It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, the African sun is still radiant with a shimmering haze clinging to the edges of the bush. Time is doing that thing where day filters into night a little slower. The stars and moon arrive but are quite happy to share the sky in twilight, giving the animals a chance to change shift.
But Pilanesberg’s campsite rules aren’t quite as flexible. The gate closes at 6pm and the thought of nibbling the last crumbs of biscuit locked inside a car and encircled by predators means the only window we’re looking out of is the one in front. Which is why we yelped “Lion” in panicked unison, worked the ABS until the Peugeot’s Lion emblem and that of the sniffy, twitching Lion nose were briefly locked in fright before he panted past and continued down the middle of the road, shadowed by TopGear’s longterm Peugeot 3008.
Which, covered in dust, was still working perfectly. Hermetically perfect door seals with controlled climate teaming up well to bring some luxury to the bush. And while Peugeot’s choice of wheel size and design is always form over function, rutted roads still transmitted the forces through the proper suspension joints. Not class-leading, not anything to convince one that the road underneath is anything but a gravel road but with controlled movements and robust to tackle two days off piste.
Then again, in a marketing world this is spun from the same mould as 2018’s Dakar winner. No, really – same name. Minus the V6 turbo diesel, flimsy bodywork, several feet of suspension travel, but maybe the same size steering wheel? Life in the ‘actual’ 3008 doesn’t jiggle and wallop your insides and once you’ve recalibrated your senses around Peugeot’s opinion-cleaving i-cockpit which places the dials on top of the dashboard and above the wheel, it’s a beguiling place to be. The combination works, for me at least and if you’ve got arthritis in your wrists I suspect you’ll like it even more…
And besides, there’s greater ergonomic sensibleness to the cabin with actual buttons that control climate (unlike in the 308), a responsive touchscreen (because it only has to handle simple graphics) and a row of beautifully crafted buttons that could only come from the French. Guess what? Their crisp, weighty feedback is better than anything German at the same price.
Peugeot’s 1.6 turbo petrol doesn’t often get the credit it deserves yet you won’t easily find a quieter mill that feels perpetually spooled up with a thick smearing of boost and OK consumption. You wish the chassis would do more with it and the steering to act with a little extra bite but Peugeot is trying to win over a broader market with the 3008 and not appeal to a small percentage of driving enthusiasts. Those people will buy a BMW X1 or a MINI Countryman – the latter convincingly beaten on this year’s Dakar, ironically. ANDREW LEOPOLD
- R519 900 (as tested)
- 1598cc 4-cyl, turbo petrol, FWD, 121kW, 240Nm
- 7.0l/100km, 156g/km
- 0-100km/h 8.9 secs, 201km/h
- Tester’s notes:
- Avant-garde yet sensible. Peugeot don’t have many models but this is their best