Monday, May 4, 2015

That time I nearly died three times whilst driving a Peugeot 3008

I was reading a post on Jalopnik recently where one of the regulars was bemoaning the transmission in the Fiat 500L (incidentally, a spiteful car that took the beautiful Fiat 500 and threw it out of the ugly tree making sure it hit every branch on the way down). It reminded me of the three times I nearly died in an hour of trying to drive a Peugeot 3008.
Let's be clear - this was a rental car. I would not have voluntarily been in that crime against car design. Apart from the design, there were a couple of fundamental engineering flaws with the car that made it so bad to drive that I'm not sure how it ever got past any safety testing.
First, the pedals. In an automatic, just a brake and accelerator. Seems simple enough - we've been building cars like this for decades. How then, was it possible, for Peugeot to put the pedals so close together, that with a size 9 shoe it was possible to hit both with one foot? Every time I used the accelerator, I caught the brake and vice versa. In slow-moving traffic, having a pedal arrangement that took my inputs and turned them into a random cacophony of sudden, jerking stops and randomly harsh acceleration was not ideal. The pedals alone accounted for the first two near misses.
The third near miss was attributable to the windows and headrests. The designers of the 3008 managed to design-in blind spots that surrounded the normal blind spots in every other car. Looking over my shoulder on the driver's side, there was a huge B-pillar that blocked the view of everything on that side. Looking over my shoulder the other way and the C-pillar covered a good 45 degrees of the field of view to the rear. The bits that weren't obscured by the C-pillar were covered by immovable headrests. The side mirrors were useless little bits of plastic that vibrated whenever the engine was one and had no convex blind spot on the passenger side. The inner rear view mirror couldn't be adjusted to look at anything other than the roof of the car, and the rear window design was so tiny it makes the current Range Rover Evoque look like it has a panoramic view out the back.
So how did this all contribute to the near-third accident? Simple - the mirrors didn't show the truck - because they were useless. A shoulder check meant I couldn't see the truck because of the immense blind spots around the C-pillar. And the inch-high rear window meant I couldn't see the truck because - you know - tiny window that behaved better as a wall than a window.
These were just the engineering flaws. The design flaws included power steering that was so light I had to concentrate to steer the car in a straight line (it followed every tiny deviation in the road, otherwise). Acres of chrome inside the cab so no matter where the sun was, I was always getting a reflection off something. Indicator and light stalks that were badly positioned behind the wheel. Cruise and windscreen stalks that got in the way of my knees. This list just goes on and on. The 3008 was a spiteful, hateful car designed by people who hated driving and hated everything a car ought to represent.
I took the car back to the rental counter and told them to give me something - anything else. I described the problems and the guy said "Peugeot 3008 then. Yeah - we can't give those away." The replacement car was a Citroen DS3 which was far, far, FAR better. Attractive, full of performance, and all the controls, mirrors and windows worked properly.

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