Peugeot is back and, in just under a year's time, they've got a bigger presence than ever before in the Philippines thanks to the aggressive efforts of Eurobrands Distributor Inc. under Felix Mabilog. Unlike prior attempts at Peugeot in the country, EDI focused on the larger models of the brand and the more fuel efficient powertrains that the French automaker has been known for.

Well, now it's time for EDI to put their money where it's mouth is, as they just held the first Peugeot Eco Fun Run, featuring their best seller: the Peugeot 3008.

Meet Frenchie

This is the 3008, Peugeot's entry into the crossover segment. Personally, I find the 3008 to be a quirky thing, particularly because I had a rather challenging time classifying whether it's actually a crossover or whether it's an MPV.

Peugeot classifies the 3008 as a crossover, but for one reason or another, it just seems more like a 5-seat MPV to me. The way it looks doesn't fit the mold as to what's expected of a crossover like the taller ride height, semi-SUV proportions and styling. To me, it's an enlarged hatchback as opposed to a compact SUV.

The styling is quite striking though, and it's dominated by that busy front end with the larger gaping grille, raked headlamps and the nostril with the proud Peugeot emblem. Like I said, it seems to sit a bit low, quite unlike the typical extra height of crossovers. I like the wide wheel arches, same goes for the nice split tailgate to make loading and unloading bags or boxes a bit easier.

The interior is quite nice and, like the front of the car, quite busy with details all around. I particularly like the flip-up, heads-up display for your speed, which means my eyes won't leave the road. The seating position is just right, and I settle in nicely. There is a bit of a learning curve with figuring out the controls for the radio, Bluetooth, even the multi-info display, and it doesn't even stop there. We'll get to that in a bit.

The Route

The drive was organized with the help of Georges Ramirez and his crew, with the route to take the Peugeot 3008 on expressways 99% of the time. They called it the Eco Fun Run, but based on experience, there's not much in the way of 'fun' with regards to setting fuel economy records.

Eco runs mostly involve having your right foot frozen on the throttle to maintain the lowest possible RPM at the lowest possible speed in the highest possible gear. While it seems boring compared to, say, an all out gymkhana, eco runs (especially competitive ones) take patience, smoothness, and thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead on the road.

The route will take us from Total Alabang to SLEX and all the way through to the very end of the STAR Tollway and back again. This should be interesting.

Fueled up and good to go

After loading up on diesel at Total Alabang, we went on our merry way with the Peugeot 3008. The 3008 does come with an auto-start stop system, shutting down the engine in traffic or at a set of lights.

The minute I pulled the car out of the station, the engineering quirkiness shone through: the transmission. This being the 1.6L eHDi Allure variant, this 3008 comes powered by a 1.6 liter common rail, direct injection turbodiesel engine that makes 112 PS, and comes with an automated manual transmission. Therein lies the difference from other cars.

Unlike a regular automatic transmission that has a torque converter (hence the term slushbox), the 3008's transmission has an actual manual transmission that is actuated automatically. It achieves the same effect as a standard 2-pedal automatic, but has to be driven like a manual transmission in the sense that you have to lift off the throttle when it shifts in auto mode and in manual/sport mode to be smooth. If you don't lift off when it shifts, the 3008 will jerk forward a bit. Once you get used to it, the 3008 is a nice, smooth, comfortable and relatively quiet drive.

On the highway, the 3008 is smooth. Like I said, driving economically is about finding the lowest speed at the lowest RPM in the highest gear. After some experimentation on the expressway, the 6-speed automated manual can shift to 5th gear by about 45 km/h and can hit 6th by 56 km/h. I cruised the car at about 60, and it holds it pretty well. One thing to keep in mind is that the transmission seems to have a very active 'gradelogic' system, and has a tendency to kick down to 5th at even the slightest incline, so I found myself pulling the upshift paddle almost incessantly for the duration of the drive.

We continue the drive through the SLEX, STAR Tollway and back to Alabang. After fueling up again, we went back to the Acacia hotel to await what we really got.

The results

When we arrived at the ballroom, Felix Mabilog himself was there, eager to welcome back the participants that drove the fleet of Peugeots up and down the route. Needless to say, a lot is riding on how the cars will perform, given that EDI is banking on the fuel economy potential of the eHDi powertrain, branding it as a 'micro-hybrid' system.

Enough talk, as Georges Ramirez walked in with the official results from the eco drive.

Our car actually achieved the 3rd best overall, clocking in 25.7 kilometers for every liter of diesel, with the 2nd placer achieving 26.3 km/l. The winning team was able to record 26.9 kilometers per liter of consumption, though as per the contest rules (with separate results for the outbound and inbound routes) the highest for one leg was actually 29.4 km/l.

The results actually surprised many of us given that the most efficient, full gas-electric hybrids (i.e. the Prius) generally do about 25 km/l. Granted the Prius can do that in the city, still, for a 5-seat crossover-and-or-MPV like the Peugeot 3008, highway consumption in the high 20's with three people aboard and some stuff, the results are pretty good.

I still don't know about calling the Peugeot 3008 a 'micro-hybrid', but if it works and does it in a stylish and comfortable package such as this, then it's mission accomplished.