Can the facelifted Peugeot 3008 overcome the Skoda Karoq in this family SUV battle?
Peugeot’s second-generation 3008 was the catalyst for the company‘s reinvention. It was launched back in 2016 as the car to take the French brand in a new direction – and it did just that, reimagining the model as a proper SUV and heading straight to the top of the class, with the seven-seat 5008 SUV following and a new compact 2008 launching two years ago.
Such is the pace of development in this class, though, that after almost five years on sale, the 3008 has just been facelifted. It will arrive in Australia this year, though final details are yet to be confirmed.
But will the updated styling, a mild tech overhaul inside and the addition of plug-in hybrid power to the range be enough to send the Peugeot back to the sharp end of the class?
To find out, we’re testing an affordable petrol automatic version in mid-spec trim. That means it’s lining up here against an equivalent European contender: the Skoda Karoq.
Given the ever-widening brief cars like these versatile machines need to adapt to, it’ll be a battle fought on many fronts, so let’s see how the new Peugeot fares.
Design & engineering
This is a facelift of the existing 3008 (the model it replaces was a big overhaul of what had come before it) so the tweaks here are subtle and focus more on looks and kit than any big engineering changes.
That means the 3008 still sits on Groupe PSA’s scalable EMP2 architecture – and why not, because this modern platform has plenty of life in it and was designed with versatility in mind from the outset.
This petrol model doesn’t feature the more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension of the Hybrid4 cars, but the standard torsion-beam rear set-up is fine. It uses MacPherson struts at the front, and the 96kW petrol engine drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The main focus is on updated styling to keep the 3008 looking fresh and align it more closely with the family look reinforced by more modern Peugeot models, such as the 208 supermini and 2008 SUV.
So there’s a new frameless grille, gloss black side scoops in the new bumper, and more aggressive LED headlights. At the rear, Peugeot has kept the lion’s claw lights that make the 3008 recognisable at night, but there are new scrolling indicators as well.
Inside, the layout has been updated. Peugeot’s refined i-Cockpit 2.0 made its debut on this car’s predecessor, and here it’s been tweaked again to offer even more tech. This includes a 12.3-inch digital dash panel and, on this premium-spec car, a 10-inch touchscreen. The layout might still not be to everyone’s taste, but the set-up works better here in this higher-riding SUV than some other Peugeots.
Quality is sound, with an interesting design and good use of decent materials. There are plenty of nice textures too, adding personality.
The Peugeot’s powertrain is one of its strongest suits, thanks to its willing downsized 1.2-litre engine in this test car. Even though it’s 20Nm shy of the Skoda’s torque output, combined with the EAT8 automatic gearbox’s smooth shifts, its strengths lie in cruising comfort and a relaxed driving style. A 1.6-litre turbo looks likely for Australia, with even better performance.
With a 9.7-second 0-100km/h sprint time, this small engine is fast enough, and at its best when you use the engine’s mid-range flexibility. Beyond this it gets more grumbly; the engine is always audible, but the characterful three-cylinder soundtrack melts away when cruising. It’s far from droney on the motorway, while wind and road noise aren’t too loud either.
Thanks to the i-Cockpit layout, the 3008 still has a small steering wheel. The steering is quick too, but it’s sometimes easy to turn a little too aggressively because the steering is also quite light.
It’s great for when you’re manoeuvring in supermarket or shopping centre car parks, for example, highlighting the car’s brief, but it can lead to some roll in corners – more than in the Skoda.
That’s also partly because the 3008 has a suspension set-up that’s on the soft side. It’s mostly comfortable, absorbing bumps and moving with the road surface, but the wheels sometimes thump and react more aggressively over bigger bumps.
Keeping the same underpinnings means the 3008 has lost no practicality. It’s not the biggest car in its class and lacks some of the Skoda’s volume in the rear, but there’s still enough space for adults to get comfortable. It’s just that headroom is a little tighter, and you might struggle to tuck your feet under the front seats, too.
While it doesn’t have the same clever touches as the Karoq, the 3008’s interesting cabin design doesn’t limit storage too much. Boot space is fine, at 520 litres, and you can add a powered tailgate.
Even though the 3008 is easy to manoeuvre, thanks to its light steering, front and rear parking sensors, plus a reversing camera are standard-fit – and welcome – because the car has rather sharp, sleek styling for an SUV, which means rear three-quarter visibility could be better.
Design & engineering
The Skoda’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes 110kW and 250Nm of torque. That is 14kW and 20Nm more than its rival respectively, while the Skoda uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox instead of a conventional automatic. This has both positives and negatives, as we’ll come to.
One clever feature of the TSI engine is that it can shut down two of its four cylinders on the move under light loads to help boost efficiency. You only notice a light on the dash flicking on, because the system is smooth as it drops and reignites cylinders.
This Karoq is front-wheel drive and uses MacPherson struts for its front suspension, like the Peugeot, as well as a torsion beam for the rear axle.
The Karoq’s level of kit is a match for the 3008’s because you also available are front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, LED lights, keyless operation, a powered tailgate, sat-nav and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The Karoq’s four-cylinder motor is less audible than the Peugeot’s engine at mid revs, but if you work it hard then it gets noisier and drones more than the 3008’s more characterful three-cylinder unit.
While the Skoda’s gearbox also holds onto ratios for longer than we’d like, the shifts are smooth and fast – quicker than the Peugeot’s – which helps performance, but then the DSG transmission has some trade-offs when it comes to driveability, because it’s jerkier when manoeuvring at low speed.
On the move, though, it’s just as smooth, because the Karoq’s suspension damping is compliant and delivers great comfort. It, too, judders slightly over bigger bumps, but the Skoda deals well with the rest the road can throw at it, retaining its air of calm.
It’s a good cruiser, but is also faster than the 3008, sprinting from 0-100km/h in nine seconds. While this is less important given how these cars will be used, it does give the Karoq just a little more flexibility.
The Czech car is just as agile as the Peugeot, with tauter body control and less roll. The steering isn’t quite as immediate, but this means that every area of the handling feels more in sync with the others. Along with the ride, refinement is good and at speed on a motorway the Karoq is quiet. It’s a sound family SUV that offers a great blend between comfort and refinement, and performance and handling, edging the 3008 by a small margin in these areas.
The same is true when it comes to usability. Skoda’s VarioFlex rear-seat bench, which can be moved forward and backwards to prioritise either boot space or passenger legroom, is great.
There’s a maximum of 588 litres in the boot with the seat up, and even when the seat bench is in the mid position, there’s a comparable level of room with the Peugeot. However, the Skoda edges its French rival for leg and headroom in the rear seats.
The practicality advantage over the Peugeot is furthered, because the Skoda’s interior is more spacious and the storage areas are more numerous and more accessible, even if it isn’t by much. The Karoq’s boxier shape also means rearward visibility is better, too.
Skoda Karoq vs Peugeot 3008 Verdict
First place: Skoda Karoq
Affordability and practicality make the Karoq a winner still. It feels high in quality (if a little boring) and the engine is a strong and refined performer – a little more so than the Peugeot’s. The chassis matches this, and the tech is also slick and works quickly, while boot capacity, room and flexibility edge the 3008’s.
Second place: Peugeot 3008
Styling updates and infotainment tweaks have kept the 3008 at the front of the pack, but although it’s well equipped it’s not as practical as the Skoda, but the PureTech powertrain is solid and efficient, while the cabin finish knocks the Karoq’s into a cocked hat.