It might hold the distinction of being one of the oldest automobile marques in the world having produced its first car in 1889, seventy-nine years after starting out making, among others, coffee mills, pepper grinders and of course bicycles, a certain level of sneering still exists about Peugeot in South Africa.
While the automaker can trace its local routes back to 1902, its legendary status, spearheaded by models such as the 203, the immortal 404 and the 504, all but vanished when the decision was made to withdraw from South Africa in 1985 in protest against Apartheid.
A return ten years later signalled a complete change in form for the Lion brand as its promising products soon developed a reputation for poor reliability, expensive sticker prices and no second-hand value worth mentioning, while shocking aftersales service and shortage of spare parts further crippled its once glorious past.
It is a situation which new Peugeot Citroën South Africa (PCSA) Managing Director, Xavier Gobille, has ruled out from happening again as local operations now fall underneath the PSA Group that also owns the upscale DS marque and, of course, Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall acquired in 2017 from General Motors.
In addition to Citroën returning to South Africa later this month after a three-year absence with the DS division following suit, the unveiling of the all-new 108 and the multi-award winning 5008 near Hartbeespoortdam last month also signalled the complete re-launch of the Peugeot brand under the “Push to Pass” initiative established by PSA CEO, Carlos Tavares, not long after his appointment in 2014.
Described by former Nissan South Africa Sales and Marketing Director Gobille as a complete reinvention that took six months with the eventual aim of increasing market share from the current one percent to 2.5% by 2021 with 7% being the main goal, PCSA has cut its network by some 30% and revised its aftersales department from scratch.
At the same time, extensive attention has been paid to customer service under the Peugeot Pride banner that includes a five year/100 000 km warranty and service plan across the entire Peugeot range, the availability of a courtesy car if a vehicle being serviced is not ready within 48 hours, a complimentary vehicle health check, 24/7 Roadside Assistance that also includes licence renewal, a personalised service and a minimum of six airbags across the model line-up.
“By becoming a member of the Peugeot Pride, [the customer] can expect unparalleled levels of quality, customer service reliability and accountability. The five year/100 000 km warranty and our pledge to our customers represents a solid commitment by Peugeot to the SA market and its buyers,” Gobille said.
As part of PCSA’s realignment, the 25 dealership network will grow to 30 by the end of this year with all staff undergoing extensive training, while parts supply has been beefed-up and all the various costs covered underneath the aforementioned service plan and warranty.
Having rationalised its product range by 40%, the tiny 108 now makes its long awaited debut as the entry-level model in Peugeot’s product portfolio, replacing the briefly popular 107 in a single, comprehensively equipped package.
Like its predecessor, the Czech-built 108 shares its platform with the Citroën C1 and the Toyota Aygo, but with a distinctly more premium look than the aggressively styled latter that received its initial restyling last year.
Resplendent with the same front facia treatment as the 308 and incorporating unique touches as the claw motif LED taillight clusters, thin daytime running LEDs on the bumper and sweptback headlight, the interior layout mirrors that of the Aygo in overall look and design, but as mentioned, with significantly upgraded levels of specification.
While the monotonous use of cheap feeling grey plastics dominate the cabin, the use of gloss black inlays on the steering and simple painted metal on the doors lifts the overall ambience up, though the rear, as expected, is somewhat of a squeeze and the boot small at 227-litres, although this increase to 868-litres with the rear seats folded flat.
As indicated, Peugeot has only made the 108 available in one trim level, the Active, outfitted with kit such a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink, USB and Bluetooth, front electric windows with the rears being pop-outs, a height adjustable steering column, multi-function steering wheel, ABS with EBD and ESP, Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist.
Riding as standard on 14- inch steel wheels with plastic covers, though alloy wheels and a variety of decals can be optionally fitted priced from R15 000, the 108 is motivated by the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine as the Aygo that pumps out 53kW/96Nm, which is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Claimed fuel consumption is 4.3-litres/100km.
In the searing heat of the North West Province sun, and with the air-conditioning blowing at maximum, the 108, in spite of its 860kg kerb weight, unsurprisingly, struggled on the relatively short launch route with a noticeable dead spot past 2 500rpm.
Although constant rowing of the five-speed box will be needed to keep the three-pot on the boil, the clutch is light and the engine rather willing once you pass the dead zone. Add in a relatively comfortable ride and light if somewhat lifeless steering, the 108 is nonetheless an attractive little city car, not only in the looks department, but also in terms of packaging and being aggressively priced at R179 900.
