I have a fondness for French cars. There, I’ve said it.
My infatuation probably stems from the Citroen 2CV my mum owned back in the late 1960s. Yes, it was slow. No, it wasn’t comfortable and yes, it ended its all too short life on its side (with me inside). But I loved that car. I loved its quirky styling, it’s pale blue paint, and the black canvas roof that folded back like an old sardine tin.
Above: Yep, that's little old me, circa 1969
I didn’t specifically ask for a French car when the question came up at CarAdvice’s annual Christmas Car showdown, but when I saw the Peugeot 5008 on the list of available options, I snapped it up pretty quickly.
I’d attended the local launch of the 5008 back in February and was impressed, not just by its styling, but also just how nicely it performed on the road. The perfect vehicle then, for a holiday road trip to the Southern Highlands region in NSW, which, if you squint resembles the countryside in rural France. Maybe. Certainly its lush greenery and, for this week, misty rain environs did a pretty good job of making the Peugeot 5008 GT-Line ($53,180 as tested) feel at home.
The GT-Line is powered by 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a six-speed AISIN auto transmission sending drive to the front wheels. With modest outputs of 121kW and 240Nm, the 5008 in this petrol spec doesn't look like much on paper. But those numbers belie just how good this SUV is at offering a refined and relaxing drive experience.
The Pug easily swallowed two adults, a four-year-old-already-bored-before-we’ve-even-left kid, a dog (a Boston Terrier for those interested) and a swag of Christmas presents that may or may not have come from Santa, depending on who’s asking.
The chance to head out of Sydney is always a pleasure… even if the act of getting out is a nightmare. Traffic snarls abound, and never more so than in Sydney’s M5 tunnel which on this day, was choked with traffic at a standstill from entry to exit which, if you don’t know the M5 tunnel, equates to 4km of choking, belching, smoking cars and trucks moving at around 5km/h.
And that’s where the Pug’s interior comes into its own. It’s a lovely place to be, even in the worst Sydney roads have to offer. From the beautifully crafted Nappa leather seats which are both supportive and comfortable, to the cutting edge switchgear and infotainment system which, while no better or worse than many others in terms of functionality, stands out just because of their design. It’s just, well, different. In a good way, certainly in a way that being stuck in the M5 tunnel for an hour while watching the worst in people slowly start to emerge, just doesn’t matter. It’s like Feng Shui in your car, a calming experience.
Once out on the open road, though, and the 5008 continues to impress. A good chunk of the drive to the Southern Highlands is via the Hume Motorway, an easy loping drive, most of it signposted at 110km/h. Set the adaptive cruise control, snuggle into the comfortable driver’s seat (eight-way electric adjustment and with massage function), blast some tunes on the perfectly serviceable standard sound system, and your little four-year-old will suddenly become very quiet as she drifts off into a sleep filled with dreams of Santa, no doubt.
With the Hume Motorway left behind, the Southern Highlands contract around you with beautiful rural roads, lush and verdant, and isolated. The perfect hunting ground for the 5008, then. There’s no need to push hard (after all, this is no performance car). Instead, settle in and gently watch the scenery unfold.
From Bowral to Moss Vale, Robertson to Kangaroo Valley, the Southern Highlands offers a perfect canvas for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney for a weekend or even a week. The lush countryside, beautifully traversed by some fine driving roads, is a welcome antidote to life in the big smoke.
More than once a little voice from the back drifted over, “It’s so beautiful”. And it is.
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