Peugeot 5008: Back at the top of the family tree
Peugeot's new seven-seat 5008 is an excellent family car, says William Scholes
AS well as a nice line in pepper mills and dinky hatchbacks, the name Peugeot has long been synonymous with big, comfortable and practical family cars, writes William Scholes.
When I was growing up, neighbours owned one of Peugeot's 505 estates. Like a Volvo with more design flair, these were amazing vehicles with many virtues.
Chief among these was the fact that Peugeot had thoughtfully kitted out its jumbo wagon with three rows of seats.
In the days before children's car seats got so large that they needed their own post code and rear seat belts were still something of a novelty, this bestowed the 505 with so much space that it could easily accommodate double-digit numbers of little people.
For anyone of primary school age, this gave the Peugeot a real wow factor.
And as if going on a journey with lots of your school friends in the same car wasn't already exciting enough, the big Peugeot had another thrilling feature: the seats in what would have been the boot on a lesser car all faced forwards.
Even Volvo and Mercedes, two other estate car specialists, didn't offer that in their rival three-rowers at the time.
In those, two unfortunate children had to sit in the boot in mean little seats that faced backwards, gazing through the tailgate window like a pair of forlorn puppies.
All of this meant that, while you might not have gone as far as Blu Tacking a poster to your bedroom wall, the Peugeot 505 was almost as cool to a young petrolhead as a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa, the supercar pin-ups of the mid-1980s.
But motoring fashions change.
Big, family-friendly estate cars gave way to a new breed of 'people carrier' - a daft description of a car if ever there was one, matched by the genre's alternative 'multi-purpose vehicle'.
Quiet, refined and comfortable, the Peugeot 5008 is all you would hope for from your family wheels
Another French company, Renault, led the way with its Espace and Scenic models, and soon every serious car-maker had an MPV or two on its books.
Now MPVs are on the wane. Renault doughtily perseveres but what almost everyone seems to really want is an SUV or crossover.
This explains why in its newest guise, the 5008 - Peugeot's big seven-seater - has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis from MPV to SUV.
Whatever its merits as an MPV, the old 5008 was bland and forgettable.
The 2018 SUV version is a far more striking piece of work, stretching the distinctive design language of the 3008 into a full-fat seven-seater.
The 3008 has impressed us already, so this is a promising start for the 5008. For the record, against the tape measure the 5008 is, when compared to the 3008, a mere 3mm wider and 22mm taller.
To accommodate those extra child-friendly seats in what was the 3008's boot, Peugeot has extended the car by 194mm. Most of this growth - 165mm - is accounted for by a longer wheelbase.
If you have set your face against traditional MPV-style seven-seaters, such as the 5008's sister car, the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, the Ford S-Max, Seat Alhambara and Renault Grand Scenic, then there are other SUV three-rowers competing for your family cash.
The two most obvious are probably the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq. But so broad has this class of car become, that the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Land Rover Discovery Sport might also crop up on your 'possibles' list.
The 5008's striking design might push it to the top of that list before you've even sat in it.
This is a big, long car, but it is well proportioned and somehow it even has a touch of elegance. It is an attractive piece of work.
Peugeot's wagon looks modern in a way the Nissan and Skoda don't - my son thought it "futuristic" - and while it might not be conventionally handsome, it is at least interesting and imaginative.
A sense of style is a subjective, of course. Your tastes might mean you would prefer to have the Nissan, with its chunky SUV-lite detailing, or the low-key Skoda on your driveway, but your kids will want the Peugeot. And if you're in the market for this sort of car, what your kids think can go a long way to influencing your thinking...
The same flair and unconventional approach is evident inside.
There's nothing special about the design or execution of the Skoda and Nissan interiors, albeit they are well constructed, clearly laid out and easy to get along with.
But compared to the Peugeot 5008, they look old fashioned.
Unsurprisingly, the 5008 is all but identical on the inside to the 3008, with high-tech blending with a sense of luxury and well-being in the manner that is coming to define Peugeot interiors.
Highlights include two bright, clear digital screens, a dashboard that sweeps into the centre console and wraps around the driver and a tactile mix of metals, soft-feel plastics and fabrics.
There is also some lovely - dare I say it - night-time ambient lighting which casts a relaxing glow around the cabin.
Everything you touch feels good and of quality - not always something that could have been said of French cars, never mind a Peugeot, in the recent past - and Peugeot is to be congratulated for establishing a clear identity to the inside of its cars.
