WHEN I was a kid, we spent every summer with family in Cornwall, and every year my father’s car used to break down, extending what was a gruelling journey into an epic, Herculean trial. Fortunately for me, motoring has moved on, and I’ve just done more than twice the distance in about the same time it took us to get to Cornwall – albeit in 1976, before the M25 existed – sailing from London to Provence in maximum comfort. Obviously throwing a skipload of euros into the pockets of the tollbooths along the motorway network made the odyssey less than painful, offering as it did the privilege of driving along empty roads (save for a selection of other, equally content tourists) also speeding smugly from the Eurotunnel towards their lavender-shuttered village haven. We were driving the Peugeot 5008 – a clever seven-seat MPV – and I pretty much set the cruise control at 130km/h in Calais and just steered the car to Provence.
It was a practical choice for the journey. Unlike most cars with this many seats there is still room to swing a cat, or at least transport a few of them. With 578 litres of stowage space when the third row seats are folded down, that’s a lot of cats travelling. It’s also pleasing to be able to stash all your belongings in the boot rather than find yourself nesting in between your paraphenalia as it is shoehorned into every available space in the car, as so often happens on family holidays.
Bigger than its 3008 sibling and possibly more aesthetically pleasing, the 5008 is a marvel of functional design practicality. Because the car is squarely targeted at the family market, it’s designed with a whole bunch of stowage cubbies to ensure your little loved ones can happily bring their stuff too. The glovebox and the centre console are big enough to ensure that rummaging through them whilst driving is a no-no. And in the back there’s clever trapdoor stowage under your feet too.
The seating too is superbly practical. We travelled from London to the South of France with the rear-most two seats in the floor to make use of the large boot space available. Once there, we pootled about with three other friends. It is unusually easy to raise and lower the rear-most seats into the floor – without even needing to consult the manual. With just one of the rear two seats down, there was still a surprising amount of space. With six of us in the car, we took turns leaping into what we named the “jump seat” which turned out to be quite a choice position, as it meant getting out of the role of in-car entertainer for two truculent tots in the middle seats.
The car is a decent size and somehow feels bigger inside than it is – even when full – which is what you need when you’re on a trip so long you feel like you’ve moved into your car. And with enough room in the rear footwells for a learner walker to potter about in while powering her way through the Channel Tunnel or during breaks from a long odyssey along the Autoroute des Anglais.
Other nice details include a sunglasses holder, individual – and controllable – air conditioning vents for rear seat passengers, plus a seatbelt alarm to let you know when your wrigglers have released themselves from their safety belt, and a display panel, above the rear view mirror, which flashes to let you know exactly which passenger is trying to make a break for it. The car even has an additional mirror above the rear view mirror to enable you to keep an eye on events in the back.
We were driving the 2.0 litre 150bhp diesel Sport version. The car is surprisingly quiet when cruising along and with an acceleration time of just 10 seconds to get to 62mph it even feels swift. It also rides well and doesn’t even feel like hard work when parking either.
So what’s not to like? Well, the magnificent panoramic roof is let down by the fact that it’s non-opening – but then, it does run almost the entire length of the car, so no doubt engineering one that could open would be tricky indeed.
So utterly designed for the family market – the car even has built-in retractable blinds to keep sunlight from children’s eyes – it’s probably not for you unless you need such practicality. But then if you do, it’s a seductive proposition.
THE FACTS: PEUGEOT 5008
0-62MPH: 10 secs
TOP SPEED: 121mph
CO2 G/KM: 151g/km
MPG COMBINED: 48.6mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ***