17 February 2021

French for a day: eating snails and driving a Peugeot

| James Coleman
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Peugeot at Bugendore

The Peugeot outside Le Tres Bon, the oldest building in Bungendore. Photo: James Coleman.

I know this is cheesy, but I have a French car to test and will be taking it to a French restaurant.

The car in question is the new Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon and the restaurant is Le Tres Bon in Bungendore. Region Media‘s Genevieve Jacobs provided a snap-shot of the quaint town in her video tour a few weeks ago, and the sight of Crème Brûlée was too great a temptation to resist.

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This handsome wagon came along and voila, we had a date. My wife may have also been there.

And given the fact we’ve only just walked in and the chef has already plucked a kiss from his lips and thrown it out the door in the direction of the parked Peugeot, I’d say it’s off to a good start.

Christophe Gregoire was born and raised in the Les Vosges region of France, and together with his Italian wife, Josephine, operate a restaurant and cooking school out of the oldest building in Bungendore, situated between the Caltex and IGA along the main road.

While Josephine hands out our menus, she relates how Christophe turned up for their first date in his little Peugeot hatchback, a grubby whipper-snipper running the length of the small cabin.

“That’s how I knew he was the one,” she says.

They met in New Caledonia before choosing this little town in south-east Australia as a place to raise a family. If your first question is, “Why?”, the answer is they don’t find the landscape and local produce that far removed from France.

Peugeots continue to run through Christophe’s history, including the 205 GTi, widely regarded among car enthusiasts as the greatest hot hatchback the world has ever seen.

That was in the 1980s, but Peugeot dates all the way back to a steel foundry in 1810. It is the world’s oldest continuous car brand, and over the years, they’ve tried their hand at not only cars but also umbrella frames, bicycles, corsets, weapons and, of course, their famous pepper grinders.

But ever since about 2000, it’s been mostly rubbish. Hideous bubble things slathered with black plastic and electrical faults.

It was not, for instance, a company you would look to in order to prove that wagons are a much cooler alternative to the horde of same-same SUVs out there. But it appears that in the last couple of years, they’ve hired an actual designer.

We pull over along the entrance to Bungendore for some shots, and the number of cars that slow down with faces pressed to the windows proves that I haven’t gone mad. This new 508 GT Sportswagon is a proper beauty.

Just look at that profile. C’est magnifique!

It gets better inside. There’s the typical Peugeot oddity of viewing the dials over the top of the steering wheel rather than through it, but that’s something you get used to almost instantly. Everything presents as much more expensive than its $57,000 price would have you believe, from the carbon-fibre weave and Star Wars-like switchgear to the massage function on the front seats and the discreet external cameras that form a bird’s eye view on the display while reversing. There isn’t even the dreadful feeling that something is about to fall off.

More sensibly, the 508 has a big boot, it’s very economical, and after getting lost on a country road and having to ‘ctrl-z’ the situation, I can say that the turning circle is incredible.

This is why motoring journalists are nearly out of a job. Because, by and large, every modern car is pretty good. You can tell by the way car reviews say this, but then draw out the fact that if you go around a corner at 150 km/h with the tip of your tongue just jutting out of the left side of your mouth, “there’s a hint of understeer”. Or that “legroom is a tad cramped”.

But this car, being what it is, I was expecting to find something genuinely annoying, something that brings you to your knees with exasperation and causes you to scream, “There’s a reason everyone else does it differently, Peugeot!” But I couldn’t find any.

So no, don’t buy another SUV. There’ll always be the good way, the bad way and the French way. But in this case, the French way is better.

2020 Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon

  • $56,990 driveaway (with 5-year unlimited-kilometre warranty and 5-year roadside assistance)
  • 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol, 165 kW / 300 Nm
  • 8-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h in 8.2 seconds
  • 6.3 litre/100 km combined city/highway fuel use
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

This car was provided for testing by Canberra Peugeot in Phillip. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Canberra Peugeot.

Original Article published by James Coleman on The RiotACT.

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