Perhaps one of the best compliments that can be paid to the Peugeot's classy interior is that it manages to look and feel like something that a premium brand would be content to fit in one of its cars.
A driver's layout such as the 5008's may not feel like home as instantly as, say, the straightforward Skoda.
The tiny steering wheel will be off-putting for some, for example.
But it is worth persevering with, not least because all the interior flourishes help create a little bit of drama on every journey.
This is a car that is not afraid of being different; in fact, it's proud of the fact.
Children, too, love the high-tech look of the dashboard, the screens and the buttons.
They'll also enjoy the strong sound system, smartphone mirroring and multiple USB sockets to charge their various devices.
Big windows are a boon on a family hauler like the 5008. The middle row of seats are genuinely spacious, and each seat can be folded, reclined and independently moved fore and aft.
The third row, which can fold into the boot floor when not needed, is ideally suited for younger children; this is the way with all cars of this type, though access to them is probably better in the Peugeot than most others.
These seats, which weigh 11kg each, can be removed altogether to free up even more boot space.
All of this means the 5008 offers much flexibility, with the ability to carry load volumes of up to 2,150 litres if you fold and remove the seats in the right configuration.
The test car was fitted with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine - the sort of device that until recently signalled 'city car'.
The all-round performance of this 128bhp unit in a car as large as the 5008 was perhaps the biggest revelation of the test.
Children will love the 5008 - for how it looks, for its futuristic dashboard, folding seats and the fact that they can bring lots of their friends with them
Smooth and quiet, it propelled the Peugeot remarkably effectively. It was frugal enough, too, though one imagines that lots of seven-up motoring would blunt the performance and economy.
'My' car also had the automatic gearbox option, which was an unobtrusive as such a transmission ought to be.
It was a drivetrain combination which offered a level of performance that felt entirely appropriate for the car and its purpose; while diesel may be the default choice for most customers of SUVs in this class, I would suggest the petrol's merits are worth carefully considering and measuring against your mileage and expectations.
Clearly, the 1.2-litre 5008 was not a ball of fire in acceleration terms.
It handled well enough, but for mobile crèches like this, a comfortable ride and rolling refinement are more important than cornering dynamics and G-force.
Again, Peugeot seem to have got things spot-on; quiet, refined and comfortable, it is all you would hope for from your family wheels.
Despite its chunky appearance, the 5008 - as with the 3008 - cannot be ordered with four-wheel-drive. It can, however, be fitted with Peugeot's trick 'advanced grip control' traction control system as an option. Most rivals, it should be noted, can be had with all-wheel-drive.
The 5008 does offer a wide drivetrain range, though. As well as the 1.2-litre tested, a 1.6-litre 163bhp petrol is also available, along with five diesels, in 99bhp, 118bhp, 128bhp, 148bhp and 178bhp flavours.
These are variously paired with five-speed and six-speed manual gearboxes or six-speed and eight-speed automatics.
Prices start at £24,139 for a 1.2-litre in Active trim, rising to £36,200 for the kitchen sink 2.0-litre diesel GT.
The sweet spot is probably Allure trim, as tested, which comes with pretty much all the equipment you would need.
That means lots of safety kit, kid-pleasing features such as a DAB radio, folding tables on the back of the front seats and window blinds, parking sensors, smart 18-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and satnav.
Beneath a striking exterior, the Peugeot 5008 offers a sensible blend of practicality and comfort.
While keen drivers might prefer to look elsewhere, it is smooth and refined for all passengers.
But most importantly, perhaps, children will love it - for how it looks, for its futuristic dashboard, folding seats and the fact that they can bring lots of their friends with them.
AT A GLANCE
Highlights include two bright, clear digital screens, a dashboard that sweeps into the centre console and wraps around the driver and a tactile mix of metals, soft-feel plastics and fabrics
Peugeot 5008 Allure PureTech 130 automatic
Price: £28,220. As tested £29,895. Options included metallic paint £525, black-painted roof £280, wireless phone charging £120, motorised tailgate with keyless 'open and go' £750
Engine and transmission: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo, six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive; 128bhp, 170lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 117mph, 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 54.3mpg (EU combined), 37.6mpg (real world), 120g/km
Car tax: £165 in first year, then £140 annually
Benefit in kind: 25 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (86/85/67/58), 2016 (assessed by Euro Ncap as being structurally identical to the 3008)