The newcomer versus the champ: this isn’t some naff reference to a big money fight, but by the same token, it kind of is – because here we have the much-lauded European that’s all about swagger, going against the stalwart chart-topper with a tremendous record.
Here we have the all-new Peugeot 3008, the McGregor of this battle, with its belt being the European Car of the Year award that it won earlier this year – the first ever SUV to take that accolade.
It takes its corner in the ring against the big-name conqueror, the Mazda CX-5, which is almost always on top of the rankings for sales and more often than not for ratings, too. It is one of the most well-rounded offerings in the hugely competitive mid-size SUV segment.
If you think about the magnitude of the segment, the Mazda is punching above its weight. The new-generation model, launched earlier this year, has already taken back the best-seller title from the upstart Hyundai Tucson, and continues to find new buyers in a market with plenty of heavy hitters.
The Peugeot? Well, it’ll be hoping that style-conscious buyers will give the new-generation 3008 a closer look. The new model is considerably more muscular and attractive than its hunchback predecessor, and brings class-competitive features and even some breakthrough technology to help it stand out. Well, boxers do walk in with ridiculous outfits, right? Some flair is precisely what the French brand needs right now, as it struggles for broader relevance in the busy Australian market under a new distributor’s stewardship.
So, which one will win this punch-up? We’ve got the top-spec diesel versions of each of these mid-size SUVs to find out if one can deliver a knockout blow – but we suspect it’ll take every round to suss out which one deserves the belt.
Okay, I promise there’ll be no more boxing references… for now.
Pricing and specifications
What kind of world is it where a top-spec Mazda costs more than a flagship Peugeot? A world where SUVs aren’t necessarily four-wheel-drives.
That’s exactly the case with the Peugeot 3008, which arguably stretches the definition of an SUV to its limits by being offered solely with front-wheel drive. There is no all-wheel drive version anywhere in the world, which could well limit its appeal to some buyers straight off the bat.
But don’t rule it out so easily there, champ (sorry!), because while the 3008 may be FWD only, there’s every chance yours will be one of those families that intends to go off the beaten track, but never actually does. We’ll get to driving impressions later.
Now, we’ve already shown you everything you need to know about the Mazda CX-5 with our range review, and we’ve also given you an in-depth look at the Peugeot 3008. But let’s take a closer look at these two particular models – the CX-5 Akera diesel all-wheel drive; and the 3008 GT diesel.
There’s not much in it in terms of price, but there’s a psychological advantage to the Peugeot, which in this guise slips under the fifty grand mark, at $49,490 plus on-road costs. The Mazda? It’s $50,410 plus on-roads.
But then there are the options – wait, the Mazda doesn’t have an options at all. Even the metallic paint is included. The Peugeot? It has a few boxes ticked, including the Magnetic Blue metallic paint finish ($690), Nappa leather trim with quilted finish ($2700 – normally you get fake leather with Alcantara), and a package with a panoramic glass roof and electronic tailgate ($2500).
You could argue a few of those items should probably be included at this price. The Mazda has a standard-fit sunroof which, although not a panoramic unit, is a welcome nicety for buyers who want that, and it comes with an auto tailgate standard, too. And every colour, bar Soul Red, comes at no cost on CX-5s.
There are some other similarities in terms of spec: both have full LED headlamps with auto high-beam control, which is great for night drivers, not to mention auto wipers and lights, and auto-dimming rear-view mirrors. Both have built-in satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, voice-control audio functionality, dual-zone climate control, rear seat air vents, push-button start and keyless entry, and LED fog lights.
The standard safety kit offered in both of these flagship variants is close, too – both have adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, driver fatigue monitoring and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain). The Mazda adds rear cross-traffic alert and a rear auto-braking system, which – not to be flippant, here – could literally be a life-saver.
