Peugeot Is Coming Back, But What Will Its Lineup Look Like?
Taking a stab at predicting the next French cars to hit America.
So, Peugeot is coming back to America. Which cars and SUVs will it bring? It's an interesting question made even more so by the fact that by 2016, when CEO Carlos Tavares first announced PSA Peugeot Citroën's intention to return to the United States and Canada, the company was starting to engineer its latest models so as to avoid any major tear-up to adapt them to U.S. safety and emissions regulations.
Peugeot has redesigned most of its lineup since then, and the parent company already has begun certifying models for sale here, which is a long, tedious, and costly process. The automaker's first product is already in America in the form of its car-sharing program called Free2Move, which has already launched in Washington, D.C. without any of PSA's own models.
Next up, expect Tavares and North American PSA president Larry Dominique to announce timing of the return here, which is promised before 2026. If the reintroduction of Peugeot—it last sold cars in the U.S. in 1991—is at the latter end of its stated 10-year timeframe (the clock started ticking in 2016), most current Peugeot car and crossover SUV models probably will have been replaced with all-new versions. If the return is early in the '20s, most existing models would only need mid-cycle refreshes.
Which Peugeots are likely to come to U.S. and Canadian dealerships? Here are my best guesses, beginning with the most-likely models:
This retro design EV concept premiered at the 2018 Paris show, with styling based on the lovely Pininfarina-designed 504 coupe that made its debut at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show. The Paris car is powered by two electric motors producing 456 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Peugeot claims a sub-four-second zero-to-62-mph time and a range of 370 miles for this Tesla fighter. If it reaches production, it's a no-brainer for U.S. import and would serve as Peugeot's performance and style icon, while also helping fulfill California's zero-emissions mandate.
At 175.1 inches long, on a 105.3-inch wheelbase, the Peugeot 3008 is on the small side within the booming compact SUV segment. The also smallish Hyundai Tucson is 1.3 inches longer than the Pug, and its wheelbase is 0.2 inch shorter, for comparison. The problem with this SUV and most compact and smaller Peugeot models is that they're powered by engines inappropriate for the U.S. market. In the U.K., it comes with either a 1.2-liter gasoline three-cylinder, or a 1.5-liter diesel four. Considering the ongoing diesel issues in the States, expect the French automaker to send us either gasoline four-cylinder engines, pure electrics like the E-Legend, and perhaps hybrid or plug-in-hybrid powertrains in the works using the 1.2-liter engine. Midsize Peugeots come with a 1.6-liter gasoline four, and I expect it to be the base engine for compact models coming to the U.S. The 3008, which is in the middle of Peugeot's SUV range, is its most technologically advanced crossover, with 3D navigation, Apple CarPlay, a 180-degree backup camera, enhanced parking assist, a smart electronic tailgate, and a panoramic sunroof.
An all-new midsize flagship sedan launched in Europe last year, the 508 is 187.0-inches long, on a 110.0-inch wheelbase, featuring handsome fastback styling that's not to be confused with Mercedes-Benz CLS-class-like "four-door coupes." Its gasoline engine options include a 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated 181 for horsepower and 184 lb-ft, although the 308 GTi Sport's 205-hp version of the engine (see below) is more likely. Peugeot may be working on a higher-displacement version of this gas four, or a turbocharged version for our market. Like most other Peugeot models, the 508 is sold in the U.K. in trim levels starting with Active, and matriculating north through Allure, GT Line, and GT, and I'd expect the two top trim levels for the U.S., three at most. There's also an all-new 508 wagon, although this body style has very limited appeal in the U.S., even when raised slightly and outfitted with cladding and all-wheel drive.
Peugeot's three-row SUV is barely midsize at 182.7 inches long, and the French automaker may choose to sell it here with only two rows to compete with such models as the Chevrolet Blazer and the Ford Edge. Overall height without the roof rack is 64.6 inches. The 181-hp 1.6-liter four is available here, and it's equipped with current driver-assist systems, including blind-spot information, active lane-keep assist, advanced driver-attention assist, and automatic high beams.
You've noticed by now that Peugeot's cars are named with a three-digit number with "0" in the middle (a trademark forced Porsche to rename its "901" the "911" in 1964), while the SUVs get four digits with two zeros in the middle. The Peugeot 2008 is a B-segment crossover, that's roughly five inches shorter in length and four inches shorter in height than the Buick Encore. The prospects for bringing the 2008 to North America may hinge on whether Peugeot can make the 1.6-liter PureTech (the marque's name for its gas engines) four-cylinder fit.
308/308 GTi Sport by Peugeot Sport
If Peugeot chooses to import this compact hatchback (there's also a station wagon version, as shown above, but forget it) that will only happen with the advent of an all-new model before the marque's return here. For an idea of what to expect, look at the styling of the all-new Peugeot 208 subcompact (shown below). Upsize that styling to VW Golf territory and you have the next 308. It's is sold in the U.K. with the 1.2-liter PureTech three or the 1.5 diesel, while the 208, which is on Peugeot's latest platform, includes those engines, plus an EV model with a claimed 211-mile range. The Peugeot GTi Sport comes with a 244-to-266-hp version of the 1.6. The GTi also comes with a Torsen limited-slip differential, 19-inch wheels, and an EAT8 automatic developed with Aisin. There's a conventional six-speed manual available on this car, but you can almost certainly forget that, too—the additional cost of emissions certification, somewhere in the $1 to $2 million range, would not be worth it for sales in the thousands, if that many.
Peugeot's bigger cars, executive sedans like the C-/D-segment 508, have long been positioned in France and Western Europe as semi-premium models. When Peugeot returns, it will come here in relatively low volumes and nibble at such marques as Volkswagen, Mazda, and perhaps Subaru, and we'll only get the higher trim levels with their more profitable margins. I think Peugeot's cars will be positioned to strike at the upper ends of those rival brands and could perhaps even take on entry-level Volvos, Audis, and Acuras. The Peugeot 308 and 308 GTi would take on VW's Golf and GTI and the Mazda 3; the 508 would target the VW Passat and Arteon, and perhaps upper-trim Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys; and the 3008 might aim at the Mazda CX-5 and perhaps even the Volvo XC40.
Not Likely for the U.S.
The 108 two-door, an A-class-size hatchback; the iON, a rebadged Mitsubishi i-MiEV; the Rifter small multipurpose van; the Partner commercial van; the Traveller minivan.
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