Grande designs

Style and substance arrives from the French quarter

RYAN LEWIS

AS A YOUNG car nerd growing up in the í90s, Sydney was a pretty good place to call home. Back then the harbour city still had its own motor show and my old man made a point of taking me every year. I was almost 11 years old when we visited in 1997, and my tiny mind was blown by the Peugeot 306 GTI 6 Ė a sporty hatchback with an outrageously exotic (for the time) six-speed manual gearbox Ė and Iíve been an undercover Francophile ever since.

Yet more than two decades later I still havenít owned a French car. Gallic hot hatches continue to represent my go-fast interests, but with a nine-month-old baby in the house, a firmly sprung five-door with bucket seats wasnít the most obvious choice in family transport terms.

THE WORKS

Few interiors on the market have this much design flair. Fewer still have the supporting functionality

And so it is that my first French fling Ė albeit a temporary one Ė is with a Peugeot 3008. A far cry from the 306 of my childhood it may be, but a car Iím no less excited to park on my driveway.

It was at the Paris motor show almost two decades after the 306 first broadened my horizons that this charming Pug of an altogether different genre reset my preconceptions about what a mid-size SUV could be. Here was a practical tool with likably thoughtful functionality that also modelled one of the most interesting and detailed interior executions of any new car on sale.

I still had the academically brilliant yet austere second-gen Volkswagen Tiguan fresh in my mind at the 3008ís debut, and the Pug felt like a shot of adrenaline for the segment even on first encounter. It went on to impress the judges at Wheels Car of the Year toward the end of 2017, and a similar car to my new long-termer fared well in a comparison test shortly afterwards (Wheels Yearbook, 2017).

And so it falls to me to explore the ownership experience over the next few months, something first impressions suggest will be an enjoyable thing to do. Our 3008 is a top-spec petrol-powered GT-Line that sits just below the range-topping GT diesel. Its 1.6litre four-cylinder turbo produces 121kW and 240Nm and pairs with an excellent Toyota sourced six-speed automatic, just like all other 3008s.

At $44,990 it isnít exactly cheap for a front-drive-only model. That retail price rises to $49,680 as tested with the addition of metallic paint at $690, and quilted leather trim with electric driverís seat adjustment and a massage function for $4000. But the GT-Line does boast a feature-packed equipment list including keyless entry and start, LED lighting with cornering function, adaptive cruise control with AEB and other active safety systems, an electric tailgate with gesture control, 3D navigation, digital radio and plenty more besides. If I were buying, Iíd go without the cowhide covers and keep the lovely grey denim upholstery thatís fitted as standard to match the textural dashboard and door trim inserts.

Delving into the pros and cons of its drive experience will come after a little more time to evaluate, though Iíve already gelled with the quickness of its steering and the feel of its tiny tiller thatís squared off at the top and bottom. Peugeotís controversial head-up digital instrument display really works for me here, and adds to the 3008ís long list of charismatic points of difference.

That said, these first few weeks of getting to know one another havenít been entirely champagne and croissants. Itís safe to say I will never again use the carís Sport mode because of its laughably bad synthesised engine note. The Bluetooth phone connectivity struggles with the transition from handset to car when getting into the 3008 while on a call, and thereís a slight amount of play in the driverís seat base that I can feel as a rocking motion when driving over speedbumps. But none of this has taken too much of the shine off my growing affection for DVI-87Q. It will be interesting to see how my highly anticipated French companion acquits itself over the months to come.

RYAN LEWIS

Playing the long game

The 3008 is more like an expanded hatch on stilts compared to its hugely commodious rival the Tiguan, but even though Germany comes up trumps for boot space when all seats are deployed, the Peugeotís unique fold-flat front passenger backrest is an example of the clever engineering found throughout, and opens up an enormous loading area for long items like surfboards or ladders. Business in the front, Bunnings in the back.

A meaningful connection

Certain cars have given the French a reputation for patchy and unintuitive infotainment systems, but Iím pleased to say the 3008ís user interface is one of the better ones. What it doesnít do is automatically reconnect to a last-used

Bluetooth audio source, meaning the radio plays loudly on start-up instead. Waiting for the system to boot then manually selecting my preferred source every time is a minor irritation, but one that other cars manage to avoid.

PEUGEO PEUGEOT 3008 GT-LINE

Date acquired: April 2018 ice as

$49,680 his mo

This month: 542km @ 9.4L/100km

Overall: all: 542km @ 9.4L/100km

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