First drive: Peugeot 5008

This is the Peugeot 5008, the new MPV that's just gone on sale in the UK.

The 5008 is important for Peugeot, mainly as it's part of a model offensive the manufacturer hopes will build on the 3008's success and attract customers back to the brand.

The car doesn't get Peugeot's updated badge (that honour is reserved for the forthcoming RC-Z) but its well-proportioned body does feature elements of the French manufacturer's new design language. Peugeot has finally ditched the shark-mouth grille they've persisted with for the past decade and replaced it with a cleaner, more conventional nose.

It is a definite improvement, and neat touches on the flanks give the car a purposeful, athletic definition. It might not have stand-out looks, but the 5008 is a solidly handsome MPV.

The car shares its platform with the Citroen C4 Picasso, but unlike that car, Peugeot won't offer the 5008 with a choice of seating configurations – it comes as a 7-seater only.

The MPV gets three trim levels; Active, Sport and Exclusive. They all include air-con, an electric handbrake and ESP stability control; the Sport adds 16-inch alloys and cruise control; and the top-spec Exclusive gets dual-zone climate control, a head-up display, panoramic glass roof, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors.

Prices range from £17,345 to £23,700, with five engines to choose from. The two petrols are both 1.6-litre, but produce either 120bhp or 156bhp depending on which version you pick. The familiar 110bhp 1.6-litre HDI is the base turbo diesel or there is a choice of 150 or 163bhp outputs from the larger 2.0-litre HDI engine.

Peugeot insists it has put a lot of effort into improving its all-round quality, but the real focus is on increasing driver appeal in its new cars, and the 5008 is no exception.

It's a pity then that the first thing you notice out on the road is what the 5008 has lost rather than what it might have gained. The big Peugeot's ride has clearly sacrificed some of the Grand Picasso's cushioned pliancy, and though never uncomfortable, undulations the Citroen would have effortlessly smoothed are only adequately dulled by the 5008.

Fortunately for Peugeot, and partly as a result of the firmer setup, the car is markedly better around corners. Plenty of grip is available, and while the light steering may lack the detailed feedback of the Ford S-Max, its entertaining elasticity makes brisk progress a real possibility.

Peugeot deserves credit for concealing some of the cars bulk behind effective body control and excellent rigidity. The 5008 feels light on its feet, and refinement is generally good too, even if road and engine noise are sometimes noticeable at speed.

Predictably, the diesels suit the 5008 better than the petrol engines. The 110bhp 1.6-litre HDI is the pick of the bunch, primarily because it's noticeably lighter and more refined than the 2.0-litre equivalents. It should also return better fuel efficiency at a claimed 53mpg.

Inside, Peugeot has given the 5008 a raised driving position and it's hard to avoid the sensation you're sitting on top of the car rather than in it, but the raised centre console does let you feel snug. The head-up display is a redundant gimmick, and best avoided.

The dash is reasonably good looking though, even if it does make excessive use of shiny plastics. Fit and finish are both fine upfront, but that impression does fade the further you get from the steering wheel. By the time you get to the back, the fold-out plastic trim which covers the stowed back row of seats felt particularly cheap.

This is a shame because the impressive rear seats deserve better. All can be moved and lowered individually to reveal lots more space, and legroom only gets reduced for the back two seats. Access to the third row is made easier by making the middle seats collapsible.

Overall, the Peugeot should consider the 5008 a success. As compact MPVs go, the car is practical, spacious, quietly handsome and good value. The manufacturer has also gone some way to delivering on its new brand promise; the 5008 is certainly a healthy step towards greater driver involvement.

While the car may fall just short of class-leading, it is comfortably good enough as a package to be considered a serious option in one of the most competitive sectors.

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