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1 August 2014 17:47 (South Africa)
Life, etc

Peugeot 4008: Mistaken identity

  • Deon Schoeman
  • Life, etc
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Peugeot’s first ‘real’ soft-roader promises all the benefits of an all-terrainer: a raised ride height, intelligent all-wheel drive, and a spacious, versatile interior. It even boasts the latest Peugeot design language. The problem is that it’s not a Peugeot in the true sense of the word, as DEON SCHOEMAN finds out.

Peugeot may be French, but it has a proud heritage on the African continent, dating back more than four decades to the 404 and 504. And so a Peugeot all-terrain vehicle would seem a logical addition to the brand’s model line-up.

Clearly, the powers that be in Paris don’t share the South African enthusiasm for sport utility vehicles, because the 4008 is the first Peugeot SUV to reach our shores.

Yes, the 3008 crossover used to be offered with a clever traction device called Grip Control, which endowed it with better-than-normal off-road talents. But the 4008 has a real all-wheel drive system – and unlike the 3008, it also looks the SUV part, complete with raised ride height, wide tracks front and rear, and decent approach and departure angles.

All good news then for Peugeot fans who’ve been yearning for a SUV, then … except that the 4008 is not a true Peugeot. Yes, it proudly bears the latest iteration of the Peugeot Lion on the bonnet. And yes, the front-end execution is unmistakably Peugeot. But the underpinnings are pure Mitsubishi.

It’s not the first time that Peugeot and Mitsubishi have cooperated on an all-terrainer. The larger Mitsubishi Outlander has a Peugeot cousin in the form of the 4007, but that vehicle was never offered in South Africa.

The 4008 (and its Citroën sibling, the Aircross) are both based on the Mitsubishi ASX, and share the Japanese off-roader’s technical underpinnings and basic silhouette. Given Mitsubishi’s reputation for building rugged 4x4s, the association should be a favourable one for Peugeot.

Besides, Peugeot is no stranger to co-op projects with other brands. It’s been known to share engine technology with BMW, and used to build a joint-venture with Fiat and Lancia. All of which suggest that the 4008 should have a lot going for it. And at first glance, it does.

You’ve got to hand it to Peugeot’s stylists: despite having to work off a visually flawed Mitsubishi template, the 4008 not only looks like a Peugeot, but represents a vast improvement on the aesthetically challenged ASX.

The real differences are all at the front, where the headlights, the grille – and the trademark Lion logo – create an unmistakably Peugeot identity. The air intake remains a large and aggressive aperture, but it’s divided by a solid bar that also houses the number plate, creating a much more sophisticated face.

The 4008 runs on handsome 18-inch wheels, while a smooth roofline and chiselled flanks create a sleek and poised presence.  Roof rails serve as a reminder of the Peugeot’s SUV intentions.

The rear is smoothly executed, with neatly integrated bumper framing the tailgate, while a roof spoiler suggests a certain sporty flair. But the drivetrain adopts a somewhat more utilitarian stance.

We’ve come to expect compact but powerful turbo petrol and turbodiesel engines under the bonnet of Peugeot products, so the presence of a normally aspirated two-litre unit comes as a surprise.

Like the rest of the 4008’s underpinnings, the four-cylinder is a Mitsubishi design, and with 110kW and 197Nm, it seems to offer ample pep. But in reality, it’s a peaky unit, with insufficient low-down grunt, given that the torque peak is only achieved at 4,200 rpm, while max power is reached at 6,000 rpm.

The 2.0-litre unit is eager enough, and isn’t scared to chase the red line – but while such a free-revving nature wouldn’t be a bad thing in a road car context, a soft-roader like the 4008 would be better off with more beef at lower engine speeds to aid tractability in more challenging conditions.

A bigger bugbear is the constantly variable transmission (CVT) – a gearbox that remains a favourite with European customers for its efficiency and ease of use, but has never cut it with local motoring audiences.

At least the 4008 provides shift paddles and fixed steps to virtually simulate the ratios of a six-speed gearbox. Interestingly, the paddles are fixed on the steering column, rather than moving with the steering wheel – a feature the 4008 shares with Aston Martin.

