Cars > Encounter

Experiencing the shift from Japanese to European with the Peugeot 5008

The author shares her first-ever taste of a French car

The author's first experience with a European crossover opened her eyes. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I’ve always welcomed change in my life. I was never really the type to be afraid of it. That is, until I test-drove a car by the name of the Peugeot 5008.

Admittedly, it was my first time driving something from Europe. I’ve owned and driven an American car—a Ford Focus—and several Japanese cars. Accepting this test-drive assignment came with a friendly note: “It’s quirky to drive.” It’s European, yes, but it’s also French.

From college friend to fellow mom, the author is thankful to share the experience with a longtime friend. PHOTO BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

So, I thought of meeting my good friend from college, Bea Pimentel-Aquino—who also happens to be my neighbor—to knock some sense into my fear of the unknown. She personally owns a Mercedes B-Class and a Toyota Fortuner.

The author’s friend shows that the removable third-row seats of the 5008 are perfect for soccer moms such as herself. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“I’ve always had a preference for European cars,” she remarked as she ascended the 5008 one sunny Saturday.

I received this information with both eyebrows raised. Suddenly, I felt a bit ashamed of my fear. Here was someone I had known for almost two decades of my life and a fellow mom—is there something wrong with me? I had to find out more.

Is it a car? Is it an airplane? It's the Peugeot 5008. The interiors definitely score high in uniqueness. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“Really?” I inquired. “Why?”

“European cars are just way more advanced than your usual Japanese cars,” she said. “Our B-Class is a 2006 model, and yet it already has a generous number of airbags, sensors by way of sound alerts, and varying driving modes just to name a few.”

It can be pretty tight in the third row, and it isn’t meant for kids who don’t need a child seat. Do consider the profile of your regular passengers when choosing this car. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“Imagine, all those features were already thought of and offered almost 20 years ago in Europe, and it’s only now that the Japanese or Asian brands are starting to make them a staple in their cars,” she added. “More often than not, you even need to buy the top of their line to get those advancements.”

Your kids will feel that they are co-captains in the second row. PHOTO BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“I have an uncle who is a staunch believer of Peugeot,” she pointed out. “Once he got a taste of the brand, all his succeeding cars were from Peugeot. Until now.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I swear I saw a ray of sunshine through the 5008’s panoramic sunroof as I heard all of these insights.

The author's boys always requested to see the skies, even if it was raining. PHOTO BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“I’m adjusting to all these knobs and features, and how everything is configured,” I said, pointing plainly at the central control panel. “With all my previous cars, it felt more intuitive. Like my hand—and my brain—already knew where to find certain controls right away.”

The author learned to love the center stack, where essential controls and functions were made in a distinctly French style. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“If you want to go for driver’s functionality, go Japanese,” she concluded. “If you want to go more lifestyle and all its sensibilities, go European.”

Makes sense.

If there's one thing the company does with flair, it's lighting. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

I do like some features in the 5008 that I would normally classify as bonuses based on what I’m used to. These include automatic headlights; blue ambient lighting that cozily lights up the interior when dark; and a welcome light that projects the Peugeot logo on the ground (very Batman-esque).

Front and rear parking sensors and a clever reversing camera (not a 360° camera) that provides a top view all help you center your parking.

If you own a Peugeot 5008, trust that you won't have a hard time looking for it in the mall parking lot. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

The 5008 also has great suspension and ride. It feels like I’m driving on a bed of clouds. The classy cabin aesthetics make me feel as if I have arrived. It’s fitted with 18-inch wheels that beat the 17-inch ones usually found on the upper spectrum of Asian cars, and the fact that it stands out in traffic makes me feel special.

Except for the driving sensibilities that I am accustomed to, everything feels like an upgrade from the next car you see on Philippine roads.

The aircon vents could use better placement, and the author could never get used to the vehicle's preference for fresh air instead of recirculated air. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

“It’s always a joke between me and my husband that we want our everyday, pang-harabas car to be Japanese, and our Sunday, drop-off-at-the-hotel-driveway car to be European,” Bea chuckled.

Shifting from Japanese to European (French, specifically) is an acquired taste. I would say that it’s an eye-opening experience as to what else is out there on the market, especially for a family woman like myself who is comfortable in her own skin.

Do you think bells and whistles like these should be standard in more cars in this day and age? PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

As Filipinos, we may be used to—and content with—the standard that we grew up with found in the more mainstream brands that have marked our childhood.

But what if, for just a moment, we stop and allow ourselves to imagine a better world where more airbags and more useful, practical tech are givens rather than options for our choice of daily transport?

Imagine carrying a load of groceries and having no free hand to open the trunk. If the engine is off, kick your foot under and the hatch automatically opens and closes. PHOTOS BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

Then maybe, we can view brands like Peugeot and cars like the 5008 in a different light. What we term as bells and whistles are, in fact, features we deserve in the first place as acceptable minimums.

There’s always room for firsts. The author enjoyed the 5008 for a full seven days. PHOTO BY HAZEL IMPERIAL-TAN

As long as European brands such as Peugeot localize key features like the air-conditioning and adjust to the requirements of the local weather while still keeping their European flair, then we might have a decent contender in the 5008 in disrupting the crossover segment in the country.

We could all use the change of scenery from time to time.

Hazel Imperial-Tan

Hazel is the marketing and sales director of VISOR. Prior to joining our team, she had spent a good number of years in brand management. She’s a doting mother to two boys who, perhaps by inevitable fate, happen to like cars a lot.