â€˜THAT BIT OF truck tyre in the road looks remarkably like aâ€¦ SNAKE!â€™ The thing about a road trip is it gives you an opportunity to experience things you might never have otherwise. Now Iâ€™ve seen plenty of tiny tabakrolletjies in my garden back home, but that 1.5m-long black beauty was a first. Itâ€™s the same with the Peugeot. Driving it from home to work to airport and back on city freeways only tells you so much. A country weekend was on.
Leaving the 3008â€™s boot floor in its middle height setting, I had the remaining 75% of the 521-litre boot packed by 6am. We headed off along the N2 up Sir Lowryâ€™s Pass, on through Hermanus, then left at Stanford onto the R326 towards Riviersonderend â€“ one of the best bits of blacktop anywhere in the country. Itâ€™s full of fast sweeps and undulations and begs you to drive it with gusto. So I did.
Peugeotâ€™s achievement with the 3008 is admirable. This tall and spacious MPV gives away precious little to its 308 compatriot in the handling department. Itâ€™s unusually fluent, with no alarming body roll and minimal understeer and yet very forgiving over bumps.
The reason for this composure? Peugeot calls it Dynamic Roll Control â€“ a system fitted to high-end 3008s like ours that consists of a floating piston inside a pressurised reservoir hydraulically linked to both left and right rear shock absorbers. It acts much like a third, central shock absorber. The clever bit is the internal pistonâ€™s varied reaction to roll and bounce movements. When cornering (roll phase), it does not move, increasing (stiffening) the damping effect. But when youâ€™re travelling straight and hit an irregularity (bounce phase), the piston moves, allowing improved bump absorption by softening the damping effect.
Then I spotted the reptile and stopped to snap it from a healthy distance. Venomous or not, we were out of there.
The route to the farmhouse weâ€™d booked entailed several kilometres of dirt road that the locals said was â€˜baie slegâ€™. However the Peugeot glided across the better parts â€“ the loose surface accentuating the light steering â€“ and merely jiggled slightly over the rockier bits, without a single passenger complaint. Best of all, it felt as rattle-free as ever on the tar back home despite having traversed that gravel road eight times. Iâ€™m still not happy around snakes, but even more impressed with the 3008â€™s driver-friendly traits.
HALF A YEAR with the Peugeot is fast approaching and Iâ€™m still learning things about it. Yes, those pedantic types out there who commit operation manuals to heart on the toilet can snigger all they like. Unless itâ€™s an emergency, itâ€™s much more fun figuring out stuff along the way as opposed to just reading the manual. Besides, it helps to alleviate some of the boredom of the morning commute. Itâ€™s taken a while to get comfortable with the satellite audio and cruise control paddles, which no matter how much you like French design, are still hidden behind the steering wheel boss, forcing you to work their buttonry on feel and memory. Trial and error period over, I can now set, reset and adjust the cruise control, change volume and radio station etc, pretty much at will. Familiarity breeds content. Although I do find pressing the next-track button particularly awkward, while the whole arrangement feels a tad flimsy.
The new bit of kit Iâ€™ve been trialling is the speed limiter function. I knew it was there, but until recently wrote it off as being similar to other cars that simply squeal in annoying disapproval when you exceed your preset limit, even by 1kph. So imagine my surprise when I reached the programmed speed â€“ set via the same cruise control point adjustment buttons â€“ and discovered the speed limiter physically limits your speed, silently. Itâ€™s all in the semantics really; speed limiter versus speed warning. Try to exceed the set speed and the accelerator pedal becomes hard like itâ€™s offering a bit of force feedback, prompting you to ease off. Naturally a firm prod on the accelerator will override the limiter if required. I find it of great benefit on secondary roads with variable traffic density, traffic lights and pop-out traffic officers, where minor lapses of concentration can prove costly. So itâ€™s a useful addition to the 3008â€™s arsenal of electronic kit.
Well, thatâ€™s my take, but it would be great to hear ownersâ€™ views on all the on-board tech like the head-up display, speed limiter and distance alert functions. Gimmicks, or do you use them daily? Let us know.
Almost all of the Pugâ€™s mileage has been racked up in urban driving where it shouts for fuel every 730km or so. A short trip to Wellington recently proved just how easy it would be to regularly return more than 800km on a tank if I could get out of city traffic more often.
On a final note, Iâ€™ve spotted a good number of 3008s in my area and admit to having to hold back from offering waves of approval every time one passes. Itâ€™s like I belong to this club of people who know something others have yet to discover; the Peugeot 3008 2.0Hdi Exec â€“ with its many virtues of space, brisk pace, frugality, premium equipment, ride and handling prowess â€“ is a surprisingly good car.
