AS A YOUNG car nerd growing up in the ’90s, 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 – a sporty hatchback with an outrageously exotic (for the time) six-speed manual gearbox – and I’ve been an undercover Francophile ever since.
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Yet more than two decades later I still haven’t 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 wasn’t the most obvious choice in family transport terms.
And so it is that my first French fling – albeit a temporary one – is with a Peugeot 3008. A far cry from the 306 of my childhood it may be, but a car I’m 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.
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I still had the academically brilliant yet austere second-gen Volkswagen Tiguan fresh in my mind at the 3008’s 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 1.6-litre 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 isn’t 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 driver’s 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, I’d go without the cowhide covers and keep the lovely grey denim upholstery that’s fitted as standard to match the textural dashboard and door trim inserts.
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Delving into the pros and cons of its drive experience will come after a little more time to evaluate, though I’ve already gelled with the quickness of its steering and the feel of its tiny tiller that’s squared off at the top and bottom. Peugeot’s controversial head-up digital instrument display really works for me here, and adds to the 3008’s long list of charismatic points of difference.
That said, these first few weeks of getting to know one another haven’t been entirely champagne and croissants. It’s safe to say I will never again use the car’s 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 there’s a slight amount of play in the driver’s 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.