By Declan Colley
Like its French counterpart Renault, Peugeot — and its fellow travellers within the PSA Group which owns the company — has been doing rather well recently.
Indeed Peugeot has come a very long way from its foundations as a manufacturer of salt, pepper, and coffee grinders back in the 1840s.
In recent times, the ‘Lion’ brand has, thanks to massive restructuring, the closure of many manufacturing plants, and a complete redrawing of the company’s corporate governance, started making inroads towards its stated aim of selling more than 4m vehicles globally every year.
It might just be that the company has yet to exceed a figure of more than 2m units annually, but it is certainly making progress and the addition of the French government and the Chinese auto-maker Dongfeng — as well as the Peugeot family — to the ownership roster, has given Peugeot and the expanding PSA Group the ammunition to start the march towards its ambitious stated aims.
Winning the European Car of the Year title — not to mention the far more salubrious Examiner Motoring Car of the Year title — in 2017 courtesy of its excellent 3008 SUV, was a major shotin the arm and an indication that the company is not only headed in the direction of many more customers, but also towards sustained profitability.
The 3008 indicated to me and to many others that Peugeot had finally shrugged off an era of mediocrity and general short-sightedness that had dogged its model line-up for years. The subsequent appearance of this week’s tester, the 5008, has rubber-stamped that viewpoint.
As we know, the world has gone SUV-mad and everyone — at least anyone who has a keen eye for the bottom line — knows by now that unless you’ve got at least three of the things on your roster, then you’re going to be struggling to gain meaningful sales levels from your dealer network. People want these machines, so if you’re not selling them, you’re not at the ballpark.
Sure, you can have all the superminis, family cars, and family/business saloons you like, but unless you’re in the SUV game at several different levels, you will not clock up the numbers necessary to keep the show on the road.
So, having made one truly excellent medium-sized SUV, the next job for Peugeot was to repeat the trick with a larger one.
Somewhat oddly, both the 3008 and the much larger 5008 are built on the same platform and share many mechanicals and engines. But these two cars are nevertheless beasts of a completely different colour.
The 3008 is a compact SUV, simple as; the 5008, on the other hand, is a curious mix of two separate market segments, the MPV and the SUV. The idea, it would appear is to meld the practical benefits of either variant into something completely different.
Now, whether Peugeot has achieved this aim is open to debate, but what has resulted from their efforts is a machine which blends the practicality of a seven seater MPV with the modern rakishness of an SUV. And, in the view of this particular hack, Peugeot has come up with something fresh, innovative and bold.
OK, so it might not be the best drive ever conceived, and I certainly felt the 1.6 BlueHDi turbodiesel was not the best engine choice on offer from Peugeot, but these were minor quibbles in the overall scheme of things and that the car’s positives by far outweighed any perceived negatives.
On the positive side of the ledger, there is the look of the car, which is indeed stylish, jaunty, even a touch raffish. Now, I have no doubt that some people will say it looks like a square box on wheels with little to rave about, but to my eye, at least, it was stylistically impertinent but imbued with all the correct design elements to make it stand out from the competition.
And then you come to the interior. As is the case with the wonderful 3008, Peugeot has gone a long way to make this car not only different, but also incredibly driver and passenger friendly.
On top of that there is not one of the surface elements that you might come in contact with that is not either unpleasant to touch or look at.
The variety of textiles and plastics utilised here is as good as anything I have encountered in this class and way better than most.
Even the design of the switchgear for the main infotainment and climate operations is quite beautiful. And that’s without mentioning the wonderful digital instrument binnacle that’s a delight to live with.
Also, while Peugeot’s ‘i-cockpit’ design, with the tiny steering wheel, is not something that will suit everything, but the way it has been incorporated into the overall interior of the 5008, gives the car the air of a GT rather than a family load-lugger.
But load lugger it is and with a full complement of seven seats, and a truly multi-adjustable middle row of seats, each of which can be folded separately and have individual length and inclination adjustment.
OK, so the two rear-most seats will cater for smallies only and the head-room for those in the middle row is only alright (largely because of the addition of the panoramic opening glass roof), but the over-reaching practicality of the thing is nearly shocking.
Sure the boot space is tight with the two back seats engaged, but the manner with which you can trick them around is alarmingly effective, allowing you to be creative and innovative with what can be stored or carried.
On the road, the 5008 is more of arelaxed highway cruiser than it is a cross-country busy-bee; for such a tall car cornering roll is well managed and on decent surfaces the ride is fine. The handling gets a bit jiggly on rougher surfaces when you also get plenty of tyre noise leaking into the cabin, but the package as a whole is very worthy.
It is worth noting that there is no 4WD available here, but you can specify a bunch of electronic trickery from Peugeot that will allow for a modicum of soft-roading at least.
And, of course, it is worth remembering that this type of car is not aimed at people for whom performance is everything — rather for those people for whom performance matters little, as long as the car will get you from A to B in timely fashion.
The 5008 will do that, but rather than this 120 bhp (11.9 second 0-100 kph and top speed of 184 kph), it might be looking at the slightly more powerful (130 bhp) 1.2 petrol engine. That might take something of a leap of faith, but it iscertainly worth considering.
Not without some minor flaws then, the 5008 is still nevertheless a fine car from Peugeot and one whose inherent positives mangle any negatives.
Indeed, it is another sign that Peugeot is very firmly headed in the right direction.