The worldwide launch of the Peugeot 4008 SUV in Portugal this week is something of a breakthrough for the French car maker – finally giving it a strong contender in the all-important compact SUV segment.
Peugeot has once again called on Japanese car maker Mitsubishi (as it did in 2007 with the Outlander-based Peugeot 4008) for its expertise in four-wheel-drives, creating a premium SUV package around the ASX platform. While there's plenty of Peugeot DNA in the front end styling of the 4008, shared panels with the ASX include the roof, front and rear doors, the windscreen and A-Pillar.
However, Peugeot engineers also had some influence in the ASX design, with particular attention paid to the doors, but this was towards the end of the development process. This meant that the Peugeot 4008 didn't have to be so extensively redesigned to meet the current design language.
Peugeot is adamant that the 4008 will not compete against the Mitsubishi ASX, and that its key rival will be the more upmarket Volkswagen Tiguan.
By sharing the ASX platform and drivetrain, Peugeot was able to reduce the development time to two years. That’s from initial sketches to 4008s rolling off the production line.
Interestingly, Peugeot will first market the 4008 outside of Europe - the market it expects 70 per cent of the car's sales volume to come from. Russia and the Ukraine will get it first as SUVs account for a sizeable 20 per cent share of the market in those countries.
It’s a similar story in Australia, where the SUV segment holds a similarly strong market share. But buyers here will have to wait until June 9 before seeing the Peugeot 4008 in showrooms.
Visually, the Peugeot 4008 is more compact than the 4007 model it replaces. Engineers have reduced the platform by 30cm, allowing for shorter front and rear overhangs. These changes haven’t affected interior space in the 4008, however, which is among the best in the segment.
The front pews are extra wide to accommodate a broad range of body shapes and yet there’s plenty of elbow space between the driver and front passenger. Rear legroom, while not overly generous, is adequate for large adults. Cargo space is better than average for the segment at 416 litres, despite the inclusion of a full-size spare wheel.
Peugeot will initially build two diesel and two petrol versions for the global market. Australia will launch with a 2.0-litre petrol model in two trims: Active and Allure. The entry-level Active is available in both 2WD and AWD, while the range-topping Allure is AWD-only. A five-speed manual transmission will be standard across all variants, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) available as an option.
While Peugeot Australia is keen to introduce a diesel 4008 here, it will need to be with and automatic transmission in-line with market trends, but initially, Peugeot is only building the 4008 diesels with a manual transmission. Didier Richard, Director International Division Oceania, French overseas Territories, Israel and Palestine for Peugeot, told us that they have an engine that can be mated to a new series-two piloted gearbox that is currently in development.
We got to drive the Peugeot 4008 2.0-litre petrol version with the CVT transmission on the launch program, and covered around 150km including a short off-road course.
It might be the most powerful petrol engine on offer across the Peugeot 4008 range, but its output of 110kW and 197Nm provides only adequate off-the-line acceleration for this 1455kg SUV. As a comparison, the 4008 with the 1.6-litre HDi diesel engine makes 84kW and 280Nm between 1750-2500rpm.
There isn’t a lot of low-down torque, so you’ll need to keep the revs up when climbing steep inclines, or during overtaking manoeuvres; but for daily driving duties, progress is more than sufficient.
More driver engagement can be had from using the steering column-mounted paddle shifters. Despite the absence of traditional gears within the CVT transmission, each upshift or downshift simulates that of a manual transmission.
There’s no such shortfall when it comes to the 4008’s ride and handling prowess though, as this is an SUV that is dynamically sound and fun to drive. There’s some initial body roll on turn-in, but that doesn’t affect the vehicle’s solid composure during cornering.
Even more encouraging is the general ride quality on board the Peugeot 4008. Over Portugal’s 500-year-old cobblestone streets, potholes and shoddy B-roads, it didn’t seem to matter what we threw at the 4008, the ride was always first class. And that was in a vehicle wearing 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/55 series road tyres.
The mini off-road course didn’t present any real challenges for the 4008 either, but it did enable us to briefly test its AWD capability up a steep incline that offered little grip.
The Peugeot 4008, like most compact SUVs, employs a 4x4 mode ‘on request’. The AWD model gives drivers the choice of switching from 2WD on regular tarmac to 4WD-high and 4WD-lock for use in low-grip situations, simply by rotating a dial on the centre-stack.
Style-wise, the Peugeot 4008 may well have assumed the class leadership in the compact SUV segment. This is an exceptionally attractive vehicle and a far cry from Peugeot’s previous effort with the 4007.
It’s not just the floating grille, the LED daytime running lights, or the side air intakes that give the Peugeot 4008 an up-market profile; there are detailed highlights all over this SUV that indicate its premium advantage in this highly competitive segment.
The quality look and feel continues inside, with the 4008 employing soft-touch material on the dash fascia and door trim, and lacquered black material on the centre console and leather steering wheel.
The instrument panel is backlit in both day and night for crystal clear visibility, and there’s an extensive list of standard kit including a decent audio system, rain and light sensors, fog lamps, steering wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls and cruise control.
There’s an extensive package of safety equipment on board the 4008 too, with seven airbags, electronic stability control with anti-skid and traction control functions.
Peugeot Australia says the 4008 will start at less than $30,000 when it arrives in June. Final pricing and specification details will be confirmed closer to its local launch.
Priced competitively, the Peugeot 4008 should find plenty of favour with Australian buyers, given it's strong proposition on so many levels.