All the work Peugeot put into producing the new 5008 clearly paid off as my wife hit the nail on the head with a single remark as she glanced at the car on the driveway: “That looks like a Range Rover.”

That observation underlines how the French car maker has cleverly transformed its big people carrier into a sleek, sophisticated, seven-seater sports utility vehicle.

The switch from a simple large people shifter into a classier, more technologically advanced vehicle is a smart move, with the SUV profile now the third best-selling in Europe.

Peugeot realised that while drivers might still need a big car with plenty of space for people and luggage, they also wanted one with a more upmarket presence that not only looks good but drives even better.

Lower, sharper-styled and less bulky than some competitors, despite its large size the French-built 5008 delivers surprisingly taut handling and a precise agile feel, combined with a relaxed comfortable ride.

Power on the car driven here came from a 1.2-litre engine that develops 130 horsepower, giving remarkable punch for such a small power unit with the potential for 50mpg fuel consumption.

While there is plenty of fun technology packed into the interior to keep driver and passengers amused, the serious business of improving safety continues unabated with a range of systems designed to protect everyone.

So in come features such as automatic emergency braking system and distance alert; active lane keeping assistance, driver attention warning, smart beam assistance, speed sign recognition and speed suggestion, adaptive cruise control, active blind spot monitoring and park assist.

Also available is ‘advanced grip control’, including new hill assist descent control, which allows the car to venture off the beaten track and manage loose surfaces and descend in safety.  

The new 5008 certainly has plenty of driver appeal with a compact steering wheel, an eight-inch touchscreen and a dazzling digital instrument panel with glowing graphics and animations that can be configured and customised, which is a joy for gadget geeks.

Below the central touchscreen sit seven satin chrome dashboard switches that offer quick access to everything from radio, air conditioning and satellite navigation, to vehicle settings, telephone, apps and hazard warning lights.

Upmarket GT Line models, like the one driven here, take things up a level with the ability to adjust screen colour and compartment lighting intensity, five different seat massage programmes and a fragrance diffuser.

Nice as all this pampering is for everyone on board, the essence of a big SUV remains practicality and the 5008 has that by the bucketload with a plethora of storage spaces, sockets, blinds, hooks, cupholders and ‘aeroplane’ trays on the back of the first row seats.

All the three second-row seats are the same width; their length is adjustable and they offer five different angles of inclination. In addition all have adjustable headrests that drop down when the seats are empty for easy rear viewing and they can be easily folded to produce a rigid floor with a seamless flat surface.

A third row of two extra seats that fold down into the boot floor is standard on all versions and they can be removed to give even more boot space if needed.

In addition, a hands-free smart electric tailgate opens and closes when activated – simply by placing your foot under the rear bumper.

The move away from simple people carriers is based on much more than emotion, as Peugeot says while the people-carrier segment is almost exclusively a European phenomenon, changing the car into an SUV means it can target a worldwide market.

Auto facts

Model: Peugeot 5008 1.2 PureTech 130 GT Line

Price: £28,720

Insurance group: 12 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 55.4mpg

Top speed: 117mph

Length: 464.1cm/182.7in

Width: 184.4cm/72.6in

Luggage capacity: 27.5 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 12.3 gallons/56 litres

CO2 emissions: 117 g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 100,000 miles