In stark contrast to the 108, the 5008, aside from representing the sharp-end of Peugeot’s product portfolio, sees the moniker now featuring a seven-seat SUV as opposed to the MPV equivalent that went out of production three years ago.
The effective sister model of the Opel Grandland X as both are based on PSA’s EMP2 platform, the 5008, pronounced five-thousand-and-eight and not five-double oh eight, is altogether more striking aesthetically than its rather staid German counterpart.
It boasts 308-styled wraparound grille offset by the thin LED headlights, tapering bonnet and tasteful chrome detailing together with more than a series of strong lines. While the somewhat slab-side inside profile will not resonate with some, the rear facia is arguably the most uhmm, eye-catching thanks to the 3D claw-motif taillights, chunky rear bumper and the gloss black detailing on the bootlid as part of the two-tone body finish.
As styling as the 5008 is on the outside, the i-Cockpit interior, while being suitably futuristic in its design, will split opinions despite receiving the thumbs-up from a premium perspective in terms of build quality and materials used.
Centre to the frustration is the freestanding eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which is somewhat of a pain to use when scrolling through, while the toggle switch shortcut buttons placed below, are not as intuitive as one would’ve expect or indeed setup for a feature assigned to it.
This frustration aside, the 5008’s forte is practicality in that its overall length is just shy of 4.7m translates to a spacious cabin festooned with storage areas and of course, with those seven seats. The key to the third row is the ease in their design with both being covered when folded into the floor, thus resulting in a completely flat loading area.
While a simple tag sees them folding up with little effort, both can individually be removed by means of a clipping mechanism. Once out, the seats, which weigh 11kg each, frees up an additional 210-litres of space and can be slid back into place with little fuss when needed. Overall, the 5008 offers 780 litres of space with the usual five seats up and a massive 1 940 litres with the second and third rows down.
For South Africa the 5008 offers a choice of two trim levels; Allure and GT-Line, both so richly specced that it would require a full write-up of its own. Notable items though are dual-zone climate control, heated and folding electric mirrors, kick-motion opening electric tailgate, auto on/ off headlights, tyre pressure monitor, keyless entry, a six-speaker sound system, rain sense wipers, front and rear parking sensors and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
Building on these, the GT-Line adds a black diamond roof with contrasting mirror caps, an optional panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights with cornering function, Mistral Nappa leather upholstery, a 180 degree rear-view camera, fragrance dispenser, a wireless smartphone charger and voice recognition together with satellite navigation.
With the exception of Autonomous Emergency Braking available only the GT-Line, safety and driver assistance teach across the range includes, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Blind Spot Monitoring, Driver Attention Warning, Park Assist, Front Collision Warning and Traffic Sign Recognition.
Up front, Peugeot has made the 5008 available with a choice of two engines, the familiar 1.6 THP petrol that produces 121kW/240Nm and the 2.0 HDI turbodiesel that makes 110kW/370Nm.
While the 5008 is front-wheel-drive only and comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox as the sole option, it is nevertheless a willing performer, especially with the oil-burner in place. Out on the short launch route, the diesel 5008 is eager to impress and pulls well, though the ride is somewhat compromised by the 19-inch Washington alloy wheels, 18-inch Detroit wheels on the Allure, that comes as standard on the GT-Line.
In addition, the wheels, together with the firmly sprung suspension, resulted in the 5008 feeling nervous on the short gravel section of the route, no doubt also thanks to it being front-wheel-driven.
Back on the black stuff, the 5008 continued to impress as the steering, highlighted by the tiny steering wheel, felt nicely weighted and the seats comfortable with an added bonus being a massaging function, oddly, for the driver’s chair only.
As radical as Peugeot has been with its latest re-launch strategy, it remains to be seen whether brand loyal South Africa will see it fit to forgive it for its past sins. While both the 108 and the 5008 are indeed worthwhile contenders in their respective segments with lots to offer, the Lion’s success is hinged on whether it will be a docile cub or, as it has been in the past, a devouring carnivore to buyers.
5008 1.6 THP Allure AT – R534 900
5008 1.6 THP GT-Line AT – R579 900
5008 2.0 HDI Allure AT – R554 900
5008 2.0 HDI GT-Line AT – R599 000
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