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Firsts are often claimed but rarely true when it comes to new car technology, but with Peugeot's 3008 Hybrid4 the manufacturer is spot on with its claim that this is the first production diesel-electric hybrid car.
The idea behind a diesel hybrid is that it combines the best of both worlds. In city traffic or low-speed stop-start driving the 37hp electric motor powers the car for the lowest emissions and best efficiency, while at motorway speeds the diesel offers the high mpg missing from petrol-electric hybrids. The result is that both the urban and not just the extra-urban mpg figures are high, resulting in a combined fuel figure of 74.3mpg. The CO2 figure too slips below the magic 100g/km mark for the entry-level car, which is also expected to be the best seller.
To allow Peugeot to use the technology in as many different cars as possible, the electric portion of the hybrid, that's battery and motor, is confined to the rear of the car very close to the rear axle, and means these Hybrid4 models are all four-wheel drives too - hence the '4' in the name.
The electric system may be compact but there's a slight impact on boot space, down around 15%, to 354 litres according to Peugeot. And the fuel tank is three litres smaller too at 57 litres.
The Hybrid4 selector allows four modes: Sport, 4WD, Auto and ZEV. In reverse order they allow the car to be used in electric-only mode (assuming there's enough battery charge and up to a maximum of three miles at a time), auto mode for everyday driving, guaranteed four-wheel drive, and maximum power with a better throttle response. All work well, although 4WD is only really for snowy or icy roads as the tyres and ground clearance won't allow any proper mud-plugging.
Driving the 3008 Hybrid4 is as straightforward as driving a regular 3008; the only thing that's different is the level of power regeneration braking that comes in when you lift off the accelerator. However, this braking effect, which charges the battery, is welcome because you can feel the slowing going to good use, rather than being wasted. It also means that Peugeot has been able to retain a lot of brake pedal feel, which is much better than most petrol-electric hybrids that put more of the power regeneration through the brake pedal.
Helping the driver to be more efficient is a power use and recharge gauge plus selectable diagram of how power is being distributed.
All the technology works too. BusinessCar achieved nearly 65mpg with only minimal eco-efforts, and the 74.3mpg combined figure looks entirely real-world achievable.
There are only two downsides that stop the 3008 Hybrid4 being a great car. The first is the automated manual gearbox, dubbed EGC. It's too lethargic in critical situations even though the electric motor does go some way to providing instant power. The second is the £3200 price premium over the equivalent 163hp HDi auto, which may take some time to pay off in fuel and tax savings.
But neither problem stops the first diesel-electric hybrid also being the best overall hybrid - diesel-electric or petrol-electric - for fleets.