There are some tech items the Mazda doesn’t have, including the 3008’s clever surround-view camera system, which combines with the car’s parking sensors and adjusts the view on screen depending on if something is within sensor range. Shame the resolution of the cameras is poor. The 3008 also has a semi-automated parking for parallel and nose-in spots, and comes with smartphone mirroring tech (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), which the Mazda goes without.
The CX-5 hits back with a head-up display and dual front electric seats, where the 3008 only has electric adjustment for the driver’s side. However, the Pug’s pilot seat gets massage functionality, including one program called Cat Claw, and an ambience control system that can setup the massage function and pipe some fragrance into the cabin to relax or inspire you. Mmmm, Frenchness.
There’s no shortage of French flair inside the cabin of the 3008. In fact, it’s a bit of a game-changer.
Not just because of its love-it-or-hate-it small steering wheel, though – this time there’s more to it, with the tremendously stylish fully digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and a supercar-like cocoon for the driver combining to offer something truly unique in the family SUV segment.
Just take a look at it. The watchstrap leather may be optional, but gosh it’s gorgeous, and so is the felt-look Alcantara on the doors. And how good is the 12.3-inch cluster display in front of the driver? It’s standard kit on all 3008 models, which is pretty rad, and when you’re in the driver’s seat the media screen points towards you while the large centre console divides the two zones up front.
It’s more than just a styling exercise, that centre console – it’s also evidence this could be the most thoughtful Peugeot yet. There is a massive enclosed cubby between the seats that allows you to store things as big as a handbag or laptop, and additionally there are huge flock-lined door pockets, good-sized cupholders between the front seats, and a wireless charging dock for your phone in front of the gear selector.
The bad news? That huge console eats into back seat knee-room; meaning three across could be a squish. Headroom in the back of the Peugeot isn’t terrific due to the big glass roof, but otherwise it’s a reasonably comfortable place to be, and if you’re a parent there are dual ISOFIX child-seat attachment points and three top-tether hooks, too.
The Mazda matches its rival for child-seat stuff, and betters it for headroom due to the lack of a panoramic roof. It’s line-ball for space when it comes to fitting three adults across the back, though legroom in the Peugeot was just a tad better for this six-foot tester seated behind the driver’s seat set in my own position.
The Peugeot trumps the Mazda for boot space, as well, with 520 litres of cargo capacity in the boot of the 3008, where the CX-5 has just 442 litres of space. The Mazda does have a handy 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat, though, which is handy for loading in skis or long items. The Pug’s 60:40 layout is fine, but not as clever.
Top: Mazda CX-5; bottom: Peugeot 3008
The Mazda isn’t drab – not at all – but it simply isn’t as daring as its competitor. That could totally be your bag, and I get that, because when it comes to logically laid-out cabins with intuitive tech and thoughtful features, some of its rival simply can’t match the CX-5.
The materials are all of a high quality, though we probably wouldn’t option the cream leather trim, and while it only has a part-digital dashboard, the CX-5’s semi-premium status can’t be denied.
Things like the Mazda’s four USB ports – two up front, and two in the middle seat armrest in the back – make this a very family-friendly offering (it’s just a shame the ones up front are trickle chargers). There’s just one USB port for the 3008, which is really disappointing for a brand new car, and even more disappointing is the fact the 220-volt power socket in the back has a European plug configuration. Sacre bleu!
Other elements such as the Mazda’s rotary dial controller for the media system – which complements the touchscreen functionality of the display when the car is stationary – make everyday operations a little easier to perform. Indeed, the Mazda’s MZD Connect system remains one of the simplest systems to use, but it isn’t without its foibles – the screen is very slow to load up, and can take a while to re-connect to your hooked-up phone.
Top: Mazda CX-5; bottom: Peugeot 3008
There is no doubt that you’ll get used to the Peugeot’s media system, but it includes a few functions that we wish had separate buttons for, like temperature adjustments. A separate toggle for the climate controls would be so welcome. And the menus in the screen take a bit of learning, not to mention some digging when you’re trying to find things like brightness adjustment. Again, this is all stuff you’d figure out with time, but during a few days with the car, some aspects of it seemed a bit like technology for technology’s sake.
