Peugeot steps into

world of wonder

Peugeot 3008 SUV, front action 2
Peugeot 3008 SUV, dash detail
Peugeot 3008 SUV, rear lights
Peugeot 3008 SUV, switches
Peugeot 3008 SUV, rear static
Peugeot 3008 SUV, dashboard
Peugeot 3008 SUV, front static
Peugeot 3008 SUV, rear action
Peugeot 3008 SUV, front action

WATCH out Audi - your reign as the world's best automotive interior designers at a sensible price is under threat, from a perhaps unlikely source.

You just need to slip into the driver's seat of the new 3008 SUV from Peugeot to experience a bit of a revolution in looks and quality from this French car maker.

First, you'll spot the tiny but sculptured and leather wrapped steering wheel, with flattened top and bottom for a near grand prix cockpit feel.

Then comes the style clincher, easily read over that little wheel's upper edge, in the shape of a high definition screen stretching more than 30 centimetres (12.3 inches precisely) and ready to change its looks at your bidding.

Glance a little to your left and there sits, in a swanky alloy look frame, a dead ringer for an iPad, poised to tell you all about the heating controls or sound system or where you're going on the map, if the 3008 you've chosen has sat nav on board.

Peugeot calls this high tech fest an i-Cockpit and it comes as standard on every new 3008 SUV sold in the UK - orders start now for first deliveries at the end of January, starting at £21,795 - about £600 more than the outgoing model, but worth every penny.

That old car did well for Peugeot but its lack of SUV looks and feel left it vulnerable to a breed of car that is taking Europe by storm.

Just look at the avalanche of SUVs from rival makers, most recently Skoda (Kodiak) and SEAT (Ateca), all desperate for a bite of the cake which once had Nissan Qashqai piped on top in almost solitary splendour.

The new 3008 SUV (and those three letters are important) makes its SUV credentials obvious with extra length, height and ground clearance over the old non-SUV 3008. Big headlights and an imposing radiator grille add to the newcomer's tough street stance.

But it's back inside for the full reveal of how far Peugeot has come with this car.

As well as an instrument panel you can personalise with different looks - favouring a huge scrolling map if you're navigating somewhere, or putting the digital speed stage centre, for instance - there are delicious design touches everywhere.

Take a row of push-keys to summon functions like radio, heating or navigation on the central screen. They might not be made of metal (solid plastic, more like) but they feel good enough for a Bentley, let alone an Audi.

That's not something you'd have said about anything Peugeot a few years ago. Or last week, to be honest. This is a sea change for the company and bodes well for its stated aim of moving gently upmarket.

That will only happen the 3008 SUV keeps scoring well when we move down the car and, crucially, when we start the engine and go out to play.

Well, the front and rear wheels are further apart than previously, which ought to be good new for room in the rear.

Well, not so good in fact. There's plenty of headroom but a six-footer will ask for the seats ahead to be pushed a bit forward for a bit more knee room.

Better news in the boot, which has increased to 591 litres (1,670 with the rear seats folded) and which still finds room for a narrow emergency spare wheel, so you won't find yourself stranded on a wet and windy night with a tin of tyre gunk and a ripped sidewall that it can't seal. It happens.

As the range builds there will be a choice of 1.2 and 1.6 litre petrol and 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesels with automatic transmissions an option on both fuel types and likely to take a third of sales.

The petrol engines produce 130 and 165 horsepower and emit between 115 and 139g/km, while the diesels come with 100, 120, 150 and 180hp and emissions from 103g/km.

There are four trim levels - Active, Allure, GT Line and GT and all of them have a suite of safety systems that include active brake safety that will put the brakes on if it senses a collision and you don't react.

It will halt the car at town speeds before you hit anything (or anyone) and reduce the severity of a higher speed accident. It is also partly responsible for a dramatic lowering of the new car's insurance ratings, down from lead in figures of 20 to a much cheaper 11. Ditching the old 3008's split tailgate helped too, as it was expensive and time consuming to mend after a rear end shunt.

Out for a drive in with a 120hp diesel (likely best seller in the range) doing the work, its quietness at any speed impressed and the little steering wheel felt instantly comfortable, dispelling a long held prejudice that the only shape was round...

There was enough punch to overtake a particularly meandering selection of Derbyshire drivers and journey's end showed 50.4mpg on the high clarity dash, so it's decently economical.

The 3008 SUV rides with the firmness of a car set up to be just a touch sporty (aren't they all these days?) but the abiding impression is of a car so smart inside - just look at those grey linen-look inserts - you'd be happy to go that extra mile.

It may just be the game changer Peugeot so badly wants to build.

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