I recently had the chance to drive a Peugeot 3008, which is a fairly new Peugeot crossover that rivals the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5. I drove this vehicle in the United States of America, which is a rather large country in the Western Hemisphere. If these things seem incongruous to you, it’s because they are.
Yes, indeed, I drove a brand-new Peugeot SUV in the U.S., even though Peugeot left our market after the 1991 model year due to increasing regulations and poor sales. And I did this in the best way possible. Peugeot sells the 3008 in Mexico, and I received an email from a viewer in Mexico named Ivan, who asked if I wanted to check out his car. I begged him to drive to San Diego, which is just over the border, and he did — and so, for an afternoon, I drove around in one of the rarest cars in the United States.
First, a little overview of the 3008 since it’s unlikely that most of the people reading this know anything about it. To be clear, before I say anything: Yes, that paint scheme is factory. Peugeot put it on the “launch edition” 3008 models that kicked off the car’s arrival; half the car is black, and half the car is sort of a copper gold thing. This is a bit weird, and it very much foreshadows what’s coming next.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The 3008 is about the size of a CR-V, and they sell it in Mexico with two powertrain options: a 165-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, or a 150-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder. Pricing starts around 480,000 Mexican pesos, which sounds like an inordinately huge sum of money, but actually this is about $25,000. I was especially confused when I went on Peugeot Mexico’s website and discovered this thing starts at “$480,000,” until I remembered Mexico also uses the dollar sign for its peso.
Anyway, back to the car. It’s really quite a bit quirkier than a regular crossover, and the quirkiness starts the moment you get inside the interior. I say this because the gauge cluster is located above the steering wheel, and the steering wheel is incredibly, wildly tiny in order to accommodate this. The theory here is that, by placing the gauge cluster higher on the dashboard, you don’t have to divert your eyes from the road quite as far — which is a good idea. But the drawback is this very tiny steering wheel that makes you feel like you’re in a Formula 1 car, or some other race car with a small cabin. It’s weird, and it takes some getting used to, but it works out.
The same goes for the rest of the interior. In the middle, you have a very oddly-shaped gear lever, and some odd switches placed above it. You also have a weird seat pattern, and a weird seat belt light, and some other oddities that only the French could really dream up. But you can watch all that in the video above. In the remaining space here, I want to focus on the driving experience, which is … surprisingly good, actually.
Indeed, for all the 3008’s weirdness, and French-ness, it actually drives unusually well. It’s sportier than I was expecting, with surprisingly sharp handling and minimal body lean, and the steering is communicative and not abhorrently light like it is in a lot of compact crossovers. Speed isn’t quite there; regardless of which engine you get, it’s just not very fast. American tastes dictate big engines and better acceleration, but drivers in the rest of the world usually get smaller engines due to higher gas prices and other regulations. If the 3008 ever were to be sold in the U.S., it would need some more power.
It wouldn’t need an interior improvement, though. The 3008 is shockingly nice inside, with upscale leather (odd pattern, sure, but upscale) and really nice materials. This thing is absolutely up to the standards of our own market’s compact SUVs, if not already beyond them, and the interior felt better than I could’ve expected. With the exception of the bizarre color scheme, same deal with the exterior: It’s handsome, it’s right-sized and it fits in nicely.
I honestly think the 3008 would be a hit here in the United States, and I sincerely hope Peugeot someday decides to make a comeback here. In the meantime, I will watch with jealousy as I share the road with drivers from Mexico here in Southern California, who have all the forbidden fruit: the Toyota Hilux, the Ford Ranger, the Land Rover Defender and yes, that weird two-tone Peugeot crossover.