These two are pretty close in terms of what’s under their respective bonnets.
Powering the Mazda is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine with 129kW of power at 4500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
The CX-5’s engine, is slightly larger in capacity than the Peugeot’s 2.0-litre turbo diesel mill, and it out-grunts its rival as a result – but only by 20Nm, and the Mazda is in fact down on power by 4kW.
The Peugeot’s 133kW of power is hit lower in the rev range, at 3750rpm, but its torque smash occurs at the same point – 2000rpm.
That all may sound like gobbledygook to you, but what you need to know is that both of them offer strong engine performance – easily enough to move around a family of five without the drivetrain huffing and puffing under the pressure.
Indeed, there’s plenty of urge from both of the engines, but with slightly different character to the way they make the most of their outputs, as the six-speed automatic transmissions in each of these SUVs go about their business differently.
The Peugeot’s engine is a bit clattery at low speeds, but it’s mainly just noise rather than vibration, and the same criticism can be levelled at the Mazda, though it is marginally more muted under throttle.
Sure, the 3008’s column-mounted paddle-shifters may be enticing to a certain type of buyer, but the transmission isn’t quite as clever as the CX-5’s. It generally does a good job at lower speeds, particularly below about 60km/h, but we noticed the drivetrain could shunt when taking off from a standstill at times. And at higher speeds it can be stumped as to what gear needs to be in to maintain momentum without shuffling between fourth, fifth and sixth.
The Sport mode goes a way to fixing that, allowing the car to hold on to gears a bit longer – and it adds some pretend engine noise through the speakers, which is kind of cool but also verges on daft
The Mazda’s engine and transmission work very well together. There are some great drivetrain smarts when building speed, and it has better logic on the open road.
Both suffer a little bit of turbo lag low in the rev range, and each has engine stop-start to help save fuel at the lights. In both cases the diesel engine can shudder the car when it re-fires, but once things get moving each has strong response from about 2000-3000rpm.
Peugeot claims fuel consumption of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which is extraordinarily low, and apparently difficult to achieve, too. On test we saw 7.0L/100km as an average across a mix of driving situations, which we mirrored exactly in the CX-5. The latter claims 6.0L/100km, so that’s a solid result.
Judge’s cards score this one to the Mazda.
The Peugeot’s biggest perceived disadvantage is that it’s not available with all-wheel-drive. That could be a problem for you if you’re a ski bunny, or one of those so-called active lifestyle adventurers that car marketers are constantly targeting.
But in reality, most of us won’t hit the open road every weekend, and even fewer will make their way down slippery gravel tracks on a regular basis to really warrant the need for all-wheel drive.
There’s an advantage to the Peugeot, which is lighter than its rival by some margin, tipping the scales at 1433 kilograms (tare mass) – and compared with the Mazda’s 1605kg (tare) heft, on paper it appears the French model is match-fit. There isn’t much in it for those who tow, either, with the pair offering 750kg un-braked capacity and with only 100kg of braked towing capacity separating them (Mazda – 1800kg; Peugeot – 1700kg).
Both cars ride on 19-inch wheels – the Peugeot gets excellent Continental ContiSportContact 5 rubber in 235/50-profile, while the Mazda gets Toyo Proxes R46 tyres in a slightly narrower width and marginally higher profile (225/55)
The Mazda is louder inside, with more road roar present in the cabin at pace, be it on coarse-chip B-road or concrete freeway. Its suspension doesn’t supress road joins as well as the Peugeot, either, with a sharper edge to it. As a result, the 3008 is, without a doubt, more relaxing to commute in.
The CX-5’s body control is very good, though. It deals with mid-corner bumps with more maturity than the front-drive 3008, and a bit of that could come from its extra mass holding it down in those sorts of situations.
