We road test the rakish new Peugeot 408. It’s certainly got kerb appeal, but what’s it like to drive?
The all-new Peugeot 408 is marketed as a fastback. In fact, it’s more of a mash up of a hatchback, SUV-coupe and saloon.
Ultimately, what really matters is that when it comes to car design, Peugeot is on a roll. From the 208 supermini, to the 308 hatchback and 3008 crossover, there’s not a pug in the range (if you’ll excuse the pun).
The 408 is priced from £31,050 to £43,300, and this large family car sits taller than a saloon or hatchback and lower than an SUV/crossover.
You can choose between a conventional petrol or a plug-in hybrid, and both are paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while a 100% electric version will join the line-up in the next year or so.
The 408 has a sleek, sloping roofline, giving it a coupe-esque profile. Up front, there’s a wide, imposing grille with body-coloured strakes, flanked by ‘lion’s fang’ daytime running lights and slim, mean-looking headlights.
The rear end sees a modest outing for Peugeot’s signature ‘lion’s claw’ rear lights and a chunky black bumper below. Overall, the 408’s derriere is not unlike a Lamborghini Urus, no less.
Inside, it’s much like the smaller 308 (which is no bad thing). So, as ever with Peugeots, the small steering wheel is placed below the digital driver’s display.
However, this ‘i-Cockpit’ design is not to everyone’s taste. I prefer to sit low in any cabin, and in the 408 I found the top of the steering wheel obscured the upper reaches of the instrument binnacle.
That said, it’s perfectly comfortable once you get used to the set-up and many drivers may prefer the generally slightly elevated driving position (compared to a conventional saloon or estate).
Elsewhere, the cabin reflects Peugeot’s push upmarket with quality materials, plenty of soft-touch surfaces and a satisfying weight to the doors. It’s all well finished too and the seats are comfortable and supportive.
The centrally mounted 10-inch i-Connect Advanced infotainment system is clear and slick enough, and I liked the row of i-Toggles (touch-sensitive, short-cut buttons mounted lower down), which can be configured as favourites. There’s also a row of physical switches below for essentials such as climate control. The infotainment system can also be updated over-the-air.
There’s no shortage of space up front or behind, though taller back-seat passengers may struggle for headroom, thanks to the sexy roofline.
When it comes to luggage capacity, the petrol version offers 536 litres, rising to 1,611 litres with the rear seats folded down. The plug-in hybrid delivers slightly less (471/1,545 litres) because the battery eats into the boot space.
The new Peugeot 408 is well equipped and there are four trim levels – Allure, Allure Premium, GT and First Edition.
Allure gets 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a reversing camera with rear parking sensors and part-leather seats, plus a 10-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Allure Premium adds larger 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, front parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and long-range blind spot protection.
Range-topping GT cars get different 19-inch alloy wheels, a body-coloured grille and a sporty body kit. Inside, there are aluminium trims on the door sills, ambient lighting and green contrast stitching.
Limited-run First Edition adds goodies including 20-inch alloy wheels and a 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat with massage functions.
I tested both the 128bhp petrol and the more powerful of the two plug-in hybrid versions (178bhp and 222bhp).
This entry-level model utilises the 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder engine used extensively across the Peugeot and Citroen ranges.
It’s a punchy performer and seems swifter than the 0-62mph figure of 10.4 seconds. It tops out at 130mph, while economy is up to 48.1mpg and CO2 emissions are as low as 133g/km.
It may seem odd to power a relatively large car with such a dinky engine, but it works. Yes, it’s thrummy if you put your foot down, and it sometimes has to work a little harder than a bigger engine, but overall it’s an impressive unit perhaps best suited to urban environments.
The plug-in hybrid version we tested has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a 109bhp electric motor, producing a combined 222bhp.
The PHEV gets from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and goes on to a maximum speed of 145mph. In theory, it’s capable of up to 269.5mpg, but as with any plug-in hybrid, your economy will depend on many factors such as the length of your journey, whether you keep the battery fully charged, the temperature and how your drive.
Just as importantly, the 408 PHEV offers up to 40 miles of electric-only driving, while CO2 emissions are as low as 26g/km, unlocking substantial tax savings for business users.
So, if your daily commute is around the 25-mile mark (in line with the UK average) and you can charge overnight at home or elsewhere, your visits to the petrol station could be few and far between.
The battery on both plug-in hybrid versions has a capacity of 12.4kWh and two types of on-board single-phase charger are available – a 3.7kW as standard, or an optional 7.4kW. Charge times are 3hrs 25mins and 1hr 40mins respectively.
There’s no doubt that the PHEV version offers the most relaxed driving experience overall and suits the 408 best.
There’s more power on tap, and naturally, it’s hushed in all-electric mode, while the switch from petrol to hybrid and vice versa is seamless.
That said, push on or select Sport mode and the 1.6-litre engine becomes a little more vocal.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox works well too, only occasionally holding on to a gear for a tad too long.
The ride on both the petrol and hybrid versions is smooth and the car soaks up the bumps nicely.
The 408 has good road manners. It feels substantial, yet body lean is well controlled and there’s decent grip.
The steering is light and responsive, and the car is easy to manoeuvre. However, visibility out of the slim rear window isn’t great and I’d prefer a rear wiper.
The Peugeot 408 occupies something of a niche, so identifying rivals isn’t so easy. The Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake, Renault Arkana and Cupra Formentor, spring to mind, but its most obvious competitor is closer to home. The C5 X, from Citroen (Peugeot’s French cousin) is very similar, yet cheaper.
Verdict: The all-new Peugeot 408 manages to strike a balance between economy, comfort, practicality and sportiness. Safe and well equipped, it has a classy feel and oozes kerb appeal.