Crikey, this is posh, in a subtle, non-shouty way. We are in one of those Cotswold villages ending in “throp” but pronounced “thrup” to give it a bit more swank.
Southrop has no houses you can imagine affording. It has a convivial hotel, called simply Thyme, and The Swan boozer renowned for its gourmet Scotch eggs which have a warm, soft yolk from ambrosial hens. The meat casing is exquisite. I’d go out of my way to eat those.
I and several dozen others were passing through as guests of Peugeot, now punching hard as it swallows rival brands Vauxhall and Opel. Good to know there’s still some budget for comforting PR activities aimed at enhancing the appeal of whatever wheels it is presenting to the gentle folk of the media.
The game has changed. Carmakers no longer expect a thousand informative words in return for dinner, bed and breakfast to city broker standards. They want on-line social chatter as well. Name dropping, free plugging really. I resist.
Today it was the 5008, a model which has been rebranded as an SUV after being created as an MPV (aka people carrier) eight years ago.
It’s a bit of badge fiddling to suit market desires but the availability of enhanced grip on the driven front wheels gives it good scrambling ability in snow and the like. An MPV smacks of times gone by, your Ford Galaxy and Renault Espace, the school-run seven seaters of yore. Embraced by the hotel and taxi trade, they don’t pamper the image of modern families. They are functional but are no longer de rigueur.
A sports utility vehicle sounds, well, sportier, maybe ready for a little light bragging. Notably, it will have a dominant bonnet, rather than the sloping front of an MPV. The 5008 still seats seven but has been redrawn with more attitude. Peugeot’s briefing says: “It’s the first SUV to offer superb modularity equal to that of the best people-carriers.” It has three sliding and folding same-size middle seats and a pair of rear seats which fold flat into the floor or can be easily removed to extend the luggage area. There are armour-lidded storage boxes under the carpet. All three middle seats have Isofix child-seat clips. So far, so very MPV.
Setting aside calling it names, the 5008 should appeal. It continues the shape of the shorter 3008 five-seater which is currently European Car of the Year – for reasons not apparent to the UK jurors who didn’t make it their favourite. It’s selling well but the marque’s UK market is falling, along with some other brands as trouble with diesel futures and alleged anxiety over Brexit kicks the stuffing out of sales this year.
The 5008 is distinctive and handsome. The face is good, a mix of modern trends – the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-5 come to mind. The flanks are hollowed and then bulge over the sills, with door edges which wrap underneath, minimising the risk of road grime on your legs.
There’s a clever detail at the back in the flap which folds over the rear sill and bumper, keeping your body clean when leaning in and eliminating the risk of scuff damage from cargo. The 3008’s triple vertical tail lights, dubbed “claws” by Peugeot, are employed and look in better scale.
This being a smart area, we were requested to leave the hotel in one direction rather than sully the peace with a procession of SUVs through the centre. The route was flat, uneventful, usually speed restricted, often quaint and narrow: ideal in fact for a pleasant bike ride on this mild October day with the falling chestnut leaves reminding you that sycamore, birch and lime would be following.
This being a Peugeot and this being 2017 there were no nasty surprises. You’ll either like or put up with the high instruments, which you see above the steering wheel, instead of through it. On smaller Peugeots it can be awkward to see everything. On the 5008 and the 3008 the use of a small steering wheel with flatted top and bottom allows both leg clearance and vision of the dials. Their raised position is arguably less distracting for the driver. Nice to see the return of toggle switches in lieu of fiddly touch-screen controls. Still, I’d have liked to adjust the navigation scale using a wheel, rather than finger contact on the map, tricky if you are driving. There’s a repeat detail in the virtual tachometer dial. Also notable, the classy electronic automatic selector.
Diesel engines still dominate the choice, really not ideal at the moment. The petrol choice is from a 130ps 1.2 turbo with manual or automatic gears, and a 165ps 1.6 auto, with CO2 ratings from 117g. Diesel power is offered in a 100ps 1.6 manual, a 120ps 1.6 automatic, a 130ps 1.5 manual, and then 2-litre in 150ps manual and 180ps auto. CO2 ratings from 106g. On our easy-driving routes the 120ps diesel automatic recorded 44mpg against a brochure claim of 61.4mpg combined. The 165ps petrol recorded 35mpg (brochure 46.3mpg). (To convert ps or Pferdestärke – horse-strength in German – to bhp, divide by 1.014, eg 165ps is 162.7bhp).
Verdict: MPV becomes a stylish SUV.