The difficulty is that you tend to get used to the positives, and set them as your minimum benchmark. What a car does well is taken for granted, and anything that aims at the same mindset but falls below that standard is a disappointment.
Now, as I move on to the Peugeot 5008, you might rush to remind me that it is definitely, absolutely not an MPV. Peugeot has gone to massive lengths to stress its metamorphosis from people carrier to sports utility vehicle. So, even though the term multiple-purpose vehicle (MPV) might well apply to either genre, Peugeot is absolutely certain that the 5008 is an on-trend SUV.
And so the pressure ramps up, because I’d argue that, in that philosophical shift, there’s an added imperative to make the car better to drive. The S of SUV stands for sports, after all, and while I’m (just about) clever enough to realise Lotus won’t be rushing to recalibrate the Evora after a spin in the 5008, that S-Max benchmark still looms large in my mind. To meet its brief, the 5008 has to be dynamically engaging.
Now, almost 4000 miles in, I’d say the 5008 delivers something that is satisfactory without ever bringing any of the sizzle that the very best drivers do, despite the best efforts of the smaller than average steering wheel delivering some directness to the experience. And – sound the klaxon – it is particularly key that you don’t upgrade your wheels to the 19in options if you want it to retain composure at all times.
On a smooth road surface it is absolutely at its best, delivering close body control and pliancy while satisfactorily insulating you and your friends from the worst effects of tyre roar and wind noise. For long motorway journeys that’s just perfect, but throw in some bigger bumps, an irregular road surface or a combination of corners and that composure is challenged.
That makes hustling the 5008 an unlikely pastime, even if it does grip surprisingly well for such a tall car. Nor does the Sport toggle add anything to the mix, offering no more than increased engine noise and perkier throttle response.
But does any of this leave me not wanting to recommend the 5008? Even in Autocar, home to the car enthusiast, no. There are better SUVs (and, hush, MPVs) to drive, but only marginally so. The shortcomings are there, but never strongly enough to unravel the compelling case built up by myriad positives for this car.
ROBUST FURNISHINGS The elegant, characterful interior is withstanding the worst that the kids are throwing at it, from crumbs to spillages.
NAVIGATING NAVIGATION The sat-nav is very good, but functions including postcode input could be more easily found.
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Don’t judge a book by its cover – or an engine by its headline figures - 3rd October 2018
Whenever I talk about the 5008, the proverbial elephant comes marching straight into the room. Eyes tighten. Eyebrows raise. Disbelief spills out.
So let’s get it out there in the open here and now, so the elephant can get back to where it belongs. Yes, the 5008 is a seven-seat SUV and, yes, it is powered by a three-cylinder 1199cc petrol engine.