Wheels, January 2019 (PDF) (LINK)
LINK: All about Wheels Car of the Year (COTY)

While contestants like the Mazda CX-8, Holden Acadia and Hyundai Santa Fe are good enough to undergo our intensive COTY scrutiny, nailing the brief for a well-heeled, affordable seven-seater that appeals to a discerningly stylish crowd has eluded all. Truly, it is no easy feat.

So, with its concept-car cabin, risk-taking material choices and striking exterior, the Peugeot 5008 deserves kudos for its impressive sartorial rebranding, shedding its snubby-nosed former self with sassy insouciance. Especially when considering the many uninspired rivals that the Sochaux bus competes against.

It should come as no surprise then, that where the Pug really shines is under the COTY function criteria. Particularly when it comes to its sheer lifestyle-friendliness and dashboard layout (although the polarising debate over the low-set Peugeot steering wheel still rages, four years on). The 5008’s Tetris-like seats are a highlight, with six out of the seven folding flat, a completely removable third row, and a second row on independent rails with three ISO-fix points.

There were also nods in unison around the clever storage solutions, creature comforts, effortless electric tailgate and a comprehensive safety regime that includes all the advanced driver-assist systems Mum or Dad could hope for – including drowsiness alert, lane-keeping assist and speed-limit_recognition tech. Fling in a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and it becomes blindingly obvious that the French are attempting yet another, smarter revolution.

The 5008 is the longest iteration of Peugeot’s lauded EMP2 lightweight architecture – a platform with a history of dilating pupils among COTY judges; first with the podium-finishing 308 in 2014, and again with last year’s closely related 3008 medium-sized SUV. And, like its smaller siblings, we all noted the 5008’s sharp, nimble handling, confident control and quiet, composed ride quality.

However, it is the willing but somewhat under-endowed 1.6-litre four-pot turbo petrol that had the panel scratching their heads. While it’s an engine that sparkles when plonked into Peugeot’s smaller models, it occasionally struggles in the bigger bodied 5008. When push came to shove around the You Yangs, the Pug felt somewhat tardy off the mark and struggled to summon the effortless overtaking oomph that only a larger-capacity powerplant can manage in this class of car. The diesel? Better, with stronger throttle response and far less fuel consumption. “[The] diesel is old-school in refinement, but this is an SUV that is lighter on its feet than most in its class,” noted Carey.

While we wait for AWD and hybrid models to arrive, ultimately, despite its segment-vexing sexiness and athletic moves, the 5008’s 1.6 turbo doesn’t quite have enough under its bonnet for the length and breadth of this land. Still, the Peugeot does deserve the scrutiny of any seven-seat SUV buyer searching for good taste and dynamic grace to go with plenty of practicality and space.