How's this for something different? A big Peugeot. Yes, I know, Peugeot's done big before with some pointy MPV's in the 1980's and, more recently, it's been involved with even bigger delivery vans that share platforms with other automakers. But, come on, Peugeot's a small-car specialist right?
Besides, in my opinion, Peugeot's turned a corner recently and since 2007, when it debuted the X08 chassis on which this car's based, its cars have had a different flavour. The big 3008 crossover we're talking about here is one of the best-tasting French cars I've driven.
OK, it helps that, like most of Peugeot's products, it's built in conjunction with other manufacturers and one of its strongest attributes is its engine, a (downtuned) evolution of the 1.6-litre turbo found in the Mini Cooper S.
It's a creamy-smooth little four that's eager to pull this big body around and it sings a sweet song while it does it - a characteristic unheard of in a family-orientated car like this. Young at heart, I'd say, with some extra kilos piled on around its hips but still willing to play if you are.
The whole driving experience is pleasant with slick manual gear changes and lightweight controls, although the softish suspension, riding on a low-profile wheel-and-tyre combination, gives a strange sensation in the seat of the pants. Again, it reminds me of that mother-of-two who probably shouldn't be wearing those stiletto boots and low-cut jeans but somehow pulls it off sexily anyway.
Ride height is considerable; you'd be forgiven for mistaking this Pug for an all-wheel drive but it's not. Drive is to the front wheels only, although there are special "Grip" models that have five pre-set traction settings for things such as sand and snow. I must say, however, that it's a cheeky and deceptive name for a two-wheel drive model.
I also noticed a lot of chassis flex and the doors creaked over the slightest of undulations. It had me perplexed and I was just about to put it down to Peugeot's inexperience in the large-car sector when I came across the little switch in the centre console that opened a sliding panel in the ceiling.
By golly, if this car's roof doesn't have the largest pane of glass I've seen outside of an aquarium. It's not the opening type but kids will love it anyway, providing the sun's obstructed by at least a little cloud.
I preferred to leave the opaque panel closed for fear of burning my scalp. Nevertheless that giant hole in the 3008's body structure explains its lack of rigidity.
Your kids will also love the head-up display panel that looks like it came straight out of a fighter jet. It's a retractable, motorised piece of frameless plexi-glass about the size of a CD case that pops up above the fascia with a holographic-look speedo display projected on it. Interesting, to say the least, but I'm not sure how anyone in their right mind could drive with it up. Way too distracting for me.
Peugeot seems to have thought of everything a family could want in a car and, besides cool features such as rechargeable torch (on a charger, so it's always ready!) in the boot, a trapdoor-type storage area in the rear floor and levers for the rear-seat-folding operation inside the rear hatch, there are storage boxes all over the cabin.
The centre console, which is a blatant copy of Audi's (not a bad thing), comes up high between the seats and hides one of the largest storage bins I've yet seen. Your arm up to your shoulder can fit inside. The front door pockets are also unusually deep.
Another really nifty feature is the split rear hatch that opens normally but also has a second, bottom half that opens if you need a bigger aperture. The bottom panel also works nicely as a bench and I can imagine kiddies sitting there changing school shoes for soccer boots in the afternoon.
I do have to criticise one thing, though. The jumbo-sized windscreen comes with a puny set of sun visors and, just like another French car we've tested recently, a vast expanse of windscreen allows the sun through.
Some cars have sun visors with sliding inserts for just that reason and I imagine that a set of those would add R50 at most to costing. I can't imagine how Peugeot's engineers haven't noticed the problem.
I'd recommend the 3008 to blossoming families looking for some extra space, spirited performance and more than its fair share of charm wrapped up in one package. An impossible combination usually... INL Motoring