For a brand that never really took the Malaysian market by storm in terms of sheer volume, Peugeot has always maintained a steady following amongst local brand loyalists in an Alfa-esque sort of way. But while the Italian brand is sadly no longer represented on our shores, the French marque now has a new custodian in Berjaya Auto Alliance (BAASB) following an official transfer of distributorship from Nasim in December last year.
BAASB’s association with the Berjaya Corporation and Bermaz Auto tells us that Peugeot, along with PSA sister brands Citroen and DS, are in safe, if not experienced hands for 2021 and the rest of the foreseeable future. We’re talking about a group that knows how to juggle CKD and export operations for the hot-selling CX-5 while servicing enthusiastic fans with cars like the MX-5 at the same time. This expertise should be a good fit for Peugeot's portfolio – one that’s just as diverse as the Japanese carmaker, with a dash of European flair whipped into the mix.
So, what models can we hope for BAASB to bring to the table in the months (or years) to come?
1. Peugeot 3008
Before the transition in distributorship, the 3008 and 5008 (in 'PLUS' variants) formed the backbone of Nasim’s Peugeot business in a market hungry for crossovers and SUVs. The bigwigs in Berjaya are already experts in this area as that’s the very trend preserving Mazda’s competitive edge in an otherwise cutthroat auto business. That the 3008 was updated in Europe last year with snazzier design cues, improved safety tech and new PHEV options with up to 300hp of combined output only works in its favour. It’ll be interesting to see if BAASB will consider electrification for the tax incentives that come with it but this will largely depend on the company’s local assembly plans (and limitations) which remain quite vague at time of writing.
2. Peugeot 5008
The next obvious candidate for the Malaysian market is the second half of the two-model line-up peddled by Nasim just before the switch took place. In essence, the 5008 is, to the 3008, what the Mazda CX-8 is to the CX-5; a slightly longer SUV (by 20cm) with an extra row of seats. The 1.6-litre Puretech engine with 180hp on tap seems a solid bet for the four-digit duo here – an update to the THP mill in 165hp tune is probably overdue – though we wouldn’t rule out the French carmaker’s BlueHDI diesel engines, especially for the bigger 5008, based on Bermaz’s positive track record with Mazda’s 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D oil burners.
3. Peugeot 208
Nasim managed to sell a fair amount of 208s back in the day, GTi models included, thanks to the dinky hatchback’s chic European styling, wrapped in a relatively affordable package. On that basis, BAASB should be able to do one better with an all-new successor that’s improved in almost every imaginable aspect, be it on the surface or under the hood; it is 2020's European Car of the Year after all. Peugeot has done a splendid job of incorporating its latest design language into the compact proportions of the second-gen 208 and it has given it a set of impressive powertrains to match. There’s a 128bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo that’ll do nicely in Malaysia while an e-208 with 340km of range should give the Honda e a good fight if the two ever make it onto our roads.
4. Peugeot 2008
Like the way the 208 looks but insist on having a crossover or some rugged aspirations at least? The new 2008 is readily available as an alternative to practicality-oriented buyers who could use the added ground clearance and 434-litre boot. Fold the seats down and the 1,467-litre total trumps the 208’s total haulage by a whopping 361 litres. It also helps that the new one looks like a more polished, premium compact SUV in the right spec compared to its predecessor that felt like a hatchback on stilts for the most part. It might fare better against the Honda HR-V than the Mazda CX-3 ever did for Bermaz, although the new king of this particular hill is arguably the dominant Proton X50.
5. Peugeot 508
To say that the arrival of the new (well, for us at least) 508 is long overdue would be an understatement. Nasim flew a group of Malaysian journalists to Europe in 2018 to sample the French D-segment contender but nothing has materialised since, which is a shame considering how well its predecessor was received on local shores. Three years on, the latest 508 still looks every bit as sharp and alluring. What we’re keeping our fingers crossed for is the 508 PSE, a plug-in hybrid variant which draws 355hp and 520Nm from Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbo and a pair of electric motors. If localised and priced right, the PSE could be a more accessible alternative to the Volvo S60 T8 R Design. There’s even an SW (estate) model, but that’s probably one pipedream too many…