From £34,710
A hatchback? A crossover? To us, the Peugeot 408 was simply appealing, practical transport

Why we ran it: To see if Peugeot could refresh the family car market with an innovative mash-up 

Month 4Month 3Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Peugeot 408: Month 4

A hatchback? A crossover? To us, it was simply appealing, practical transport - 13 December 2023

So: has Peugeot delivered on the mission stated above? It's too early to say based on sales figures (there aren't even a thousand 408s on British roads yet), but based on my time with our 408, I'm convinced it has the potential to do so.

A few weeks ago, the national press quoted a report from a climate change campaign group that said:

"The Chelsea tractor has launched an assault on the future, and if we don't fight back fast, we will all find ourselves under its wheels."

I would back that claim and add the Suburbia tractor too, plus a few more reasons besides their considerable environmental impact: namely that they're usually uglier and worse to drive than the alternative.

The 408 is a hopeful car, then, being essentially a big hatchback with a long, fairly low silhouette yet still exuding the SUV vibe that the public pines for. Its close relation, the Citroën C5 X - a less 'rugged' and more comfort-centric car - is equally so. They bring optimism that this battle is not yet lost.

The 408 also bodes well for the future of Peugeot. I was wary about the brand shuffling upmarket, but the look, drive and interior of my car all felt fitting - even if £37k is still hard to swallow. Sochaux just needs to get the digital tech working perfectly, which, as I said last week, it hasn't quite managed to do.

But, generally, this interior is 'upper mainstream' done superbly well. I always felt comfortable and well supported (by electric adjustment) in the chunky, faux-leather seat, and although I'm still unconvinced by the i-Cockpit layout, I soon got used to the small, oddly shaped steering wheel and got around the common issue of not being able to clearly see the dials over it by choosing a digital dash layout that made the speedo small and shoved up into the top-left corner. Not ideal, but you might not feel the need to do that.

Every aspect of the 408 on the road turned out to be satisfying - and my expectations had been high, in light of the price. The ride was always smooth, whether cruising on motorways at 70mph or being tested to the fullest by terrible urban surfacing - the tyres' unusually thick sidewalls adding further absorption to the pretty adept damping and springing.

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The handling was surprisingly enjoyable, even if neutered somewhat by the odd driving position and muted steering. Generally, it felt quite at home in any environment. And the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine the stalwart Puretech - matched sufficient performance with not bad economy, averaging 38.8mpg.

Of course, given my premise, I must also consider the aspects that would appeal more to the average would-be Nissan Qashqai buyer. First, practicality. That low and long boot: is it as good as a higher, shorter one? Yes. Early on, I used the 408 as a removal van, moving almost a whole flat's worth of stuff in just a few trips. And if you want to do this scientifically, the 408's cargo capacity is 536 litres, or 1611 litres with the rear seats folded down, which compares with 520 and 1480 for the new upright Peugeot 3008.

On other occasions, adult rear passengers were quite happy with their seats, space and, contrary to my expectations given those window and shoulder lines, views. Next, tech. As I said earlier, it had some problems: mainly capricious icons for the heated seats and wheel and an unreliable Apple CarPlay linkage.

Otherwise, though, I found the infotainment system fairly easy to use, and I was grateful for the unusual secondary touchscreen below, which hosted large shortcut 'buttons' that I learned to hit without looking while driving.

I also found the active safety systems acceptable - because they were quick and easy to turn off. Automatic emergency braking is always welcome, and I'm coming around to adaptive cruise control on our increasingly choked roads, but I'm never going to get on with a system that yanks the wheel in my hands, especially for no good reason, and in common with most modern cars, the 408's lane keeping assistance did exactly that.

Onto the design. I think it's super, despite its complexity, and plenty of people agreed. Not just due to the new logo, some were shocked to learn it was a Peugeot. I mean, think of the aesthetic misery of the brand just 15 years ago.

