It seems the whole world has become infatuated with SUVs. Even Europe has begun to make the transition to functional family wagons that look like they could go off-road (whether or not they actually can). Peugeot has finally conceded that to sell a people mover - particularly in Australia - it must look like an SUV. Hence the new 5008, which is also a better car all round than the people mover namesake it replaces.
Blurring the line
Six years ago, the Peugeot 5008 was undeniably a people mover. It also looked underwhelming, and those two elements of its design hampered sales in the local market.
Peugeot's new 5008 is essentially the same sort of package. Like the old model, it's a front-wheel drive available with either a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, both powerplants driving through a six-speed automatic. Nothing much has changed in that respect, despite the new 5008 being based on PSA's modular EMP2 platform. Fuel economy is improved and there's much more safety kit, but the one particular aspect that will help the new car sell, where the old car didn't, is its strong SUV looks.
The 5008 is treated by VFACTS as a medium SUV, although no four-wheel drive option is available.
Clever design for roomy interior
SUV packaging or not, the new generation of 5008 is actually 1mm lower than the old 5008. It's also 112mm longer overall, with an extra 113mm spliced into the wheelbase.
This results in a slightly roomier cabin, helped no end by the sliding, triple-split folding seats in the second row. Each seat will slide fore and aft individually, and the two outboard seats can be tipped and slid forward with just one hand for access to the third row. All three fold flat for additional luggage capacity, while the front passenger seat will also fold - an innovation first seen in the Citroen Berlingo van - for carting around the occasional step ladder and other very long objects.
So Peugeot seems to be taking a leaf out of Czech brand Skoda's 'simply clever' tagline by offering packaging solutions that are simple and clever. The third-row seats can be removed entirely from the vehicle and, since they each weigh just 11kg, they're not heavy to lift. They easily fold flat, or deploy with just one action, yanking on a pull cord. The boot is huge, even without removing the third-row seats, as long as they're folded into the floor.
It's not all beer and skittles inside the 5008 however. The second-row seat cushions felt firm and flat, although there was enough headroom and legroom (in Medium SUV terms) to suit adults - and there were adjustable air vents and folding picnic tables for the kids, unlike the cheap seats in the third row.
There's not really sufficient room in the third row for adult occupancy, but this is a medium SUV after all. I found headroom tight, but at least the second-row seats can be adjusted forward to create more legroom for those seated behind. At a pinch, young teenagers could sit back there - and they're offered the protection of side-curtain airbags as well.
Opinion divided by driving position
Dubbed 'i-cockpit' by Peugeot - a low-set, small-diameter steering wheel and high-mounted instruments - the controversial driving position really worked well in an SUV, especially one like the 5008, with its (too) high driver's seat. The powered seat didn't lower enough to allow what might be called generous headroom with the standard sunroof. Oddly, there's more front-seat headroom in the 5008 Allure - the base model with the manually-adjusted seats.
Whether manual or electric, the driver's seat could do with more bolstering under the thighs for support during harder cornering. While there was some bolstering either side of the base, the base itself was a little firm and flat although it proved comfortable enough over longer distances.
As is often the case with modern Peugeots, the cockpit is a triumph of modern minimalism. The whole interior is neat and stylish, with clutter kept to the bare necessities by hiding switchgear (like the cruise control stub behind the wheel) or using a multi-mode infotainment touchscreen and instrument display for functions that would have once been operated by numerous switches, dials and buttons.
Many drivers find Peugeot's counter-clockwise tacho needle to be unforgivably distracting, but owners will likely learn to live with it sooner or later (or just ignore it altogether, as most drivers do). The instrument display offers multiple configuration modes - Dials, Minimum (Conventional speedo and tacho), Personal, Navigation and Driving - all available by pressing a button on the left spoke of the steering wheel.
There are piano keys in the centre fascia to provide an easy means of skipping across menus 'horizontally', rather than drilling down and backing out. A button on the left spoke of the steering wheel allows the driver to select different instrument displays, including a map following the route programmed in the navigation system. One minor annoyance from the driver's perspective is the engine starter button, which had to be held down for a fraction of a second longer to start or kill the engine.
Fit and finish met with our expectations for the most part, although the sculpture lines running along the shoulder of each door card didn't line up with the corresponding sculpture line in the dash.
On the road
For the launch, motoring.com.au drove both powertrain variants. The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol was refined across the rev range, but struggled slightly from low speeds. It felt much more spirited when operating the automatic transmission as a manual, keeping the tacho needle at about the 10 o'clock position and using the shift paddles, which are fixed to the steering column - an unusual set-up these days.
The Aisin six-speed automatic transmission proved itself competent, but lacked the ultimate smoothness and crisp shifting of a ZF eight-speeder. It did adapt quickly to Sports-mode driving, selecting a lower gear for added engine braking when required.
There was very little powertrain noise at cruising speed, but the tyres were moderately loud on coarse-chip bitumen. I found the petrol models, riding on Michelin tyres, were noisier than the diesel GT variant, on Continentals. Perhaps of more concern were the various squeaks and rattles in the cabin, at least some of that discord seeming to emanate from the folded third-row seat or behind the dash.
Fuel consumption for the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol variants ranged from 6.5 to 12.9L/100km, depending on how the 5008 was driven. Given a good fanging around tight bends and up hills resulted in the latter figure, gentler driving on the open road the former.
Performance was strong from the diesel, but when it was being stoked hard it sounded a little rattly above 4000rpm. There was still demonstrable performance available in those last 500 revs, so it was worth the while.
In contrast with the petrol 5008, the diesel-engined 5008 GT posted figures of 4.7 to 15.6L/100km. It's an engine with great potential for fuel economy when driven gently on the open road, but using the performance to the full extent will result in V8 levels of consumption.
The 5008's traction and stability control did a mighty job keeping the diesel's torque in check, without taking all the fun out of driving in anger. At no time was there any discernible torque steer or axle tramp when powering out of tight corners.
Steering response was on par with other SUVs of similar price, but with better feedback than, say, Skoda's Kodiaq. Handling was quite neat for a large front-wheel drive, with the 5008 GT maintaining a constant line through bends even with the power firmly applied.
Ride comfort was acceptably good too. There was an underlying firmness to the ride quality, but the suspension was soft enough to deal with smaller bumps without trouble. On one occasion the front left of the car did 'crash through' when the wheels on that side struck a new pothole.
It's only just been confirmed with the homologation authorities in Canberra, but the 5008 is officially ruled in for towing 1350kg (petrol) or 1500kg (diesel), with a tow ball weight of 70kg. The 5008 needs servicing at 12-month/20,000km intervals - and Peugeot offers a fixed-price program for owners. In addition, the 5008 is introduced with a five-year warranty, which was initially a short-term promotion, but PCA has since advised that the five-year warranty wil be an on-going offer.
With all that, plus its safety kit, practicality, comfort, driveability and visual presence, the 5008 deserves to find a wider audience than its largely forgotten predecessor did.
2018 Peugeot 5008 Allure & GT-Line pricing and specifications:
Price: $42,990 Allure, $46,990 GT-Line (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 7.0L/100km (NEDC Combined)
Safety Rating: TBA
2018 Peugeot 5008 GT pricing and specifications:
Price: $52,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 4.8L/100km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: TBA