This could be the start of something significant. Look at the headline figures: 200bhp, 99g/km CO2 output. And these values, disconnected from each other as they sound, co-exist in a well-finished, almost-SUV starting at £26,995.
The car with these credentials is Peugeot's 3008 HYbrid4, powered by a 163bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and a 37bhp electric motor. The engine drives the front wheels, the motor the rear wheels, and with both operating together the HYbrid4 is a 4x4.
A diesel engine is about 30 per cent more economical than petrol, mainly because you need less fuel to generate the same amount of energy. So a diesel hybrid will be more frugal than a petrol hybrid. That no one until now produced a diesel hybrid is simply because of cost, a diesel engine being more expensive to make than a petrol one (stronger parts, a more complex fuel-injection system).
This hybrid power combination suits the 3008 very well. The breed was already quite likeable, with remarkable agility for a tallish vehicle, a smooth ride and a high standard of interior design and finish. The horizontally split tailgate, like a Range Rover's, is a useful feature too.
The HYbrid4 uses the "robotised manual" six-speed gearbox offered as an option in other 3008s, which uses standard manual internals but can shift automatically. There is no clutch pedal but you can shift your own gears via familiar paddle-shifters on the steering wheel or by the central selector lever.
Unique to this car, though, is the central selector knob by which you choose ZEV, Auto, Sport or 4WD modes. ZEV – Zero Emissions Vehicle – mode lets you drive on the electric motor alone, by which you can travel at up to 31mph for maybe two miles provided there is enough battery charge.
In Auto, the 3008 does what it thinks is best for the circumstances, which will often include moving off silently from rest with the engine cutting in smoothly once you are under way.
It uses a combined starter motor and alternator with a silent belt drive, so there's none of the conventional chirrup of meshing teeth as the starter operates. Sport, as expected, lets the engine hold on to the lower gears longer and gives speedier but slightly more abrupt gearshifts. And 4WD ensures the electric motor is always ready to join at the rear wheels whenever the front wheels start to lose grip, making the HYbrid4 quite an effective off-roader.
Clever electronics bring the motor into play in other ways, too. It can give an extra boost of power at getaway by filling in for the response lag typical of a turbodiesel engine. It "fills in" during gearchanges so the shift is smoother. It can always add torque for keener acceleration, and it can apply torque to individual rear wheels to help keep the 3008 on course, neatly augmenting the stability system's efforts.
All the while you can follow the various energy paths through the 3008's systems on an animated graphic on a display screen. But that is really just for interest's sake, because driving the HYbrid4 is entirely intuitive and really rather pleasant. The gear changes are particularly impressive given the jerky, surging progress suffered in most robotised-manual transmissions. This one is as good as a double-clutch system such as the Volkswagen Group's DSG.
Nor does the hybrid system intrude, because the 3008's high floor allows the motor and battery to hide under it. And the HYbrid4 seems good value for what it is, even if the cheapest version costs £5,650 more than a Sport-trim regular 3008. Against that the hybrid is livelier, an extra 13bhp from the engine helping to offset the 250kg weight gain, and its running costs and tax liability are much lower.
On which point, two grander versions, costing up to £29,950, have a 104g/km CO2 score, so it's a good thing the "entry" model is itself very well equipped. All told, the hybrid 3008 is an impressive machine. Other carmakers will surely follow.
Audi Q3 TDI 177 SE: £28,460, 177bhp, 156g/km. Capable compact SUV with a double-clutch auto gearbox and "freewheeling" mode. Makes the HYbrid4 seem good value.
Lexus RX450h: from £44,530, 299bhp (engine and motors together), 145g/km. Shares the rear-wheel motor idea and has another at the front. Not worth the extra £17.5K.
Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi 4WD: from £24,245, 150bhp, 159g/km. Family hatchback nibbles at edge of SUV-world and can have 4WD. Capable and likeable, but highlights 3008's value.