Peugeot is hoping to make a smartly timed entrance to the compact SUV market with its new 4008 by coupling European good looks with Japanese genetics.
The French company's New Zealand division is hoping for big growth in this rapidly expanding sector and general manager Grant Smith believes it has wrangled a "very aggressive price point" for the three models to be sold here.
Sitting on the same platform as Mitsubishi's ASX, the chic-looking 4008 will only come with the manufactured-in-Japan, two-litre, 110kW petrol engine combined with CVT transmission. No immediate plans are afoot for Peugeot to introduce a diesel option to New Zealand.
Prices will start from $37,990 for the two-wheel-drive Active model. Buyers on a budget will still receive seven airbags (standard across all three 4008 variants), Bluetooth, USB port, cruise control, automatic air conditioning and a rear parking aid.
Next up is the two-wheel drive Allure at $39,990 and predicted by Smith to be the "hot diggety dog seller".
Peugeot is banking on it making up 60% of its 4008 sales volume, estimated to be 300 vehicles annually. The only model to feature a panoramic glass roof, it is promoted to 18-inch wheels and sports chrome sills, offering a dash of luxury, while still saving the owner $6000 on the top-spec four-wheel drive $45,990 Feline.
The latter model was provided for the Queenstown launch last month and adds xenon headlights, plus heated and electric seats.
Although very consciously a soft roader rather than pretending to claim serious off-road capabilities, the Feline has an easily located selector near the handbrake that allows the driver to select 2WD, 4WD, or lock mode, transferring 1.5 times more grip to the rear wheels.
The interior had a clean, crisp, no-nonsense look, set off nicely by the leather seats, which are also optional for Allure models, otherwise the standard trim is sports cloth for the mid-range and base 4008s.
The steering wheel permits control of the audio functions for the six-speaker CD, MP3 player sound system, cruise control and Bluetooth kit. Also at the driver's disposal are steering column-mounted shift paddles if you prefer to coax your car through its six gears, or you can simply slip it into the
electronically controlled auto CVT option.
Although the ride was firm traversing the winding Crown Range, road noise was kept to a pleasant minimum.
While the five-seater 4008 is slightly more dainty than the larger 4007, having been reduced 30cm in length by shorter front and rear overhangs, it still retains the same 2.67m wheelbase.
Consequently, a boot volume of 384 litres is on tap and can be maximised to 1219 litres if the rear seats are folded down.
"Big on the inside, smaller on the outside, that is the whole concept with this car," Smith explains.
Unlike the 4007, which was a far more recognisable imitation of the Mitsubishi Outlander, the 4008 retains its own Peugeot-esque distinctions. The shapely curves and sharpened angles of the bonnet, headlamps, rear apron, tailgates and hind lights are all external hat-doffs to the French marque.
As Smith summarises, "the body shell, side doors and glass are identical [to the ASX]; everything else has changed".
New Zealand and Australia are predicted to absorb 5% of world 4008 unit volume next year, during Peugeot's debut campaign to make 65%-70% of its sales outside Europe.
Whether this rather stylish splicing of Peugeot with Mitsubishi becomes a Kiwi must-have crossover vehicle, only time will tell; but its competitive pricing will certainly give it a head start.
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