PEUGEOT HAS BEEN particularly slow to jump on the SUV bandwagon, choosing to channel its primary focus on sports/station wagons instead. Although the Mitsubishi Outlander-based 4007 did offer some relief (for European customers), a veritable compact SUV is something the local Peugeot line-up has been in dire need of for some time. Enter the Peugeot 4008, which is based on Mitsubishi’s four-wheel drive ASX. Peugeot engineers did have some participation in the development of the ASX, which meant it didn’t have to undergo any major surgery to accommodate the company’s current design language. Items such as the doors, roof, A-pillar and windscreen are shared across both platforms but visually, the ASX and 4008 look nothing alike. The 4008 wears the company’s floating grille design and corporate face with conviction – it’s a genuine Peugeot – and the running boards, plastic-covered wheel arches and lower bumpers offer protection against low-riding obstacles and give the 4008 a utilitarian and muscular presence.
Climb aboard and it’s a totally different story – much of the equipment and switchgear are all standard ASX, the only difference being the Pug-emblazoned steering wheel, the piano-black inserts and soft-touch facia cladding. That said, the interior is spacious with ample room up front and in the rear. Also noteworthy is the cargo space of 416 litres.
Only one engine derivative is headed for South Africa – a 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine mated with a six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT). While the CVT is sufficient for city commuting, the lack of low-down torque means the 4008 is sluggish out of the blocks and needs to be revved pretty high to make it up inclines – a noisy exercise. I do, however, think a diesel option with manual ’box will have lower running costs, particularly with regards to fuel economy, and undoubtedly will be more engaging to drive.
I got to drive the 4008 on a 60km route around Sintra in Portugal that included a small off-road course. The ride quality is quite superb – the suspension coped reasonably well with the cobblestoned and rutted surfaces of the antediluvian Portuguese roads. Put through its paces, the 4008 does initially suffer from body roll when directed through a corner, but that would be nit-picking considering its otherwise impressive overall road manners and compliancy.
A small gravel course briefly showcased the off-roading credibility of the 4008. An on-the-fly, electronically-controlled ASX-derived all-wheel drive system gives the driver the choice of three modes: 2wd, 4wd-high and 4wd-lock with respective 100:0, 85:15 and 60:40% front/rear drive ratio split. Blessed with a reasonable 200mm of ground clearance, an approach angle of 19 degrees and departure angle of 31 degrees, the 4008 negotiates dips and humps without difficulty.
Overall, the 4008 is a tidy package. Garnished – inside and out – with first-class finishes and supported by Peugeot’s comprehensive vehicle maintenance plan, the 4008 provides a tasty alternative to the Korean and Japanese contestants currently dominating the compact C-segment. The 4008 will join a fellow countryman, the also ASX-based Citroën C4 Aircross, on local showroom floors come October 2012.