The Peugeot indeed can feel a little bit twitchy when you hit a pothole in a bend, but generally the ride compliance is very good. It copes particularly well with speedhumps at pace – because we all know how much of a hurry most parents are in.
Mazda has built a reputation of making fun to drive vehicles, and the CX-5 is among the more enjoyable SUVs in the segment for that – in a series of sweeping bends you can punt it hard and end up smiling, undoubtedly with the aid of the on-demand all-wheel-drive system that can apportion torque where it needs to go, and with Mazda’s G-Vectoring system helping get through the tighter bends thanks to its unseen smarts.
But there are some issues with the drive experience of the CX-5. The steering can be annoyingly heavy at lower speeds, making it hard work for the driver. The steering can be inconsistently weighted on centre as well.
There are fewer complaints with the Peugeot’s steering, which is extremely likeable. It doesn’t offer the greatest amount of feel to the driver’s hands but it is very quick, accurate and responsive. It is, for this tester at least, more fun – provided you don’t engage Sport mode, which seemingly adds a teaspoon of concrete to the rack and makes it harden up in its response.
So, neither is perfect, and both SUVs can be prone to some kickback through the steering wheel over sharp edges, which isn’t ideal, and each has its own issues with torque-steer – where the steering wheel will tug in the driver’s hands – evident, even in the dry, and yes, even in the AWD Mazda.
The brake response of the Mazda is predictable, but the pedal feels a little soft under foot, where the Peugeot offers a little more assuredness.
Again, you might want the assuredness of all-wheel-drive if you plan to hit dirt roads or gravel tracks, but this test was purely urban focused, because flagship models are typically more likely to be bought by those who live in cities.
And if you’re hell-bent on getting a Peugeot 3008 and want the most off-road-able version there is, you can option the brand’s GripControl extended traction control system, which sees the replacement of the 19-inch wheels with 18s that have all-terrain tyres.
This is where the Peugeot will arguably come up against its biggest challenge.
The French brand has had some troubles in the past with reliability, and even went to the extreme measure of offering an industry-leading eight-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on a range of its cars under the previous distributor, Sime Darby.
That hasn’t been retained under Inchcape management, with the Peugeot range reverting to an industry-standard three-year/100,000km warranty program. That’s the same as what you’ll get for the Mazda, but it’s fair to say there’s no stigma attached to the longevity of the Japanese brand’s offerings…
We would have liked to see Peugeot re-establish itself in the market with a bolder ownership offering. But there is capped-price servicing for nine years and 180,000km, with maintenance due every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever occurs first. The average cost per visit over the first five years – for comparison’s sake – is a high $694… but think of it this way: if you do a lot of driving, say 20,000km per year, you’ll only be a little bit worse off than in the Mazda.
Mazda also has a capped-price servicing plan spanning five years or 50,000km, with maintenance required every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs soonest – and that could be a pain if you cover a lot of distance. The costs are fairly wallet-friendly, though, at an average of $340 per visit before you add the cost of extra consumables like cabin air filters, fuel filters (every 40,000km) and brake fluid (every 24 months or 40,000km).
This one went the distance, as predicted. Now it’s time for the judges to offer up their scores. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Sometimes you’ve gotta go with a theme.
There is no denying that the Mazda CX-5 deserves to hold the title spot at the top of the sales charts – it’s a polished and very likeable SUV, one with plenty of tech and family-friendly features. You won’t go wrong if you buy one, but in this battle it didn’t quite fight with as much flair as its rival.
It mightn’t have necessarily delivered a punch to floor its rival, and nor is it going to be able to knock out the CX-5, let alone many other competitors on the sales charts.
But the Peugeot 3008 does enough to take the win here by a very, very narrow margin. In fact, the overall scores end up even based on our ratings system, but blow for blow there is just a little bit more flair on offer from the French fighter.