Driven, Written: Peugeot 5008 BlueHDI 130

Weeks after an enjoyable encounter with its underdog estate sibling, the opportunity to sample one of Peugeot’s bestsellers presented itself. 

All images – The Author

The SUV simply isn’t for me. While I’d never describe myself as an unrealised racing driver, I don’t like the cumbersome way most of these vehicles handle. Aesthetically, the tall, blocky looks typically fail to trigger any desires the way sleeker automotive forms do. I could go on about this, but will spare you the boredom and myself the typing.

So when the friendly Avis clerk told me that I could choose between a Ford Kuga, a VW T-Cross or a Peugeot 5008, I knew this round of rental car roulette wouldn’t end up in my favour. The silver lining to this Sports Utility-shaped cloud being that I’d enjoyed the recent crossing of my home country in a Peugeot 508 SW – obviously, it was the French car that got my nod in the end.

By SUV standards, the 5008 isn’t the most ungainly of beasts, thanks to current Peugeot design touches like the sleek rear lights, which refer back to the glorious 504 coupé/convertible, without appearing like some pastiche, or the simple, but effective brightwork lining the side windows/DLO. The front is rather too grim for my liking, yet Peugeot have a better handle on the ‘matrix’ grille treatment than most, which provides some aesthetic relief. The Suzuki-aping ‘vent’ below the semi-clamshell bonnet remains a bit of an eyesore, however.

The cabin is more convincing in design terms, unless put into contrast against the 508’s interior. These issues are obviously down to preference and physical build, of course, but to me, the larger car provided the less pleasant environment. This was due to the higher seating position, which resulted in the i-Cockpit’s ergonomics not being as marvellous as I’d experienced them in the lower estate car, where the driver is truly surrounded by the dashboard and central tunnel.

Mostly due to the different seating position (but also the driving itself), I didn’t feel as much at ease in the car and eventually suffered from numb bum syndrome, which I’d been spared in the 508. In terms of ambience, the 5008 was on par with its sibling, as the SUV’s colour and trim was also far above the class average, with the inclusion of some fabric where one would usually expect some fake carbon/faux wood/plastic adding a particularly pleasant touch.

The area where 5008 truly beat 508 was space, of course. Up front this didn’t matter much, but the SUV’s second row of seats obviously provided considerably more cubic centimetres for stretching out than the estate’s, with the sole caveat being the relatively high floor, which makes for a slightly frog-like seating position for taller occupants.

Even these might appreciate the inclusion of two picnic tables however, before being challenged yet again by the electric boot lid, whose open position only allows people shorter than about 1.8 metres to stand up when loading or unloading the cavernous boot. Our luggage (including some precious cargo, in the form of a homemade Black Forest cake) failed to fill it in its entirety, which made the amount of space provided feel ever so slightly excessive for our needs.

During town driving, the diesel engine’s unexpectedly gruff running immediately made itself apparent, just as the ride comfort was clearly different from the 508’s in that it was harsh, rather than firm. The steering was as quick, but didn’t feel quite as precise (which may be a false perception) as the estate car’s, while body control and – surprisingly – NVH properties were considerably below the 508’s standards. This spontaneous impression was confirmed during Autobahn driving, where the 5008’s poor ride comfort turned out to be a constant nuisance.

Despite its ‘sporty’ set-up, the 5008 didn’t invite spirited driving either, owing not just to the unpleasant pendulum effect that comes with most SUVs featuring stiff chassis set-ups – neither my partner nor I enjoy having our torsos and heads constantly swinging. On top of this, the engine didn’t exude a sense of composure at any time, feeling alternatively gutless or overwhelmed by the Peugeot’s large body and weight.

Even being equipped with a decent manual gear box didn’t help its case, as the car seemed sluggish under any circumstances. The Autobahn stretch across the Kasseler Berge certainly never was as burdensome since that time when we’d felt like having to push the particularly feeble VW T-Cross uphill there.

Three days was more than enough time spent with the big Peugeot then. Just as with the VW Tiguan Allspace, I felt a sense of relief when I returned the 5008. Judged against the VW, the Peugeot didn’t fare too badly – it certainly provides quite a bit more flair than the tepid Tiguan in stylistic terms, but its sporting pretensions are inescapably at odds with its basic architecture (though in fairness, the VW is no paragon of comfort either).

