In contrast to Prius owners who like to parade their green-friendliness, anyone opting for a 3008 HYbrid4 is more likely to want to hide their eco-conscious light under a bushel. There is, after all, nothing, apart from a few discreet badges, to differentiate this car from any other conventional 3008 derivative. Unless you're in the know of course and can pick out the twin chromed horizontal bars that replace this model line's normal crosshatched radiator grille - at least in the case of the pre-facelifted model. Or the neat line of LED daytime running lamps that on this variant, are integrated into the headlamps.
So it looks virtually the same as any ordinary 3008. Well, it is the same from the B-pillars forwards - and that's what makes this design so darned clever. Hybrid engines, you see, have traditionally been enormously complicated things, designed from scratch, expensive solutions for eco-conscious motorists resulting in stand-alone models like Toyota's Prius. The French PSA Group wanted a simpler, more cost-effective approach and with their HYbrid4 technology, they got it.
Here, you keep everything standard at the front end of the car, with an ordinary off-the-shelf engine conventionally driving the front wheels. Then at the back, you simply replace the normal rear axle with one that packages in an electric motor, driving the rear wheels. Front and rear communicate electronically depending on the traction needed and power switches seamlessly between engine and battery as required. A brilliantly straightforward solution that enables Peugeot and its partner Citroen to bolt hybrid technology into just about any model they make.
The packaging issues were also carefully thought through to ensure that the hybrid system's nickel-metal hydride batteries mounted above the rear axle didn't eat too greatly into luggage space. Except that they do - a bit. Access the boot via the neat split-rear hatch and you'll find that luggage capacity falls from the 512-litres you get in an ordinary MK1 model 3008 to 354-litres in this car. That's something you especially notice when you raise the lid of the useful 66-litre under-floor compartment, noticeably shallower in this variant. Use the side wall-mounted levers to flatten the rear bench and total carriage capacity is revealed at 1435-litres - down from 1604-litres in the standard car. If that's not enough, the front passenger seat can be folded forward and flat for really long loads to increase total luggage space to 1501-litres.
Passenger-wise, the cabin formula is unchanged over that of any other MK1 model 3008. So there's space here in the back for two adults or three children to sit comfortably, with neat storage compartments in the footwells. It would be even better if the seats could slide back and forwards to increase legroom but unfortunately, they don't. It certainly feels spacious when you're up front though - and very well built. Expensive soft-touch materials and metallic trim abound around the raised centre console, with high-tech touches like the provided Head Up display intended to give the driver the feel of being at the helm of a jet fighter. We're not sure about that, but we did appreciate the airy feel aided by the large glass area and raised driving position and further emphasised on top models by a huge cielo panoramic glass roof. There's a lovely bespoke auto gearbox lever but irritatingly, its position markers are small, unlit and on the wrong side of the lever for right hand drive motorists. We like the smart-looking padded passenger grab handle though - something for your front seat partner to hold on to should you get a little too carried away by the 4WD technology.
Most 3008 HYbrid4 owners we found in our survey were reasonably satisfied indeed but there were a few with issues. One owner had to replace the electronic handbrake and the front foglights fairly early on, then suffered injector failure - at which point he discovered that hybrids need breakdown truck recovery - they can't be towed. Apparently, the auto gearbox needs checking as it can regularly stick in 3rd or 4th gear.
Minor issues are pretty much those that apply to a normal MK1 model 3008. We came across a couple of instances where owners were finding that warning lights for things like the ESP, the brakes and the handbrake were coming on for no reason. One owner felt that the need to replenish his car with a litre of oil every 1,200 miles was excessive. It's unlikely that the car will have been used off road in any way but look out for the usual alloy wheel parking scrapes and interior trim issues caused by unruly kids.
(approx based on a 2013 3008 HYbrid4 ex VAT) An air filter will be priced in the £13 to £20 bracket and a fuel filter will be in the £16 to £19 bracket. You'll pay around £100 for a radiator. And around £95 for a water pump. Wiper blades cost in the £4 to £7 bracket. A replacement heated wing mirror glass costs around £20. A rear lamp costs around £210. A headlamp replacement costs around £260, but you could pay up to around £545 for a pricier brand.
Climb aboard and there's little of the ground-breaking technology on display, exactly, Peugeot supposes, as potential customers will want. Twist the key though, and the differences begin. For a start, there's silence, this car able to proceed in electric mode only for up to two and a half miles, provided you don't exceed 31mph. As you get underway, there's an almost imperceptible change in engine note as the 163bhp HDi diesel engine driving the front wheels seamlessly cuts in to assist the 37bhp AC electric motor that powers those at the rear, making this, in theory at least, a four wheel drive machine. Like virtually all hybrids, this one comes only with an automatic gearbox, with a set of rather plasticky steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles should you wish to take control yourself. This is PSA's 6-speed EGS system, as also used by Peugeot's more conventional e-HDi models. It's a jerky set-up in those cars - but not here, thanks to the way the electric motor fills in the gaps in the diesel engine's power delivery.
Ah yes, the power delivery. With a combined output of 200bhp and a combined 500Nm of torque, 200Nm of it from the electric motor, you'll be expecting this 3008 to be pretty rapid. But if you are, then you're failing to take account of the 200kg weight penalty that comes with all the batteries and everything else required for hybrid motoring. That's equivalent to the weight of a couple of extra passengers and it explains why this car is effectively no faster than an ordinarily 3008 HDi 150 diesel variant: rest to sixty takes 9.1s on the way to 118mph. It's about as quick as you'll be going in a decently pokey diesel, say a VW Golf TDI 140.
You'll need to be in 'Sport' mode with its quick gear shifts and active 4WD to be going this quickly, this one of four driving settings available via the circular controller down where the handbrake would be, were that function not taken care of by a rather fiddly electronic handbrake button. There are three other driving modes - and whichever one of the quartet you choose, you can easily monitor what's being driven by what on the colour screen on top of the dash. If the roads are slippery, you might want to select the '4WD' option, where both axles are instructed to work together to maximise traction. If you're in town and your hybrid batteries are fully charged, you're more likely to want the 'ZEV' ('Zero Emissions Vehicle') setting, which will keep you in fuel-saving milk float mode for as long as the nickel-metal hydride cells hold out. Finally, if you can't be bothered to decide between all these options, there's 'Auto', where the system will always choose the optimum setting for the driving conditions you're in.
The electric part of the equation of course will depend on two factors. How much recharging the batteries get - the more braking and off-throttle cruising you do, the better - and how hard you drive when you are under electric propulsion. To help you monitor both aspects, Peugeot's designers have done away with the usual rev counter dial on the left of the instrument binnacle and replaced it with a power meter.
So how does that work? Well, if you're cruising with foot off the throttle - or better still, braking, the needle will drop down to the blue 'charge' band, re-energising the battery for the next time you need to run in 'ZEV' or 'Zero Emission Vehicle' electric mode. To maximise the range of this setting, you'll need to throttle lightly and keep the needle in 'Eco', the other blue band just above. Accelerate a little harder and the needle will move on upwards, clockwise around the dial, showing the percentage of power being used.
So that's a quick guide to how it all works. But how will it feel when you're out and about? Well let's start with ride quality. In order to accommodate the electric motor in the middle of the rear axle, the designers had to swap the conventional suspension for a multilink set-up. This is supposedly more sophisticated but it hasn't helped ride quality, which can be a little unsettled on poor surfaces. On the plus side, the steering is really feelsome, grip levels are fine and bodyroll is very well controlled through tight corners - much better than you'd expect from such a tall car.
So does this 3008 HYbrid4 model make sense? It's certainly true that you can match this car's running cost returns in a Prius-like petrol hybrid - and in a few really frugal diesel hatchbacks. But only if you sacrifice on power and do without 4WD. Extra power and all-wheel drive, you see, are the things that make the diesel-engined Crossover models many families would like so unsustainable when it comes to their ongoing running costs. But not in this case. Not with this car.
Providing you can balance its up-front asking price against long term savings and find a well looked-after example, it really could be a 'have your cake and eat it' solution for a careful kind of thinking family buyer. Someone who plays the long game. Just as Peugeot has done with this car.