The European styled but Japanese engineered Peugeot 4008 marks the start of a new attack by the French manufacturer as it seeks to expand its marketshare in Australia.
From the outside it’s unfathomable to think the Peugeot 4008 has anything to do with its relatively over-styled brother, the Mitsubishi ASX, but underneath the pretty French styling remains a Japanese heart and soul. In fact, 4008s are built in Mitsubishi’s Okazaki factory, which also builds the ASX.
Unlike the Peugeot 4007, which was a far more obvious clone of the Mitsubishi Outlander, Peugeot designers went the extra mile to ensure the 4008 is uniquely French. For a starting price of $28,990 for the base model manual, it’s fair to say the 4008 is the best looking small SUV for the money. Perhaps only eclipsed by the slightly larger and significantly more expensive Range Rover Evoque.
So what of it then? A good-looking French-styled SUV with Japanese engineering. What’s not to like? There’s another way to look at this, firstly that the Mitsubishi ASX wasn’t exactly best in class to begin with, particularly when it’s now pitched against the likes of Volkswagen’s Tiguan. Furthermore, Peugeot has decided to stick with a petrol only approach for phase one of the 4008’s launch, despite the brand’s heritage as a leader in diesel technology and the availability of an ASX diesel (manual).
This may seem like a rather substantial error in judgement but research shows that currently only 14 percent of small SUV buyers opt out for a diesel (80 percent of which is automatic), with the majority remaining loyal to petrol automatics. That means a Peugeot 4008 with a diesel offered as a manual only will have an extremely limited appeal. The French are working on a diesel automatic variant which is likely to arrive sometime next year.
The Pegueot 4008 is available as a front-wheel drive or 4WD with both configurations powered by the one engine choice: the same 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine from the ASX. That’s 110kW of power and 197Nm of torque coupled to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Given the 1375kg weight (up to 1470kg for the 4WD auto), it’s a lot of weight to pull for less than 200Nm.
On the road the 4008 doesn’t actually feel slow and, not surprisingly (given the weight difference), the fastest model is actually the cheapest model, the Active manual 2WD. That can go from 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds, a good 1.6 seconds faster than the range-topping 4WD auto (Allure). That poses a slight problem for the 4008 range because the CVT transmission fails to make much of an impact low down in the rev range as it always seems to be asking for more torque, very similar to the ASX. Given that 80 percent of buyers are likely to go for the CVT, it further compounds the issue.
We began our test drive by leaving the Stamford hotel and heading towards Sydney’s outskirts to test the 4008 on numerous dirt and country roads. Coupled to Mitsubishi’s CVT system the 4008 felt more than good enough for everyday city and suburban driving. You would find it a challenge to realise there was anything unusual about the automatic as it masks its CVT DNA well. Until it comes to merging on to a highway. If you ever completely floor the accelerator, the engine sits on a preset RPM and makes a great deal of noise to get up to speed. This is not uncommon for Mitsubishi CVTs (and has been our biggest criticism for both the ASX and Lancer, which use the same system) but by industry standards, it’s a lot of noise for not much oomph. It’s a shame a traditional six-speed automatic couldn’t be used instead.
The manual (4WD tested) drives like an entirely different car. Despite only having five gears, acceleration feel and overall pulling power is hugely improved (comparing 4WD manual to 4WD CVT). It also makes a lot less noise in the process. Around the twisty stuff the 4008 is generally well balanced and corners with relative ease.
In 2WD mode there is hints of torquesteer coming out of corners but leave it in 4WD and the problem will quickly dissipate. It’s similar in feel to the Volkswagen Tiguan in how it grips but the ride can be a tad harsher if you frequent B-grade roads. Peugeot engineers widened the ASX’s front and rear tracks by 10 mm and recalibrated the suspension and steering to give the 4008 a more European feel, so it’s noticeably superior in this regard to its Japanese twin.
On loose surface or dirt roads the steering can become a little shaky and kickback around corners if you begin to push a little. However, it’s unlikely to be an issue for the majority of buyers who will never leave the bitumen. What most buyers really care about is the exterior and interior styling, reliability and servicing costs.
There’s no doubt the 4008 is a good-looking car on the outside, but what of the inside? Although photos would suggest it’s very similar-looking to the ASX, the actual touch and feel is noticeably different. Soft touch plastics and black decoration of the centre console (piano black in Allure) add a better cabin ambience. As does the steering wheel, which is the easiest way to tell you’re not in a Mitsubishi (although the indicator is on the right side, which is very un-European). There is ample head and legroom in the front and rear seats, so you can fit four large adults with ease and a fifth if need be. Overall, the interior is by no means as good as a 508 or even a 3008, but it’s too bad either.
Standard across the 4008 range is Bluetooth telephone connectivity and audio streaming, reversing camera (built into the mirror), rear parking-sensors and privacy glass. 16-inch alloy wheels ($1000 option for 18s), six speaker audio system, steering wheel audio controls, USB connectivity, front fog lights, LED daytime-running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, automatic air conditioning, cruise control and seven airbags are also all thrown in for no extra charge.
The French are putting this car up against the Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Subaru XV and even the Nissan Dualis. In reality it sits somewhere between the Tiguan and the XV, in that it offers reasonable 4WD capability and European status (even if it’s Japanese engineered and made). The real question is, how does it stack up against its only European rival?
The Volkswagen small SUV has four different engine configurations, but if you compare the two base models, the front-wheel 4008 ($28,990) and Tiguan ($28,490) start within $500 of each other. The Tiguan has the upper hand with a six-speed manual coupled to a 1.4-liter turbo. The engine size may seem incomprehensible given the size of the thing but the Germans are the masters of downsizing with turbocharging technology. So much so that the little 1.4-litre turbo puts out 8kW and 43Nm more power and torque than the 2.0-litre Mitsubishi sourced engine. That means the torque that the 4008 lacks low in the rev range is a non-issue in the Tiguan. From here on though, it gets a little confusing as Tiguan’s prices start to get rather expensive (in comparison) with more powerful petrol and diesel engines. In fact, the cheapest automatic Tiguan is a good $4,500 more than a 4008 CVT.
So not only does the Peugeot 4008 have the upper hand in terms of price, but also in styling, equipment level and servicing costs. This is important because research shows that buyers of small SUVs are 40 percent more likely to pick a car simply based on how it looks. As for servicing, Peugeot guarantees that you will pay no more than $330 a year (20,000km) whilst the car is under warranty (3 years). There is a 10,000km health check and the servicing schedules are every 20,000km (as oppose to 15,000 for ASX). Another win for Peugeot in the Franco-German Wars.
In summary, the Peugeot 4008 is easily in contention for being the most stylish and well-equipped European SUV for the asking price. An ideal suburban SUV that marries French styling with Japanese reliability and engineering. It lacks a bit of torque when coupled to a CVT and it may not be as technically advanced as the Volkswagen Tiguan, but the high levels of standard equipment and lower servicing costs will almost guarantee that Peugeot will sell its 900 units for the remainder of 2012.
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