What is it?
The principle of Peugeot’s new Hybrid4 system – pairing a classic front drive diesel drivetrain with an electric rear axle to permit vastly improved economy and performance plus genuine four-wheel drive traction – seems so gloriously sensible that it’s almost shocking that it wasn’t done years ago. Always assuming it works, of course, which is what the more adventurous Peugeot buyers of Britain are about to find out.
The system will be offered from December in the 3008 Hybrid4. Prices start at £26,995, a cool £4200 more than the priciest 3008 diesel currently on offer.
There are three models (99g, 104g and 104g limited edition) distinguished mostly by equipment levels, tyre size and weight. Most interesting is the most basic, most frugal 99g which rides on 16-inch wheels but whose equipment is still impressive (climate, cruise, electric handbrake) even if it misses out on such luxuries as reversing cameras, a head-up instrument display and two-tone leather.
What’s it like?
The first thing to strike you is that, inside and out, the Hybrid4 isn’t much different from a normal 3008. There’s a new grille and the body wears some extra brightwork, while the main difference inside is the appearance of a four-way rotary switch on the centre console – allowing you to select Auto, Sport, ZEV (pure electric) and 4WD modes – and the absence of a tachometer, which has been replaced by a power/economy meter.
Peugeot recommends that you leave the car mostly in Auto and let the drive computer juggle power from the 163bhp front-mounted diesel and 37bhp rear-mounted electric motor as efficiently as possible. Provided the batteries are topped, the diesel engine will run only about one-third of the time in town; on the open road it’ll be working most of the time. Electric-only range is roughly three miles, but this is constantly replenished by the car’s off-throttle power regeneration system (not actually regenerative braking, which can interfere with brake feel), so that in British B-road driving conditions it can add 40 per cent to the 600-mile ‘real world’ range of an ordinary stop-start diesel.
The car instantly feels pleasant and easy to drive. It rides softly and quietly, and its electric power-assisted steering is quite accurate and nicely weighted. The Hybrid4 is eerily quiet with the diesel off in towns, although the noise level rises both abruptly and substantially (more so than in a Vauxhall Ampera, for instance) when the computer decides to restart the engine.
Battery and electric motor add about 250kg to the standard weight and the effect is obvious, especially through the brake pedal. But the extra weight has no adverse impact on body roll or general stability. If anything, the car feels a shade more stable because the additional mass sits so low in the car, and is so well centralised.
Driven normally, the Hybrid4’s power delivery is better than that of a non-hybrid diesel with PSA’s six-speed automated manual, because the gearchange intervals – normally rather intrusive with these designs – are reduced to acceptable levels by the torque of the electric motor.