Judged against the 508 SW though, and taking into account how infinitely more successful in the marketplace the 5008 has turned out to be, my own disconnect from the current automotive mainstream comes to the fore yet again. For unless I badly needed space for five people and their luggage (which I don’t, and which most motorists do not either), I couldn’t come up with a single reason to choose the taller, bigger, more popular Peugeot. Not in subjective terms (appearance), nor in objective ones (performance).

I clearly have yet to stop worrying and love the SUV.

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs www.auto-didakt.com // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

17 thoughts on “Driven, Written: Peugeot 5008 BlueHDI 130”

  1. The 5008 is based on PSA‘s EMP2 platform co-developed with Toyota.
    PSA uses it for anything from 308 to 508 (and Opel, Citroen and DS equivalents), all kinds of SUVs and for PSA’s and Toyota’s light commercial vans like Jumpy and Pro-Ace.
    It is very difficult to get reliable technical information on it except its advantages in production.
    The 5008 seemingly uses moped sized engines of 1,100 cc (fuel) or 1,500 cc in case of the diesel you had for your journey which might explain its lack of grunt even if Kasseler Berge are kind of the toughest test for the torque characteristics of any engine.
    It was impossible to find out which kind of rear suspension the current 5008 uses but its first iteration had a torsion beam rear axle which would explain the need for an excessively stiff setup to keep the negative geometrical effects caused by body roll under control.

    1. Hello, just to confirm that the rear suspension setup is a twist-beam axle in the 5008. It is made of low thickness advanced high-strength steel which makes It relatively light VS other rear suspension arrangements

    2. Thanks for the engineering insight, Dave & Kurtzos.

      While I was aware that the cars share the same platform, I was simply baffled by how different the cars felt. In terms of both comfort (space excepted) and performance, the 508 was simply in a different league.

    3. The 508 has got a proper, independent rear suspension, has it not?

      So alongside the lower centre of gravity and lower weight, it also has better hardware to work with.

      Torsion beams seem to be popular for cars with big luggage capacities, as they are more tolerant of abuse.

    4. A torsion beam axle is above all simple and cheap to make.
      It is not too space efficient when the torsion bar is located halfway down the trailing arms as is the case with the 5008.
      The price you pay is typical trailing arm geometry with a low roll centre which in combination with an SUV’s high centre of gravity gives lots of leverage for body roll under lateral forces.
      Body roll in turn makes the outside wheel tilt outwards, resulting in positive camber, something absolutely detrimental for cornering behaviour. Trailing arms also result in a jack up effect where the outside wheel in a corner moves up less than the inside wheel moves down, lifting the rear and thereby moving the centre of gravity further up, giving more roll, more positive camber, more jack up – a vicious circle prone to result in snap oversteer – 405Mi16 anyone?
      The only way to avoid this is rock hard suspension to suppress body roll before it occurs instead of preventing it by geometry (the same decades old bugbear of Fiat chassis setups).

    5. Both the 5008 and the Tiguan had that very unpleasant ‘pendulum effect’ of swaying one’s head whenever the car was undergoing swift changes of direction. As Porsche’s SUVs avoid this (or at least to very large degree), I must assume the axle layout plays some role in it.

    6. The Macan has a trapezoid (for which read modified double wishbone) suspension at its rear, which doesn’t have the negative characteristics of a trailing arm suspension at the price of a very limited usable suspension travel which makes it unsuitable for an SUV anyway.
      Transverse link (wishbone) suspensions don’t show the jack up effect nor (at least not if properly designed) the positive camber effect and they have a much higher roll centre and therefore less tendency to body roll.
      There’s no thing as a free lunch, at least not when it comes to suspension design.
      The 5008 is a bad compromise in the interest of low production cost. This wouldn’t have happened at the days of 204 or 504.

  2. Interesting product, this.

    The 5008 is essentially an MPV – a taller box with three rows of seats and no more able away from surfaced roads than any other regular car. But MPVs are out of fashion, so Peugeot remodelled the styling and proportions and said ‘look, it’s an SUV!’

