THE largest of the 008 range of vehicles, the 5008, to a degree, harks back to Peugeot’s 404 and 504 models. Legendary in that while these cars provided normal everyday motoring throughout France and many other parts of Europe, they virtually conquered the African continent. As regular transport or virtually unequalled rally cars, the 404s and 504s were pretty much unstoppable. Barge-like in their day, with the then-familiar French trait of sponge-like suspension, these big Peugeots rocked and rolled their way into automotive history. But, like most of their famous models, Peugeot can’t be bothered to ever make mention of them.

Now, before someone points it out, the aforementioned saloons and estates were rear-wheel-drive cars, whereas the 5008 is a front-wheel-drive SUV. The similarities are the size and the ethos, the 5008 imbued with the same unstoppable feel. Reduced to its basic elements, the design of the 5008 is one large box and one small box joined together but, like most things French, the layout works. Add on a chromed lion, distinct grille, deep-cut box arches and 225/55-shod 18” alloys, lower scallops, a profusion of chromed inserts and pliant independent suspension, and two boxes take on a whole new meaning.

The French chic amplifies once you open one of the huge doors or almost barn-door-sized tailgate. Built around the most advanced version of Peugeot’s iCockpit, the interior boasts dark blue ambient lighting and a mixture of leather and tweed trim on all seven of the individual seats. The heavily bolstered front seats are especially comfortable. Textured and fabric surfaces clothe the dash, doors and smaller panels, with asymmetric trim adding interesting visual detailing. Numerous cubbies and bins provide practicality.

From the driver’s perspective, the small, thick-rimmed 13”-diameter quartic steering wheel doesn’t so much dominate the controls, but hints at a design considerably in advance of most others. Just behind sits the elongated, infinitely variable digital instrumentation that works in conjunction with the central 8” touchscreen, controlling the satnav, climate, Bluetooth, entertainment and onboard readouts. The only physical controls are the row of brushed aluminium piano keys, neat push buttons and rocker transmission selector. Capitalising on the 5008’s perfectly flat floor, in five passenger format, besides the seemingly limitless head, shoulder and knee room, 823 litres of cargo can still be loaded on board, expanding to 2,506 litres with all but the front seats in use, with approximately 1,100 kg towing maximum.

Beneath the neat, flat, full-width bonnet there are four engines to choose from. Of the two petrol units, the 1.2 is remarkably lively, while the 1.6 is slightly more refined. Diesel buyers can select from the 1.5 or the 2-litre unit as tested, mated to either manual or automatic transmissions.

Delivering 180 hp and 400 Nm of torque, the 8-speed auto can be left to its own devices or sport mode can be activated for a little extra zip. Depress the manual switch and shifts can also be controlled using the paddle-activated sequential although hard acceleration, especially in the lower gears, does cause the engine to become noticeably raucous.

With a 134 mph top speed, 0–62 mph comes up in an unperturbed 9.2 seconds, while the indicated average fuel consumption of 38.1 mpg or 450 miles or thereabouts per 56-litre refill is liveable.

Once behind the wheel, it takes little if any effort to adopt the relaxed, nonchalant French manner that emanates from the 5008. The electrically assisted steering is light, power only being applied when required. All-round visibility is excellent, aided by the car’s onboard cameras.

The 11.3-metre turning circle and 2.9 turns lock-to-lock mean that, for what is a large car, negotiating small spaces is as easy as driving on the open road. Given the 5008’s size, the ride, at times, can undulate over uneven surfaces, though the chassis and suspension make an admirable job of purging severe external disruptions before they find their way into the cabin.

An interesting aspect of the 5008 is the marginal increase in weight over the almost identical but fractionally smaller 3008. While the smaller sibling may be considered slightly more nimble, it’s the additional mass that works to the 5008’s advantage. This SUV sets up better for bends and has a more refined high-speed feel and cornering attitude. Granted, you can feel the size, but in the case of the 5008 it works to the Peugeot’s advantage, defining this most practical of daily transportation as an accomplished, long-distance cruiser that, combined with the larger diesel engine, results in one of the more relaxing cars currently available.

Prices start at £26,759 for the 1.2 petrol Active spec, £33,399 for the Allure 2-litre diesel as tested, while the range-topping GT diesel will cost you £38,529.