I love France — the melting pot of culture, music, art, fine dining, and fashion.
The French are sophisticatedly gifted. Take cheese, for example. Cheese to me is a yellow square wrapped in plastic that you put in between bread and deli ham. Ask for cheese in Paris and a chariot de fromages — cheese cart — is wheeled in to your table. On that cart lays choices of the finest dairy produce, all of them — stinky, gooey, and moldy. Yet these fine delicacies when paired with a glass of Château Pétrus and dried apricot — are simply to die for.
I love that café society was invented by the French. While it is a slang term used to identify the Jet Set — an elite group of wealthy industrialists and playboys who trotted across the globe water skiing in the arms of Brigitte Bardot and Zsa Zsa Gabor at the Côte d’Azur — it is in truth, a culture of sitting for hours at a cafe, sipping café au lait, and watching people go by. France is about living in the moment and pastimes. It is home to the bon vivant.
Then there’s the fashion. The word haute couture is the very embodiment of how seriously the French take their apparel, all in bespoke fittings. There are some stores in Paris that are so snooty, you need to dress up before they let you enter to buy any of their items. If you’d like to standout and make known that you are indeed a tourist, put on a pair of appalling Nike Flyknits and take a stroll on Champs-Élysées.
Whether you are staring at modern architecture like The Louvre or Jean-François Chalgrin’s Neoclassical wonder, the Arc de Triomphe — everything you see around France is a work of art with an incredibly rich history. Now, let’s not bring up art work before I lose you with Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, the point I am making is this — the French are the masters of l’art de vivre — the art of living.
Je ne sais quoi.
So you’d imagine that if the French made some cars, all of them would be timeless works of art. They probably wouldn’t bother with things like practicality or fuel economy, because such things are peasantry. You’d imagine that their cars would be flamboyant and that they’d run on champagne instead of petrol, but you’d be wrong.
One of the carmakers that come from the beautiful nation of France is Peugeot — the oldest brand in the automotive industry. Now, unless you are addicted to cars or motorsports, you haven’t got a clue what Peugeot is. You may have heard of them before, but you’d be hard pressed to name one model that they make. See what I mean?
"The only thing lacking in this car is a French maid to serve me a happy ending."
That’s because most of the cars they’ve produced in the past, apart from the 205 GTi — which is still today one of the best cars in the world — are horrid and irrelevant. Take the Peugeot 4007 for instance. It’s a Mitsubishi Outlander, which is garbage to begin with, replaced with Mufasa’s face. I can imagine that the only people that bought the car are those whose kids love The Lion King. Then there’s the Peugeot 1007, you don’t need much of an imagination for this one. It’s a two-door hatchback, except it has sliding doors like a Dodge Caravan.
I would rather walk than step out one of those. And then there’s the 206 CC, a convertible with a folding hard top. There are a few here in Manila, one of which a friend used to own. I drove it once and it had the structural rigidity of gummy worms. That’s why when Peugeot setup shop in here the country, I received it with much skepticism. The rest of the country didn’t care, and the rest probably still don’t. And that, as of this very moment, is a very big mistake. Peugeot have recently launched an all-new model of their 3008, and I won’t beat around the bush, it’s epic.
The future couldn't come sooner.
This new 3008 is a thing of wonder. From a design standpoint, it looks brilliant. It is unmistakably a new generation of Peugeot with an angry front fascia and a snarling grille, but they’ve managed to taper off the aggression with Audrey Hepburn’s eyelashes. The body is beautifully proportioned too, unlike the previous one, which looked like a triangular bulldog. This one is a beauty, with the paws of a lion for a pair of tail lights. That on its own is a conversational piece. Even better than that is the interior. This is where Peugeot really pushes the envelope.
There’s a fair bit of plastic scattered around the cabin, but there is true genius in how they’ve masked it. As a matter of fact, they didn’t. What they did was they threw in different types of materials from leather to fabric, and placed them strategically so that the ones your skin makes contact with are the most decadent of the bunch. Very clever. In turn, it has also created one of the most lovely and exciting cabins of any car, at any price point. They seem to have drawn heavily from aviation, and it is most seen in the pseudo toggle switches on the car’s center stack. Maverick.
King and Lionheart.
The pièce de résistance of this cabin is Peugeot’s i-Cockpit®, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel mated to work with an 8-inch touchscreen display that controls all of the car’s functions. I am an old soul and a lover of analogue gauges, but this is by and large, one of the best executed ones as far as taste and originality go. They have managed to nail the instrument panel to perfection and it is fully customizable as well. It is intuitive and beautiful to look at. It is the perfect blend of old world and modern, and the best thing is that it isn’t at all related to a performance setting. It’s there for the love of a beautiful design.
There’s also a feature called i-Cockpit® Amplify, a button you can press that sets the tone for the mood you’re in. There are a thousand ways to configure this, but the best way I can explain this to you is that you can preset two different modes depending on the mood you’re in. Each mode has specific features which go from the kind of massage you want all the way to the type of cabin scent you prefer. You must think I am kidding, but I am dead serious. As a matter of fact, one scent smells identical to Penhaligon’s Endymion Eau de Parfum and the only thing lacking in this car is a French maid to serve me a happy ending.
The seats are lovely too. They’re heavily bolstered, but just like the ones found on the 308 SW, they’re ultra comfortable. BMW and Audi need to take some notes from Peugeot, because this is how you make seats. There’s ample space too even at the rear. I can sit comfortably behind my own seating position, a feat I rarely get to achieve. The absence of a moonroof means that there’s more headroom at the back, and I’d take that any given day of the week. I put as much miles as I could in this crossover, and I didn’t have a tingle of soreness in my body. All I felt were cat paws massaging my back. The cabin is so quiet too, it can pick on Mercedes-Benz.
The squared off steering wheel is tactile and it makes the 3008 feel deceivingly agile. The steering input is precise. I hardly made mid-corner corrections. It's more fun and rewarding than a BMW X3. Ouch, that hurt. , I didn't ever foresee enjoying to drive a Peugeot more than a BMW, but the day has come — sooner than I had hoped. It is so far ahead of standard cars that when I drove my Ford Focus, I wanted to drive it straight into a ditch. The 2-liter diesel offers an endless wave of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It was always in the gear I wanted it to be in and that made the driving experience so sweet. Plus, the paddle shifters react quicker than a Lexus GS F.
The other side of a car.
Surely there are faster and more exciting cars to buy, but there is something special about a car that is cohesively put together. The 3008 feels as if every single part that was put into it was made with the knowledge that it had to co-exist with other parts, and therefore all of them work in perfect harmony with each other — like a swinger party. What we have is a stylish crossover with an engine that doesn't drink much diesel. Seriously, I think it would rather have some fresh strawberries and a bottle of bubbly.
Peugeot have finally made a car that you can buy without remorse and make no excuses for. This is easily the most impressive car I have driven all year. It gives hope to the future of the combustion engine automobile for every consumer. It is a gorgeous place to inhabit and a wonderful tool to create new memories in. It is designed with the human element in its core and that makes it insatiably enamouring. It has a soul and it's French. It embodies the art of living. This 3008 is France's car — the car of the year.
L'art de Vivre