Those of you with any inkling of the French language will probably have figured out what the title of this article means. Those of you who haven’t – well it means “the big friendly giant”, and it was those words I was uttering at the end of my test period with the Peugeot 3008. A car that started out as an ugly French pudding but transformed beneath my butt cheeks and completely rewrote my definition of a Peugeot.

But why; what was so special about it? I had two versions of the car to sample – the 2.0 HDI Grip manual and the 1.6 THP auto – and I fell in love with both of them, which was something I would have laughed at when I first laid eyes on the pooh-brown 1.6 at the beginning of December last year.

There’s no question about this car’s looks. Love them or hate them because there’s no middle ground. Initially I wanted to be sick. The car looks fat, stodgy and a mix of old and new. The front end is a taste of Peugeot’s new design language and gives the car an immense feeling of power; a hunger for the road. I liked that bit, really. A nice introduction to other road users and a very effective replacement for flashing your lights in the fast lane. But oh boy, you’d be passing someone after scaring them half to death and they’d be swerving (and probably swearing) as they tried to keep their lunch down!

Initially the backside of this wallowy tub of marge made me ill, too. I didn’t like the way that the tail lights looked like badly-fried omelettes and how they were designed like the old 307CC’s – a new front but old rear just didn’t make sense to me. The side profile was also a mish-mash of curves and swoops and wheel arches that looked like the car was driven through too narrow a gap – they were just sort-of gone. After a few days though, everything grew on me and with the HDi being more civilised in silver, the odd bits came across as more interesting than annoying.

Then I got in and ooh, comfy! The seats are like sofas and the trim materials used for the dashboard, doors and centre console are of a high quality. With leather in the THP and fabric in the HDi, both fabrics provided a lovely surface for my passengers and I to enjoy the drive with. Even after some 22 000 km the HDi had worn well and looked good as a second-hand purchase.

And then there is the space. Literally every single person who drove with me in either model mentioned how the 3008 would be the perfect holiday vehicle, and it really is! There’s just so much space for everyone as well as all their things – the boot is huge and incorporates two levels and a luggage net, so you can hide your valuables under the floor (easily deep enough for a slim-style suitcase and your laptop) and tie your groceries down, or just hang them on the built-in luggage hooks. There’s even a removable torch which doubles as the courtesy light for the boot, and because you just clip it off the side of the D-pillar, it is always charged and actually rather bright. And the French made this?

The rear seats fold forward with the tug of a handle in the boot, plus they have their own cup holders and a clip-away cover which would allow you to shove curtain rails or, when in the Drakensburg, your skis, through the seat-backs without folding them down. Finally, the tail gate opens in two halves like a Range Rover, and it is honestly the best part of the 3008’s derriere!

The driving experience reminded me of the Dodge Caliber I drove last August. Even though the 3008 looks like an off-roader and its tyres are chunky and it’s got that whole Indiana Jones chin going on in the front, it’s nothing more than a tall and flabby hatch-back designed for moms and dads who have 2.4 kids who go to things called schools and kick a ball around a field when they’re bored. But you sit up high, with a raised centre console and a lovely commanding view of the road. I loved it! And that console; you just won’t believe the size and depth of the cubby hole under the arm rest – literally big enough for two champagne bottles, your wallet, CDs, keys, cell phone chargers, (what else would you like to put in it?), etc. And you would put your champers in there because it’s refrigerated too!

Engine-wise, both were lovely. The 1.6 THP, which does duty in various Peugeot and Citroën cars these days, and even the MINI Cooper S, has more than enough power and torque for the job of lugging the fairly heavy body around. However, fuel consumption is less than attractive, especially when paired with the automatic gearbox. Peugeot claims 7.1 litres for every hundred kilometres you drive in the manual THP, but you are literally looking at the 10 litres-and-above mark with the auto. However, the 2.0 HDi turbo diesel is the complete opposite. With 340Nm of torque it is even better at hauling the weight and, because it’s diesel, fuel consumption is astounding.

Peugeot claims 5.6 l/100km on the combined cycle and I promise you if you get over the massive torque and drive economically, you will get there. I actually managed to match their claim of 4.7 l/100km on a round trip from Roodepoort to Parys, and that with four people on board plus some goodies in the boot, with the cruise control set at 120 km/h. I was utterly shocked by this and for that reason alone, you should buy a diesel variant. Sound insulation is also impeccable, so the diesel noises don’t intrude and get on your nerves and neither does road and tyre roar. It’s a fabulous long-distance cruiser and I reckon if you were to drive to your favourite beach at the national speed limit, using cruise control to keep you there, you could probably do 1000 km on one tank, if not more, with 60 litres of diesel.

The HDi wasn’t all smiles though, mainly because it has the “Grip” package. And don’t be fooled (as I was) into thinking Grip means four-wheel drive, because the rear wheels do nothing more than keep the back of the car off the ground. What the so-called “Grip Control” gives you is a knob on the centre console (which takes up the space of one of the two cup holders) with five modes for the traction control system (normal, snow, mud, sand and off) and special Michelin tyres which, as Peugeot states “work in unison with Grip Control to provide optimum grip in all driving conditions”.

What this all actually means is that you lose a cup holder to a Land Rover wannabe button that makes no sense nor serves any real purpose in this country. Without four-wheel drive, driving a heavy front-wheel drive car like this in snow, mud or sand will end in you being stuck – end of story.

There’s only one spec level above Premium, and the Executive package adds posh extras like full leather, a panoramic roof, a heads-up display and radar-guided cruise control. All very nice, but not necessary. Other than the few luxuries staggered throughout the ten-model range, all versions come with the usual safety extras including six airbags (only the entry-level 1.6 Comfort has four) and top marks in the safety tests.

For the same sort of money, you could consider the Caliber, a Nissan Qashqai, the Hyundai iX35 or a Kia Sportage. The Dodge isn’t as solidly built as the 3008 but is a very worthy competitor and the Koreans both have strapping new faces and personalities so don’t discount them. The Nissan is worth a look too as you can specify seven seats. They’re all worth similar money too, so buying in this segment isn’t going to be easy.

The 3008 2.0 HDi is definitely the one to go for, without the silly Grip nonsense, and if you can afford the R341 032 sticker price, take the range-topping 2.0

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