I certainly felt it had a premium aura, and I loved driving something that truly stood out. It's just a shame Elixir Red paint is so pricey, as it's even nicer than Obsession Blue, as seen on the plugin hybrid model that I also tried.

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Which leads me back to cost. The PHEV drove similarly nicely and had good EV capability, but it only really makes sense if you pay BIK tax. As for the petrol, it costs from £32k in Allure trim to £35k in GI, as on my car. I'd rather spend £42 (the difference on Peugeot's PCP deals) elsewhere each month, but you may well prefer a fancier car interior.

Whatever your preferences, the 408 can offer everything you want and need in a mainstream family car - especially if, say, you want a hatch or a saloon but your partner wants an SUV. It's compromise without compromise.

Second Opinion

This is another interesting Peugeot with surprisingly tidy handling but a pretty blunt powertrain. If they could improve the ride quality a touch, it would be a fine option for those who need a family car but appreciate GT undertones. As it is, I’d probably go for a lightly used (so sub-£40k) 508 SW estate in underrated 355bhp PSE plug-in hybrid form.  

Richard Lane

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Love it:

Running costs The MPG could be better, but what a relief after my old Land Cruiser! The PHEV could be mega-cheap 

Accomodation Despite the sloping rear roofline, there was plenty of space and good views out for two adults in the back. 

Cornering agility Our road testers said the fine-handling 408 had hot hatch undertones. I wouldn’t disagree. 

Interior i-Cockpit still makes Peugeots look like spaceships. I just wish it would allow a normal driving position. 

Loathe it:

Touchscreen Software issues frustrated me, so I was miffed when an update added games rather than fixing them. 

Final mileage: 5940

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Life with a Peugeot 408: Month 3

Some améliorations des performances arrive over the air - 29 November

Nothing is real any more. An exaggeration, fine, but as our world turns from physical to digital, it seems to me that its workings are becoming abstracted.

It’s the difference between hardware and software: even a non-techy person can look at a computer and see it’s composed of physical components, but the programs running on it aren’t tangible or understandable. Thus when something software-related goes wrong, we have no idea of why, we can’t look into the problem and we sure can’t fix it.

I find this abstraction very troubling, especially in situations where there are no workarounds.

Heated seats, say: when they’re on a rocker, they usually work, and if they don’t, the switch is broken, or some wiring is. When it’s an icon on a screen that won’t be tapped, what can you do? Turn the car off and on again – but if that doesn’t work?

As autumn fell, I found that these icons in my Peugeot 408 were about as willing to work as railway staff: fingers crossed every day then exasperation on half of them.

At least the climate control never followed suit, as it did in my old Seat Leon. Now that was beyond the pale.

I also occasionally suffered from some linkage issues with the 408’s wireless Apple CarPlay, through which I listen to podcasts and music and get sat-nav. The audio stopping and not restarting is very frustrating, and being left without live traffic information potentially ruinous during rush-hour commutes.

I was therefore pleased to learn one evening that the 408 could get over-the-air software updates – still novel and a fantastic innovation.

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The touchscreen said the update would take just 11 minutes, so I sat in to watch it being downloaded and installed. (Note that you can’t use the car during the process.

Happily it can be deferred.) Eleven minutes it indeed took, but I was dismayed to find that, rather than fixing the few annoying niggles, it had added a few simple games. For when I was bored while waiting in the car, it said. I mean, I have a book and a phone for that.

The next day another 11-minute update came, but as once more its name was merely ‘amélioration des performances’ (thank William of Normandy for cognates), I’ve no idea what actually happened.

Then came a third – although this one was due to take around 25 minutes. I’m assuming it was slower because I was at football, not at home, where there’s a 5G data tower not 100 yards away.

Anyway, again I couldn’t work out what had been ameliorated, but it seemed the CarPlay link was if anything actually shakier. To be clear, the 408 has one of the better touchscreen systems that I’ve used recently.

