7mpg economy, which may count against it in this test.