Many motorists in the UAE tend to regard French cars – Italian ones, too, for that matter – with a certain degree of suspicion. There is a perception of dubious reliability and rapidly plummeting resale values, and this deters many buyers from venturing down a Gallic cul-de-sac.
But this rather dim view of French brands, which in our case means primarily Renault and Peugeot (local Citroen sightings are a rare occurrence), isn’t entirely fair – they have discernibly lifted their game of late, serving up vehicles that are more attractive, capable and ostensibly reliable than their predecessors. And Peugeot now offers a confidence-boosting five-year/100,000-kilometre warranty.
Peugeot’s case also hasn’t been helped in our market by the lion-logoed brand’s lack – until recently – of even a single model in the lucrative, high-volume crossover SUV category. This segment is now a highly congested space – rival brands from Japan, Korea, Germany and the United States have flooded the market with high-riding vehicles to cash in on burgeoning demand.
The long-overdue establishment last year of a Peugeot regional office in Dubai has woken the brand from its slumber, and one of the fruits of the renewed push into our market (the company has set an ambitious target of one million sales in the Mena region) is the new 5008 crossover.
The newbie competes against the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as the Korean/Japanese hordes, so it has its work cut out. The good news is that the 5008 is up for the challenge, thanks to crisp, elegant packaging – apart from overly fussy headlights – and a classy cabin that is a cut above the innards of most other contenders in terms of feel and ambience.
The only gripe is the puny PlayStation-esque steering wheel that concurrently manages to almost completely obscure the driver’s view of the instrument cluster.
The comfortable, well-equipped and spacious (apart from the children-only third-row seats) cabin is underpinned by a chassis that serves up a supple ride – this is what French brands used to be famous for – and cornering grip/handling levels are up there with the best in the class. It is a refreshing change from a carmaker that hasn’t given us too much to cheer about in the past decade and a half.
On the whole, the 5008 is an enjoyable car to pedal – regardless of whether you’re pootling around town or hustling along twisty back roads. The engine might only be a 1.6-litre unit, but the fact it is turbocharged means it has enough grunt – 165hp and 240Nm of torque, to be precise – and the six-speed auto is also a smooth-shifting unit.
The range-topping GT Line model I am driving comes loaded with kit, including Nappa leather trim, an eight-inch touchscreen, satnav, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging, surround-view parking camera, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. You also get a hands-free power tailgate, LED headlights, high-beam assist, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, a black roof and a “sports” front bumper and grille.
It all adds up to a stylish and comprehensively equipped package for Dh134,900 (as per my test car), but in case your budget doesn't stretch this far, you can opt for the entry-level, Dh99,990 Active model, which isn't lacking in kit. All in all, the 5008 is a welcome return to form for Peugeot, and it should go some way in propelling the brand to its sales targets.