    As it turns out, the once fashionable and oh so modern ‘monobox’ creates unwelcome blind spots and other issues, and doesn’t offer decisive aero benefits, so reverting to a two box shape really isn’t much of a step back.

    Of course, dynamically it is worse than the 508, but this always the price paid for space and flexibility.

    1. The major step back from MPV to pseudo-SUV I can see is that the height of the vehicle stays the same, but the windows become much slimmer. This probably creates more blind spots than a monobox with good window size and slim pillars. The high, horizontal bonnets of newer vehicles are mostly due to pedestrian safety topics. Visibility seems to be a lesser concern with all car manufacturers today anyway – hey, we have cameras!

    2. Indeed Simon… although glass area is getting smaller across the board.

      Car manufacturers will tell you it’s fashion – customers prefer the ‘sporty’ look created by shallower windows. I think people like to feel safe and enclosed in their cars, which is driving this trend… but less glass area is probably cheaper to manufacture, too.

      The industry used to talk about primary and secondary safety – primary safety being about improving your chances of avoiding an accident in the first place. No one seems to talk in these terms anymore. It is all about crash performance. Even Autonomous Emergency Braking seems to be about reducing the impact forces immediately prior to a collision! Good visibility and strong dynamics are forgotten.

    3. I beg to differ… Monoboxes / MPVs can handle and ride good enough and even put a smile in your face, if done properly. Cue the S-Max (1st gen at least)

  3. Good morning, Christopher. The inferior ride quality compared to the 508 you have highlighted is a real bugbear with many SUVs. The 5008, as Dave points out, uses the same platform as the 508 so it’s a fair assumption that the higher centre of gravity has necessitated a stiffer suspension set-up that has badly compromised its ride quality. The only practical benefit of the SUV is the higher H-point (and, arguably, a better view out) since the carrying capacities of both are more than adequately large. You would need to be pretty stiff-hipped for that to be a significant concern.

    1. Yes, the stiff suspension is probably due to a perceived need to lend the car some ‘dynamic’ flair – the Tiguan I drove a while ago also was no paragon in that department. As the same engineers and test drivers are likely to have worked on both Peugeots, it would appear as though the SUV packaging simply made it impossible to achieve the same kind of set-up and ride/handling characteristics as those of the estate car.

      One man’s Jack of all trades clearly is another man’s rotten compromise.

  4. French vehicles are family oriented, and the mean french family consists of 5, 2+3.
    Try to fit 3 children in the back of a new berlina. The fight for NOT taking the middle “seat” would be fearceless. So, not 508 but 5008 and everyone is happy. Except for the driver, with the boring ride.
    It wasn’t always like that. Saloons like the mazda 323 or largerr 626 were very generous for the travelers in the back.
    A relative of us had a Mitsubishi Galland and when he had his 4th child he just soldiered on with it. Well, ok, that was in the late 80’s.
    But it was really big and confy for 3 in the back.
    Not anymore.

    1. Interiors really are more cramped now, aren´t they? It´s a stupid situation given the dumb bulk of modern cars. Part of it is down to the oppressive colours and part of it is the thickness of the doors. Is this really the best engineering can offer? The 1997 626 had a lovely rear seating area – loads of room across the back. That´d be one of the highpoints of spacious mainstream cars (the big glasshouse also helped).

    2. The thick doors (and pillars) certainly are not the best engineering can offer. It’s the best they offer at the price the customers want to pay for it. But they apparently like it, being told into cocooning and a feeling of “safety” when they are wedged into steel and plastic up to their earlobes. So why bother and use costly techniques to make a car more airy?

    3. To be fair, today’s cars are much stronger and better able to protect their occupants in a crash.

      However, this is part of the arms race, caused by the popularity of SUVs. There is an infamous crash test video of an Audi Q7 ploughing into a Fiat 500 – the 500 earned a 5 star safety rating when new, and is not only strong but relatively tall for a small car, but the Q7 causes catastrophic damage.

      The bigger and heavier cars get, the more people feel unsafe and seek refuge in a bigger and heavier car of their own.

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