Peugeot 4008: Not just a number

By Liz Dobson

Peugeot 4008. Photo / Supplied
Peugeot 4008. Photo / Supplied

Peugeot uses a posh area of Portugal as the launching pad for its next generation compact SUV

The mist was getting thicker as the winding hilltop roads of Sintra were becoming narrower. On either side of the lane were walled mansions with views across to Portugal's capital, Lisbon.

As my passenger, Rebecca, read the vague driving instructions, I used the Peugeot 4008's height to my advantage and scanned ahead - hoping not to encounter a speeding local coming towards us in a road made only for one vehicle.

As we turned another corner, I spotted a lane to the left and asked Rebecca if it was the turnoff we should be taking. I slowed down to investigate but blocking the even narrower path was a group of gaunt, bearded men who could have been extras from True Blood. Er, probably not down that road we decided, checked to see that the compact SUV's doors were locked, and carried on along the walled road.

"I hope we're on the right road," I said to Rebecca, "because we don't want to be stuck at a dead end ..."

And there ahead of us the mountain road stopped with a large stone wall, with forest below and Lisbon in the distance. Just before the dead end was a wrought-iron gate that led to a grandiose estate. Not only were we on the wrong track but that "track" was so small it would take a 10-point turn to manoeuvre back in the right direction. But putting the 4008's automatic transmission into reverse I relied on the rear parking aid to "beep, beep, beep" me through the tricky turns.

Heading back along the narrow lane, past the True Blood boys (avoiding eye contact), and a sharp right hand turn (thanks again to parking aid) puts us on the right track, past some stunning Gothic mansions and a castle - and bus-loads of tourists.

Peugeot was using the expensive coastal resort of Cascais as the base for the international launch of the 4008, a replacement for the 4007-Mitsubishi Outlander collaboration.

Again the French manufacturer was sharing platforms with Mitsubishi but instead the 4008's twin was the ASX. Engineers had also reduced the 4008 platform by 30cm, allowing for shorter front and rear overhangs.

The 4008-ASX were fraternal rather than maternal siblings with the pair sharing roof, front and rear doors, the windscreen and A-pillar, but it was the French flair that took over from there.

Gone was the 4007's huge maniac grin grille (that every time I saw it I thought, "must make a dentist appointment") and instead the 4008 flouted a floating grille, side air intakes and LED daytime running lights, making it the most attractive compact SUV on the market.

It will be launched in New Zealand on June 1 in three specifications, all with a 2-litre petrol engine with six-speed automatic CVT transmissions. The base 2WD Active will be priced at $37,990, ride on 16in alloys and will include as standard such features as seven airbags, steering wheel audio controls, my lifesaver - the rear parking aid - cloth seats and a full-size spare.

The next two models in the range are the Allure, a 2WD version on 18in alloys (priced at $39,900), and the flash 4WD for $5000 more that has the addition of heated leather seats.

Peugeot New Zealand reckoned it would sell 300-400 in a 12-month period with most of the sales being the Allure 2WD.

The 4008 sits in a tight segment in New Zealand with Mazda's CX-5 ($53,990) a functionality adversary while Audi's diesel-only Q3 would be a style rival to the top Allure, but $25,000 more expensive than the Peugeot.

And it was that fancy Allure that we drove around the 500-year-old cobbled streets of Sintra and a short off-road course that proved its low range 4WD ability. The 4008's task was to explore a dirt track (soon to be a flash subdivision near coastal Cascais), mount a steep hill, and crawl down it plus straddle rough terrain, showing it was more than capable for its New Zealand-esque duties of towing the boat or caravan.

On the tarseal, the CVT transmission didn't show much low-down torque and I sometimes had to use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to move through the gears to give it some extra grunt.

Once you've spent some time with the 4008 you'd pick up the idiosyncrasies of the transmission but the drive and road handling is enough to keep any driver happy. There is easy access to controls on the dash and plenty of leg room in front while the rear seat can accommodate adult passengers while the boot has 416l of space.

I had to admit the 4008 was as tasty as a Portuguese custard tart, and showed all the style of the flash resort.

- NZ Herald

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