SPENDING THREE WEEKS in Europe on a summer holiday meant that the Peugeot stood idle in my wintery Cape garage for most of the month. My family trip included a sublime four days driving through Italy in a brand new diesel-engined hatchback. In all the excitement, Iâ€™d almost forgotten about the Pug. But then it was on to the rustic and rural island of Madeira with transport to match â€“ a continental rental that on one occasion required a severe beating with a metal pole before it would even start. The multi-talented Peugeot came quickly to mind.
If youâ€™ve ever been to the Portuguese-owned island, probably most famous for featuring in a Peter Stuyvesant cigarette commercial, youâ€™ll know the roads arenâ€™t exactly flat. Our petrol-engined rentalâ€™s 73 tortured horses had me longing for the Peugeotâ€™s 320 Newton metres of turbodiesel grunt. Grinding up a hill in third gear, watching the fuel gauge and speedo drop like theyâ€™d snapped off was almost as traumatic as re-filling the tank at R16 per litre. No wonder diesel engines are so popular in Europe.
Returning home to a wet and cold winter was made more palatable after switching on our 3008â€™s heated leather seats and knowing itâ€™ll go a minimum 730km between fill-ups while negotiating the steepest of hills with real zeal. It also has a usefully-sized, well-designed boot as a trip to the shops to restock the fridge and pantry reiterated. The 3008â€™s horizontally split tailgate results in lighter, easier opening and closing of the main boot lid, while still allowing you to fold the bottom section down to lower the load height for heavier objects if required. And I canâ€™t wait for the day I can use it as a bench while watching school sports. Our 3008 also has a boot floor net that I use for restraining the odd small package that tends to get annoyingly flung around during spirited driving. On one occasion I legitimately needed the bootâ€™s removable torch. All other torchlight uses have fallen in the junior amusement category.
Four months of 3008 stewardship has been surprisingly pleasing. Iâ€™m still no fan of the styling, but as a capable crossover itâ€™s a joy to live with. It feels very well built, hasnâ€™t developed any rattles, is frugal, quiet, refined, comfortable and spacious with most of the luxuries a family desires. Apart from giving it a spell at the plastic surgeon, I could hardly want for more.
ITâ€™S TRUE, MEN donâ€™t ask for directions. Even after exhausting all of his immediate options including natural instincts, boy scout training and that mythical internal GPS, a manâ€™s last resort is not to pull over and ask, but to pull out a map instead. I know this, because after a fruitless search for the USB and Aux-in port in my 3008, I resorted to reading the ownerâ€™s handbook. And like a treasure map it led me to the central storage bin. Obviously Iâ€™d looked in there before, but the auxiliary audio input is disguised as a 12V socket, complete with circular flip-cap built into the underside of the lid. With these additional charging points popping up everywhere these days, I was easily fooled.
Up until that point Iâ€™d been playing old-fashioned CDs, (remember them?) in the single CD audio system. After a week I had a whole collection of discs on board, all ironically stored in said central bin â€“ a storage compartment so noteworthy, it deserves its own paragraph.
For starters itâ€™s inconveniently hinged to open towards the driver, hindering access and obscuring the contents. A symptom of an incomplete LHD conversion, methinks. My daughter was thrilled to hear that itâ€™s also a chilled zone, immediately replacing my CDs with her water bottle and anything else sheâ€™s even vaguely concerned may melt. Finally, itâ€™s deep. So deep in fact that colleague Calvin, with arm buried to the shoulder, told us to â€˜ignore any grinding noises as he was just changing the gearsâ€¦ manuallyâ€™.
Thereâ€™s been more positive reaction to the 3008â€™s styling, this time from outside the family. A friend who I consider has good taste didnâ€™t get last monthâ€™s potato reference at all. Am I alone here? Anyway, Iâ€™ve seen quite a few on the road lately and Iâ€™ll admit itâ€™s nothing if not distinctive. And Iâ€™m still really enjoying my time behind the wheel. This Peugeot possesses perception-challenging dynamics for an MPV. Body control in corners is exemplary, which allows you to exploit the engineâ€™s 340Nm of torque without feeling like youâ€™re about to do a triple salco. If I have to criticise anything just slightly, itâ€™s the brakes which though not out of their depth do sometimes require a firmer shove than youâ€™d expect. At least there are no CD cases rattling around in the â€˜gearboxâ€™ anymore.