First drive: Peugeot 4008

16 May 2012

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Drive - May 16, 2012

French maker's latest SUV is a more convincing prospect.

Bush-bashing through the Yengo National Park is not what you typically expect to do in a Peugeot. But the new 4008 is not your typical Peugeot, in fact underneath the familiar exterior, it's not really a Peugeot. It's the third car to be produced by the joint venture between the French brand and Japan's Mitsubishi; after the Mitsubishi Outlander/Peugeot 4007 and Mitsubishi i-MiEV/Peugeot iOn. Based on the Mitsubishi ASX, the new 4008 is the result of lessons learnt on the 4007 experience. Peugeot is acutely aware how important the compact SUV class is and has made a much bigger effort to differentiate the two cars this time around.

Unlike the fairly minimal changes to the 4007 compared to the Outlander, the 4008 features far more radical differences. The exterior design is almost completely new, with only the roof and doors carried over from the ASX, while the inside gets unique Peugeot touches and trim. Mechanically the ASX and 4008 are similar but the French firm has made tweaks to the suspension (stiffer springs and dampers for a firmer ride), a wider track (but only 10mm front and rear) and more sound deadening material (for a quieter cabin).

But despite all this focus on trying to make the 4008 a more premium and prestige model, the company is adamant that it is a more serious off-roader vehicle than the cars it will compete against - most notably the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mitsubishi ASX. Hence the extensive tour of Yengo's off-road trails on this week's launch. But while the 4008 proved capable of handling the bumps, potholes and water crossings, its stiffened suspension was hardly comfortable trekking through the wilderness. It feels more at home on sealed roads, which is where the car will likely spend most of its time. The ride is marginally firmer than the ASX, which provides good control through bends, although it can crash over larger bumps in the road. Under the bonnet is the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the ASX, which boasts 100kW of power and 197Nm of torque. Coupled with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) it can be loud on take-off and the acceleration is best described as modest. But once you get going it cruises along without fuss. The five-speed manual makes for quicker progress, but when you get on the open road or freeway you wish for a sixth ratio; something the Tiguan and Mazda's CX-5 offer.

The 4008 can't match its rivals on fuel consumption either. Its best, the 7.7 litres per 100km used by the 2WD manual, lags behind the Tiguan 118TSI (6.9L/100km) and CX-5 2.0 Maxx (6.4L/100km). One area where Peugeot is claiming bragging rights is luggage space. The 4008 will reportedly swallow 416 litres in its boot compared to the CX-5's 403 litres and the Tiguan's 395 litres.

That's important for Peugeot because it is pitching the 4008 as a car at young families; as well as young professional couples. Both groups should find the 4008 suits their needs for space. You'd hardly call the interior cavernous (and the dark colour palette doesn't help the feeling of space) but it is practical where it counts. The back seat is roomy enough for adults on shorter journeys and there is plenty of space for younger children.

There will be two specification levels: Active and Allure. To appeal to the young professionals Peugeot has loaded the entry-level Active with plenty of equipment. The Active is equipped with a reversing camera, cruise control, six-speaker stereo with USB connectivity and steering wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, airconditioning (including glovebox), trip computer, leather steering wheel, daytime running lights, automatic lights and wipers, cloth trim and 16-inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the Allure adds 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically operated leather seats, heated front seats and chrome inserts on the door sills. The Allure is only available in all-wheel drive and with the CVT.

On the safety front there are seven airbags (the same as the ASX) on both models. There is a 16-inch full-size spare wheel but it is speed limited to 80km/h. It's a move that is hard to understand, because it takes up space without providing the benefit of a genuine full-size wheel.

Although Peugeot Australia has committed to both the front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive variants the former won't arrive until July so our test drive was limited to the latter.

Pricing for the range starts at $28,990 (plus on road and dealer costs) for the Active 2WD manual which compares to $27,800 for the CX-5 2.0 Maxx and $28,490 for the Tiguan. The ASX range kicks off at $25,990 for the equivalent model. The CVT adds $2500 to the price while all-wheel-drive adds another $2000. The Allure tops the range at $38,490. But it's worth factoring in that metallic paint is an $800 option, and there is only one solid colour. There's also one "premium" shade that adds $1300 to the price.

Ultimately the 4008 succeeds where the 4007 failed. It doesn't feel like a Mitsubishi with a different badge. The exterior styling in particular helps give the two models a very different look and feel. The same can't be said for the driving experience though; it remains very close to the ASX, albeit with a slightly firmer ride. Whether that is enough to take on the heavy hitters from Mazda and Volkswagen remains to be seen.

If everything goes to Peugeot's plans, you could soon be seeing the little French car in national parks all around Australia... then again, maybe not.