At the last count there were another dozen new SUVs last year. That’s a guess but not too wild. Carmakers are still piling in but chinks have appeared. Jaguar Land Rover, which is principally an SUV maker, is the most significant casualty so far, lacking the wider product range of its rivals who can rely on a catalogue of other vehicles and alternatives to the shunned diesel engine. Sales in the UK plunged almost 30 per cent last year. Petrol now outsells it two to one.
The larger SUV is in a crunch zone, needing diesel for economy and engine flexibility, but hammered by increasingly harsh international restrictions on its emissions.
Toyota has indeed given diesel the boot on its all-new RAV4, here soon with only petrol and hybrid power – and more off-road skills. It’s worth waiting for.
I saw in the New Year in a moderately large diesel SUV, the Peugeot 5008. The original 5008 was a seven-seater MPV. The latest was re-shaped into an SUV, again with a seven-seat layout. It is a longer and bulkier variant of the more wieldy 3008, which won the European Car of the Year award. Neither has 4x4 traction. Both are offered with Peugeot’s nifty Grip Control system which enhances the traction from the front wheels and, combined with winter tyres, does a decent job of tackling snow.
Wags in the Smallbore Bar may duff it over as a poor man’s 4x4. But its anti-spin system on the front wheels make it better than plain two-wheel drive in slippery going.
My demo car was, however, shod with some ordinary tyres which helped explain its lack of traction on a muddied moorland margin. Such muddy grass is what’s known as a bgr for lost grip and it’ll catch out most 4x4s on regular rubber.
The 5008’s bluff, robust exterior promises at least urban toughness. So much for the SUV bit. Inside, it’s actually still an MPV (once known as a people carrier or multi-purpose vehicle) with a versatile cabin. The front passenger seat folds flat. The middle three seats slide or fold flat. The rear pair also fold flat or can be removed. Flat out, you get a flat floor. A clever arrangement of panels covers gaps. There is hidden storage under the deck.
The driving area borrows from the 3008 and other Peugeots, with a dinky steering wheel, flattened top and bottom. The speedo and other main dials are mounted high, compromising the position of the steering wheel in order to see all the display.
There’s another fuss in the central screen display, which on the swanky model tested, carries, among other things, the heating temperature controls and navigation. To alter the temperature you must get the icons on the screen. This is a distracting movement when driving.
A reader told me he hadn’t bought a Volvo XC40 because it had a similar screen-only system. In its defence, you will get used to this. Some makers offer dual screens.
I had to dock the 5008 points in other areas. The speed limit display was often wrong. Showing too low a limit is OK, but showing too high a limit could promote too high a speed and thus a driving offence. There is a disclaimer in the handbook but it’ll do you no good as a court defence.
However, my lowest score went for the ride refinement. To whit: the tyre contact was noisy and harsh and the suspension movement was ill-mannered. This was unexpected and something that I never got used to.
It seems that I either had a poor example or am being rather picky because a sample of other verdicts didn’t have the same complaints. What Car? even named it large SUV of 2018. Chacun à son goût, etc.
However, as a practical load and people carrier the 5008 is very much a contender. It has plenty of space and plenty of spaces into which to put things. It could be better. The rear belts tended to snag in the door closure and the single usb port is buried under the dashboard (as it is on the PSA brand’s DS7 Crossback which is built on the same family platform). There wasn’t even one usb point in the back.
The interior is otherwise pleasing and has a feel of quality and strength. My demo model spoilt me, being the GT version with a 178bhp 1,997cc turbo diesel engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox and 19-inch wheels (which can’t have helped the ride). It is billed as the ultimate in SUV luxury. “Any journey, no matter the distance, will leave you wanting for nothing.” Hmm. I did try the massage function and enjoyed the winter daylight through the glazed roof.
Verdict: Try one and make your own mind up. Lots of rivals.