Ever since Nasim Sdn Bhd became the official distributor of the Peugeot brand in Malaysia in January 2008, the French brand has fast regained the prominence it had some 30 years earlier. Back then, in the 1980s, Peugeot was among the leading European brands in the country and commanded a respectable market share too. Nasim has worked hard to propel the brand back to such prominence and apart from just growing volumes, it has also won the confidence of Peugeot to produce a model for regional distribution.

The model, which until now has gone under the codename of ‘T73’, is the 408 which was launched tonight at the new Peugeot Blue Box in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, Selangor. Assembled at NAM, the Naza Group’s own assembly plant in Gurun, Kedah, the 408 is meant not only for the Malaysian market but also Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The 408 is a strategic model for Peugeot and was first launched in China as well as some other markets. Though it was earlier believed to be just a ‘308 with a boot grafted on’, this is actually not the case as it had a separate engineering program and was a sedan development from the outset.
For this latest model, the  overall design theme for the exterior was typically what you would expect of a Peugeot:: harmony, elegance and dynamism.  It is clearly a Peugeot with the marque’s trademark feline headlights, thin chrome strips on the radiator grille, and sculptured lines on the bonnet that flow naturally into the wide, slopping windscreen.
The sides of the 408 feature carved wheel arches while the plunging body line from the rear lights to the front wing illustrate the image of a dynamic, modern and robust vehicle. Unlike some sedans which started life as a hatchback, the 408’s proportions are well balanced and the boot doesn’t look like an afterthought.
The rear lights are ruby red colour, trimmed with a clear white strip that looks like a lion’s claws within the cluster. At night, they take on the form of three diagonal strips that are a tribute to Peugeot’s historic models such as the 307 CC and the 504 coupe, while also identifying the 408 to other motorists.
Malaysian buyers get a choice of 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines. The smaller engine is the new and improved version of the ‘Prince’ engine, now developing 163 bhp  at 6000 rpm. It has received improvements in areas such as the pistons and also the turbocharger and has efficiency-enhancing variable valve timing.As for the bigger engine, this is the EW10A+ unit, a 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC all-aluminium powerplant with variable valve timing and sophisticated engine mapping to achieve high output of 145 bhp at 6000 rpm with maximum torque of 200 Nm at 4000 rpm.
The 1.6-litre 408 Turbo uses the AT6 6-speed adaptive automatic transmission with sequential manual shifting also possible. It is said to strengthen the distinctive character of the 408 Turbo by allowing sporty driving while maintain good fuel economy.
The 2-litre model gets a new Porsche Tiptronic transmission, also with sequential control. The shift map has been carefully  matched to the engine characteristics so that the driver will enjoy smoother driving and also a sporty feel when manually shifting.
The chassis of the 408 is notable for its rigidity which enhances handling as well as ride comfort while keeping noise, vibration and harshness down. The structure’s  torsional rigidity also enables its running gear to be exploited to its limits. The front suspension consists of inverted pseudo MacPherson type with a separate antiroll bar while the rear axle has a deformable crossmember and an integrated antiroll bar that takes up limited space. The suspension settings for the 408 Turbo have been tuned for a sportier ride while the 408 2.0’s suspension offers more comfort.
Generous interior volumes have been a strong point of Peugeots (the French seem to have a lot of skill in packaging) and the 408 is no exception. It is said to have the largest cabin space in its class which is not surprising as the wheelbase is 2710 mm while  its width measures 1815 mm. And with the roof height at 1525 mm, headroom should also be pretty good.
Besides making maximum use of the space available, the interior designers also gave the cabin a perception of high quality by choosing top-quality materials as well as incorporating elegant, flowing shapes on the dashboard. An example is the upper portion of the dashboard which is covered in soft-touch “slush” material. The driver also gets a wide field of vision due to the steeply sloping windscreen that is almost symmetrical with the front body pillars.
Storage spaces have been provided throughout the cabin, taking into consideration all the kinds of things people carry with them these days. According to Peugeot, the total volume of all the storage spaces within the cabin comes to 33 litres. The side bins are generously sized to take large containers and the long load flap (available on versions trimmed in leather upholstery), makes it easier to carry long items.
Access to the large boot –  562 litres in volume – is easy, thanks to the wide rear opening made possible by the use of two pantographs. The driver can also pop open the bootlid using the remote control or pressing a button on the dashboard.
Depending on the version, the 408 has a comprehensive list of equipment and fittings such as automatic dual-zone air-conditioning system with rear air-conditioning vents, World In Peugeot Sound with six speakers with CD/ MP3 playback capability, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, premium leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with aluminium inserts, auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control.
In the area of safety, both variants feature two smart airbags, ABS, EBD and EBA, among others. The car has also been designed with a double-impact force dissipation channel to provide maximum passenger compartment protection during a collision. Additionally, the 408 Turbo also comes with driver and front passenger side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, electronic stability programme (ESP) and anti-skid regulation (ASR).
According to Dato’ Samson Anand George, COO of Nasim, the new 408 will contribute significantly to the company’s sales target of 9,300 units this year, which will represent a 72% jump from its sales in  2011. He added that the new model also comes with a 5-year warranty with unlimited mileage. Together with Nasim’s existing lifetime 24-hours Peugeot Assistance service and its exclusive Peugeot Privilege membership, he said the company aims to provide the best ownership experience for its customers.
PRICES: 408 Turbo: RM125,888 | 408 2.0: RM109,888To know more about the new 408, visit www.peugeot.com.my or any Peugeot showroom

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