In automatic mode, the gearbox displays the typical elastic-band characteristics associated with CVTs, which sounds disconcertingly like a slipping clutch, but in fact is simply the gearbox keeping the engine revs at a constant speeds while steplessly adjusting the effective ratio.

I suppose soft-roaders spend more time on the road than off the beaten track, so it’s less of an issue than it would be in a gung-ho 4x4. But considering that Peugeot is punting the 4008 as an all-terrainer, it is an element worth considering by those determined to head for the great outdoors – and one that begs the question why there is no turbodiesel model.

Spending time inside the 4008 is no hardship, thanks to a comprehensive array of standard features – not surprising, considering the test vehicle was the flagship Allure version.

The array of standard kit meets most of the comfort and convenience requirements, and ranges from remote central locking, climate control and a CD receiver with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, to auto-activating headlights and wipers, and that panoramic glass sunroof.

Seven airbags, stability control, rear parking sensors and ISOFIX child seat tethers are on the safety equipment list, together with ABS brakes with emergency braking assistance. Given the general condition of our roads, let alone the challenges of going onto gravel, the presence of a full-sized spare wheel is particularly pleasing.

One of the strengths of current Peugeot products is the interior design, which is both thoughtfully and solidly executed, with a real focus on tactile quality. Sadly, the 4008’s Mitsubishi roots shine through all too clearly here, and it’s simply not in the same league as the 3008 crossover, or the 5008 MPV.

It’s all pretty enough, and the ergonomic execution is sound, but the tactile solidity of Peugeot’s in-house models is notable by its absence here. If anything, it highlights just how high the standards of Peugeot’s own interior execution really is.

On tar, the 4008 impresses with road manners that are composed and car-like. The chassis feels taut, and cornering isn’t the wobbly affair it can be in other SUVs. The generous rubber on those 18-inch wheels offers ample grip, too.

But turn-in is too tentative and the turning circle too big to be truly nimble, while the suspension settings are too stiff to offer effective damping on gravel. As a result, the 4008 feels crashy and out of sorts when encountering sudden dips or bumps at speed.

Slightly more forgiving damper settings, and a higher-profile tyre on 17-inch wheels, would go some way towards addressing this.

The 4008 employs a so-called intelligent all-wheel drive system that is front-wheel biased in on-road conditions, but seamlessly transfers urge to the rear wheels when extra traction is needed.

For committed all-terrain driving, a 4WD Lock mode can be selected, which channels at least 50% – and as much as 82% – of the engine output to the rear wheels. The result is improved stability in all situations where more traction is required.

As is so often the case, drivers with off-road driving experience will be surprised what the 4008 is capable of in off-road terms. But the lack of low range gearing, and only limited suspension travel, means that the Peugeot should still be considered no more than soft-roader: this is not the vehicle for deep sand, sticky mud or chassis-twisting ruts.

In straight-line terms, progress is brisk enough, as evidenced by the 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.9sec, and a 188kmh top speed. Even better, the 4008 is no gas guzzler: the claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption is a respectable 8.1 litres/100km, while our real-life test figure remained in the 11 litre/100km bracket, despite some enthusiastic gravel driving.

The 4008 gives Peugeot a much-needed competitor in the compact SUV category. It looks good, with a full-house interior, and impressive on-road manners.

But given the highly competitive nature of this vehicle category, it’s a pity that the ASX-derived 4008 can’t bring the core Peugeot attributes of classy design, refined suspension and tactile quality to the party.

Yes, it’s a competent SUV with ample equipment levels and just enough of the Peugeot charisma to align it with the brand. But at a price just short of R400,000, it will have its work cut out to carve a successful niche in an already crowded segment.

For my money, the highly underrated 3008 crossover offers a greater degree of space and versatility – and loads of feel-good factor, despite its lack of all-road talent. DM

VITAL STATS

Peugeot 4008 2.0 CVT Allure

Engine In-line four-cylinder, 1 998 cc,

Gearbox CVT

Power 110kW @ 6,000rpm

Torque 197Nm @ 4,200rpm

0-100 km/h 10.9sec

Top speed 188km/h

Fuel consumption 11.8 litres/100 km (tested)

CO2 emissions 191g/km

Retail price R388,500

  • Deon Schoeman
  • Life, etc


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