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Car reviews - Peugeot - 4008 - Allure

Our Opinion

We like
Peugeot styling changes, smooth CVT, efficiency, easy steering, compactness, comfy seats, AWD grip, Japanese quality and reliability
Room for improvement
Firm ride, dull cabin, limited rear vision, no rear air vents, no Peugeot character

17 Aug 2012

NEVER mind not mentioning the war it is clear Peugeot would rather have us not uttering the ‘M’ word when dealing with the new 4008.

That’s understandable given the lengths the French have gone to disguise the made-over Mitsubishi ASX they’re trying to flog.

Not only is the nose completely different, but also all of the bits from the C-pillar back, including the glasshouse. And Peugeot says it also influenced the shape of the ASX’s rear doors during its 2008 gestation, since the two firms were already in discussions over model sharing at the time.

Inside, compared with the ASX you’ll find more ‘premium’ materials for the dashboard surrounds, door and console inserts, a unique steering wheel, instrument lighting and audio interface.

The 4008 sits a little lower and boasts wider tracks, firmer springs, modified dampers, retuned electric power steering, a recalibrated stability control system and improved sound-deadening material in the doors and behind the dashboard, with the aim of providing a more “European” experience.

But, as there are no structural or mechanical differences to the Mitsubishi, we’re inclined to think that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

Yet that’s no bad thing as we’ve been a fan of the ASX since first driving one two years ago.

A 20 per cent sales upturn in 2012 indicates we’re not alone in liking the Mitsubishi. Good looking, usefully compact, easy to drive, quite manoeuvrable, undeniably durable and backed up by a five-year warranty, the high-riding SUV is probably the most interesting vehicle the embattled Japanese manufacturer offers nowadays this side of a Lancer Evo.

Oddly, though, our favourite ASX – the diesel – isn’t offered in a Peugeot equivalent, which is ironic considering France’s propensity for such powerplants.

So what we’re left with is Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder MIVEC petrol engine, mated to a six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The engine has variable valve timing and pumps out 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 197Nm of torque at 4200rpm, providing a smooth and even flow of performance from the get-go right through to the red line.

In most urban scenarios, when the driver isn’t hurrying along, the 4008’s flexibility and response will impress. Even laden with four adults and a bit of luggage, performance is abundant yet used sparingly it can also be quite economical.

But put your foot down – to merge with fast-moving freeway traffic, for instance – and the CVT’s natural habit of hesitating while it spools down to the required ratio will annoy some, while most will grow weary of the accompanying engine flaring and drone. As with the ASX, the level of acceleration is not commensurate with the mechanical commotion.

There are steering wheel-mounted shift paddles to help you drive around this shortcoming, but there’s no escaping the fact that the whole drivetrain set-up is far from punchy or sporty, though the same can be said for virtually every compact SUV other than the Ford Kuga and range-topping Volkswagen Tiguan 155TSI.

The same can be said for the 4008’s dynamics. From behind the wheel, we would struggle to pick the 4008 from its Japanese twin if the Peugeot-specific cabin bits were masked.

The steering is appreciably light and direct around town, but still a tad numb in feel, only giving the driver a real sense of connection when speeds increase.

On the other hand, we were pleasantly surprised at how composed the 4008 felt driven quickly in wet weather over our demanding test route, sticking comfortably to the chosen line as we flung it around a set of ragged corners.

In this scenario, we appreciated the security of all-wheel drive. A three-mode part-time system that generally drives the front wheels, in 4WD setting it switches to a 45:55 front/rear torque split at a turn of a knob, while the 4WD-Lock setting changes that to 18:82.

The brakes showed no strain in hauling up straight and sure, even on slippery gravel surfaces, but the ride quality – the ASX’s Achilles’ heel – is not up to expectations for a Peugeot (or even class standards), despite the efforts put in by the French to improve comfort and pliancy.

It lacks finesse, transmitting all manner of road irregularities through to the interior. Blame the Allure’s lovely 18-inch alloys. At least the ample ground clearance helps the stiff suspension ride over speed humps.

Tyre roar is also an issue on such wide rubber at highway velocities, undermining the 4008’s upmarket image.

Similarly, the cabin is far too Mitsubishi in look and feel to fool anybody into thinking otherwise. And being from a car released two years ago, it’s already showing signs of ageing.

Nevertheless, in terms of quality and functionality, as well as space utilisation and comfort, most owners are likely to be very pleased with the result.

Top marks are awarded for the wide yet supportive leather-faced front seats, with a near furnace-like heating function and plenty of adjustment providing a good driving position.

There’s no escaping the sea of oppressive black plastic covering almost everything, though, with the lower finishes looking as if they were pinched from a 10-year-old Pajero. At least Peugeot has tried to spruce things up a little with piano-black and silver metallic trim for the steering wheel, instrument surrounds and centre console, while the upper fascia and door cappings are topped with a soft rubber-like material.

The clear and comprehensive instrumentation pod itself, along with all the switches and controls, are pure Mitsubishi, as are the oversize exterior mirrors (which at least help parking, since the side windows are quite shallow).

The rear seat area is quite suitable for three, provided the distances travelled are not vast, since feet can be tucked beneath the front seats and the backrest boasts two reclining settings.

On the other hand, while there are cupholders, a centre armrest, overhead grab handles, and four map pockets, the absence of air vents might make some feel a bit claustrophobic.

With the steel spare wheel located beneath the high floor, owners are forced to lift cargo up quite high and the 4008’s luggage capacity is limited to a meagre 384 litres (extendable to 1193L with the seats folded down – though the floor isn’t level). In summary, don’t expect wagon-like space back there.

By the end of our week with the 4008, we stopped thinking about it as a Peugeot, and even referred to it quite carelessly as a Mitsubishi from time to time, which confused people in the real world. Nobody other than experts picked it as an ASX straight off, though some were vaguely aware of this car’s Japanese origins.

Nevertheless, if you’re a Peugeot traditionalist or Francophile, the 4008 is not for you. There’s nothing remotely European about it.

But if the idea of driving a French-branded vehicle appeals, and you expect the sort of reliability and low running costs associated with a Mitsubishi, then this might just be perfect.

However, we think the pricing is a bit rich in up-spec Allure AWD guise as tested (a substantial $38,490 plus on-roads), even though it does offer Xenon headlights, leather upholstery and electrically adjustable heated front seats with height adjustment for both sides, 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 16-inch), and that fancier piano-black cabin trim.

The problem, as we said at the beginning, is that ‘M’ word, since the equivalent ASX (Aspire CVT AWD) also includes an up-market satellite-navigation/audio interface, keyless entry and start, as well as two years of extra warranty, for less money.

For some people, the Allure cost premium to wear the Peugeot label might be worth it.

However, as the base 4008 Active comes with goodies such as climate-control, a reversing camera with rear sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a multi-function leather steering wheel, self-dimming interior mirror, rear privacy glass, front foglights and LED daytime-running lights, we’d be inclined to spend our hard-earned there.

Or simply visit your nearest Mitsubishi dealer.

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