We often complain that cars are becoming too similar. Blame platform sharing. Blame the fact most buyers don't necessarily want to stand out. Whatever's to blame, it's rare to see carmakers challenge the status quo in volume-selling segments.
There are a few notable exceptions to the rule, one of which is Peugeot. The 2019 Peugeot 5008 is a conventional seven-seat crossover at heart, but it's sprinkled with unique touches, cleverly executed ideas, and French quirks that make it feel different to its competitors.
First, the basics. Power in the 5008 comes from a conventional four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 121kW and 240Nm, put to the front wheels through a six-speed torque converter automatic.
That isn't a huge amount of grunt hauling a 4641mm long, 1646mm tall, 1844mm wide seven-seat crossover, but the engine (internally known as THP, engine code geeks) doesn't feel underpowered in day-to-day driving. It goes about its business quietly and smoothly, and while it won't set your pulse racing, it has enough pep to get the kids to school on time.
It'll happily sit at 100km/h with six full-sized adults on board. Hills occasionally force it back to fifth gear, and overtakes require a heavy stomp of the throttle, but we were pleasantly surprised by how the Pug performs fully loaded. Peugeot says the 5008 will hit 100km/h in 10.5 seconds, and that feels pretty accurate in the real world.
Bury the throttle and the six-speed transmission will happily hold gears to the 6000rpm redline, but there isn't too much to be gained from wringing the car's neck. Peak torque is available at 1400rpm, so you're best served letting the transmission do its thing and slushing around in the mid-range.
Claimed fuel economy is 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle, but we saw 8.8L/100km through a mix of city and fully loaded highway driving.
Want more torque? There's also a 5008 diesel, but it's limited to the top-spec GT. All-wheel drive isn't offered anywhere in the range. The fact it's front-wheel drive only will deter some, but traction wasn't an issue for us, even in the driving rain.
It's worth mentioning that the six-speed automatic can be a bit jerky around town. It can get a bit confused between first and second, hanging and then engaging jerkily if the driver lifts at the wrong time. We've noticed similar behaviour in other Peugeot (and related Citroen) cars.
Backing the powertrain is a smooth, comfortable ride on a variety of surfaces. Around town, on smooth arterials and on some poor country highways, the 5008 maintains its composure admirably.
There's no need to stretch to a range-topper if you're after a flashy interior, as the car's cabin is gorgeous, even in base Allure trim. The seats are trimmed in a combination of pleather and tweed-styled cloth, while the dash and doors are trimmed in grey fabric. Leather and Alcantara trim is offered further up the range, but we'd argue it isn't really necessary.
You also get blue LED mood lighting strips in the doors, while the infotainment system and digital instruments are backlit in blue.
Sitting below the 8.0-inch infotainment system is a row of chrome-finished toggle switches, and the transmission tunnel is flanked by a rising chrome strip on the passenger side. Even the gear lever has a fascinating shape and finish.
Everyone who sat in the 5008 was impressed with the way it's kitted out, especially when they heard it's a base car.
Whether people like the driving position varies wildly based on body shape, thanks to Peugeot's innovative/infuriating (take your pick) iCockpit 2.0 set-up. The steering wheel is absolutely tiny, and sits down low – right around pelbi height, for those playing along at home – below a fully digital instrument binnacle.
Peugeot says the tiny wheel helps the car feel small and light on the road, while the high-set instruments force the driver to keep their eyes up and on the road ahead. It works for me. Although the wheel is a bit too small for my liking, it all works essentially as Peugeot promises. Others in the CA office hate it. It's definitely one to try before you buy.
Infotainment comes courtesy of a development of the all-touchscreen system debuted in the 308. It's mostly good, with a few infuriating quirks. For one, there are no physical climate controls in the cabin, which means you need to go menu diving if the passenger wants their temperature up half a degree.
Sure, there's a hard button to open the climate page on the dash, but having to fiddle with the touchscreen forces the driver to take their eyes off the road for an uncomfortably long time.
Although it's faster than previous iterations, there's also still some lag in the system. Maps are slow to render and sorely lacking in detail, and I had Bluetooth audio start playing at full volume during a phone call. Those glitches might've been acceptable 10 years ago, but they're inexcusable in an age where everyone has a lightning-quick touchscreen in their pocket.
If the central screen is a bit disappointing, the digital instruments are a standout. They're easy to read on the move, the animations are beautifully rendered, and there's just the right amount of information on show.
Beneath the interior's chic skin is a properly practical foundation. The second-row seats slide and fold individually (40/20/40), and there are airline-style tray tables integrated into the front seats so outboard rear occupants can enjoy an average in-flight meal and a cold red wine. Presumably.
Leg room is generous with the second row in its rearmost position, and it's acceptable for average-height adults sitting behind average-height adults with it slid forward to free up space for third-row passengers.
Speaking of third-row passengers, there's actually enough room for adults back there. Sort of. We used the 5008 with six people on board twice, with varying degrees of success.
With a tall, solid man in the back the 5008 struggled, but that isn't really what it's aimed at. Two average-sized women sat quite happily back there for an hour, with almost no complaints. We wouldn't recommend folding leggy teenagers in there, but pre-teens and shorter teenagers shouldn't have too much to whine about.
There's space for 780L of gear with the third row folded flat, and 1940L with the second row flat. The passenger seat folds flat, too, allowing owners to carry objects three metres long.
Although it looks relatively compact from the outside, the 5008 is deceptively spacious inside, with its tall roof line and flat tailgate lending it dimensions more akin to an MPV than a style-focused SUV. Boxy rear aside, it's quite a handsome beast.
The 5008 is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 20,000km, and the first five services cost $474, $789, $474, $802 and $487 respectively under Peugeot's capped-price service program, which is on the more expensive end of the mainstream SUV spectrum.
Priced from $44,990 before on-road costs, the 5008 Allure is $1300 cheaper than the entry Skoda Kodiaq and $350 pricier than the base Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, arguably its closest rivals in the 5+2 SUV space.
With its chic interior, iCockpit 2.0 infotainment and distinctive exterior, the 5008 isn't out to please everybody. But if you're considering the Kodiaq or Tiguan, you'd be silly to ignore the Peugeot.
It gives nothing away in the practicality stakes, but has oodles more charm than either of the Volkswagen Group twins, and wants for almost nothing in base Allure trim.
Do you need to spend more on the GT-Line or GT? If diesel is a must, the GT is your only option. Otherwise, the Allure ticks almost all the boxes, value included.