IAIN ROBERTSON

Admitting that he ‘finally gets it’, Iain Robertson has gained a proper marketing perspective on what defines the archetypal ‘family car’ in the modern era, albeit one that is so friable and likely to implode at a moment’s bidding that he is concerned.

Having talked about the moving sands of fashion on previous editorial occasions, I am going to avoid delving into them for fear of incurring boredom, let alone discovering that some of them might be of the ‘quick’ variety, which is as sure-fire a means of getting stuck as any. Yet, fads can be notoriously quirky and ‘of their time’ and, just as the market tires of them, they can be dispensed with, only to re-appear sometime later, for a fresh generation that the marketers feel will hold no memorable qualities.

Reeling off the classifications – station wagon, grand tourer, hatchback, sedan, de ville, fastback and hot hatch, among an array of model descripts – highlights the fickleness of the car scene and the impact of design fads over the years. Of course, the most recent of them are MPV and SUV. While I can comprehend readily the multi-person, or multi-purpose, of the former, the SUV definition has always stuck in my craw, mainly because the motor industry has butchered and buggered it about so much that it no longer holds any connection with sport, or utility, and perpetrates a compounded lie by way of deft body cladding and an increased ride height, even though neither is needed, because only a front-driven axle can get you stranded in a roadside puddle.

Acquired predominantly by yummy-mummies, the majority of whom neither know, nor care, about which end of the car is doing the driving, as long as it can ride the kerbs outside the local comprehensive, the village doctors’ surgery, the remnant smattering of libraries and double-yellow stripes that bedeck every other road in civilised GB, the make and model is immaterial, although a perception of ‘premium’ is preferred. The simple truth is, the SUV is as self-satisfyingly irrelevant and superficial as most of the bottles of bleach-blonde ‘cos I’m worth it’ and Monsoon jump-suits that seem to frequent them.

Yet, while it has taken an inordinate amount of time for me to come around to accepting the bloody things, I must admit to having done so and the latest Peugeot 5008 is, to my state of mind, the consummate transition vehicle, from MPV to SUV, as long as one can accept that SUV is now simply a type and not a typing error. The previous generation 5008 was a thoroughly confused MPV, with seats for five but also an occasional small pair, that never looked particularly happy with its lot.

In fact, by splashing a soupcon of ‘bling’ around the interior and dipping into the pseudo-off-roader, one-size-fits-all box of body addenda, oh yes, and hiking up the suspension a tad (specifically for cresting those lofty kerbs), 5008 is now an SUV in all its gory glory. However, it is also a darned good one.

The interior décor is the stuff of genius; a wonderful blend of what used to be typical Gallic fabrics (in appearance, if not actual substance), more than a splash of style and illuminated highlights that are not in the least annoying and which seem to enhance its presence to new peaks. It is probably the most comfortable Peugeot that I have driven since the 504 of several decades ago, incorporating cushy seats and no signs of that tragically misjudged LHD floorpan that compromised the footwell and driving position of every RHD Peugeot since.

I can recall berating the PR director of the UK company several years ago for missing an important point that Peugeot sold almost as many RHD cars as LHD world-wide, so it was not forced into making them especially for the UK market. In addition, I have never been a fan of Peugeot’s current predilection for installing tidgey steering wheels in its models, over which the driver must peer to see the instrument faces (replaced in the 5008 by a digital and reconfigurable screen), and the return of the ‘Quartic’ wheel that was once a preoccupation of one of British Leyland’s most disastrous models, the ‘All-Aggro’. In the 5008, at least I have clearance for my long legs beneath the tiny tiller.

Remaining in a critical vein, it is clearly French arrogance that insists on placing rev-counters on the wrong side of the instrument layout, with needles that operate in the opposite direction to every other manufacturer, that combine with the steering wheel design and a defensive justification when queried. Just because somebody high-up in the company was prepared to sign-off such a frippery, does not mean that it is right. I live in a vain hope that Peugeot may have seen the error of its ways and that it will make pertinent (for safety reasons) changes with its next generation of models, because change-for-change’s sake does not always bear fruit…although, knowing ‘Les Grenouilles’, as I do, I might be waiting longer than anticipated.

The amount of cabin space is masterful, as there is copious room fore and aft and the boot is immense, when the rearmost tiddler seats are not drawn into use. It is a practical cabin, with deep bins, door pockets but the typical PSA impractical glovebox that is less than half the dimensions its drop-down door suggests. Yet, it is impressive for the quality of its assembly and the materials used. The equipment levels are excellent, as they ought to be for a car (in test guise) that weighs-in at £27,695, with metallic paint (£525), black roof (£280), smartphone charging-plate (£120) and a motorised tailgate and keyless-go (£750) hefting the invoice bottom-line perilously close to £30k territory. Connectivity is bang-on the modern market’s demands, while a plethora of safety and security addenda (lane discipline, distance cruise, blind-spot recognition, driver attention and emergency braking) are all included, along with auto-on wipers and smart-beam headlamps.

The test car also featured the six-speed fully-automatic transmission option that costs an extra £1,400 over the manual alternative. Although its supposedly logical lever movement (depress a safety button and move the stubby, inverted ‘hockey-stick’ lever fore and aft to select the usual PRNDL settings) took a small amount of acclimatisation, mainly due to the fact that it is set-up for LHD markets, I enjoyed engaging the ‘Manual’ setting that enables the use of the shift paddles located behind the steering wheel cross-spokes instead. The shift speeds are quick and engage the ratios smoothly, to make the best use of the 131bhp, 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that emits 120g/km CO2 (£160 first year road tax and £140 annually thereafter).

Despite its small capacity, the engine enables a 0-60mph time of around 10.0 seconds, with a top speed of 117mph. Its combined fuel economy is given as 54.3mpg, although nearer to 45mpg will be the norm. Considering its kerbweight of 1,317kgs, the power unit makes a seriously good fist of its available potency and never sounds as if it is under excess strain.

Although 4WD is not even an option, intelligent electronics enable a series of surface conditions to be dealt with by the car’s front differential, drawing in the traction enhancing aspects of its anti-lock braking system that prove useful with its descent control function. It is hardly a serious off-road system but it can manage forestry drives and extractions from rain-soaked fields with a modicum of competence.

Overall, the Peugeot 5008 is an excellent family car, providing a level of practicality and ease of use that is eminently satisfactory. While ‘SUV’ has now become a hackneyed handle for this class of car, as long as you can tolerate that it actually defines as ‘family car’, it should provide relatively fuss-free transport for a few years, until the complex electronics architecture demands some reparative work.

Conclusion:   Apart from the aggressive styling of the 5008’s front-end that panders to the ‘4×4’ buyer, the latest model is actually a likeable, competent and capable mode of transport, for either private, or cost-effective business use. Four trim levels are available – Active, Allure, GT Line and GT – along with a 1.6-litre petrol, two 1.6-litre HDi tunes of diesel (100/120bhp) and two 2.0-litre HDi (150/180bhp) variants. The test car is at the lower end of the model spectrum.

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).