It’s usually pretty easy to find what you need, it has a row of large shortcut icons on a secondary touchscreen below and, while I would infinitely rather have physical climate controls, the ones on the screen are at least big.

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But when it comes to digital-only features, they really must be 100% reliable. And as anyone who uses digital devices knows, that’s never the case. Read between the lines...

I don’t think it’s acceptable that studios now release imperfect video games – some are truly unplayable at first – and then ‘patch’ the issues wirelessly.

We can’t let this method seep into the car industry. Heated seats are trivial, but we’re racing into a future in which the abstract ones and zeroes control everything. 

Love it 

Winter warmers

As ever, I adore feeling nice and warm on cold mornings without having to choke on cooked air.

Winter warmers

I just wish the seat and steering wheel were controlled by a switch, not a temperamental screen icon.

Mileage: 4612

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The 408 is a handsome car, both to the public and our chief sub editor - 15 November

It’s not just me who thinks the 408 is a looker: it has attracted an unusual number of turned heads and even a few questions. Some are shocked that it’s a Peugeot (not just because of the logo change), others that it’s not electric (indicative of what nonenthusiasts now assume when they see ‘new’) – including a cashier at a petrol station. Brain on, mate! 

Mileage: 3272

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Life with a Pegueot 408: Month 2

Red versus blue: is the plug-in hybrid worth an extra £8600 over our turbo petrol? - 18 October

When we had a plug-in hybrid Peugeot 408 in for a road test the other week, I took it for a spin to compare with my pure-petrol 408 – and what surprised me wasn’t how different they felt but how similar.

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The Obsession Blue car was in the same range-topping GT spec as my Elixir Red one, meaning it had the same sporty look, Alcantara and leatherette interior trim and every piece of equipment possible.

I love the look of the 19in Graphite alloy wheels on my car, but the 20in Monolithe set on the PHEV are yet more eye-catching, looking like motion blur even when static.

So as I settled into the PHEV and started looking around, the sole differentiator was a blue-on-black theme to the infotainment touchscreen and digital dial display, rather than my green-on-black on 

(although I’m sure that could have be changed), and when I turned it on, some electricky readouts and graphics and the option of EV mode.

I also noticed that the i-Toggles – essentially big touch icons that act as shortcuts for the touchscreen – were different (but again, these could have been changed around).

The PHEV defaults to hybrid mode, and when I got moving, it really didn’t feel that different to my petrol – which, I should say, is very pleasing indeed.

The power difference between the two models isn’t enormous, at 50bhp (although there is a 222bhp PHEV as well), and the blending in of the electric motor didn’t have a notable effect on the urban driving characteristics.

As I hit faster roads, I did notice a couple of things: the PHEV felt heavier in the way it rode and was a little less willing to quickly change direction (although it still was thoroughly enjoyable for what is a mainstream family car), while the

brake pedal felt less definite. The former was entirely predictable, the difference of the motor, battery and other ancillaries amounting to 304kg.

That’s two adult passengers – if they were both a Tonga prop, that is, and you’re definitely going to feel that... The latter felt such a minor difference, though, that I doubted myself and was relieved to see our road testers use the word ‘spongy’.

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I recall first driving a PHEV about seven years ago and being dismayed that it did very few miles on electricity alone, and then only at low speeds, before returning rubbish MPG on the motorway section of my journey home. The breed has come a long way since.

The 408 felt great when I selected EV mode – and assuaged my guilt of driving an ICE car through choking London.

With the motor supplying 109bhp itself, the PHEV was a mere 19bhp short of my petrol (yes, it has 128bhp, not 178bhp as I stupidly wrote in my first report) and it had no qualms about continuing in EV mode onto an A-road.

It even returned an electric economy figure nearing 4.0mpkWh, which would equal a range of more than 40 miles – the official maximum.

I didn’t have time to do a full economy test, but our road testers averaged 37.9mpg – actually a tad more than my petrol did on its last tank. And if you only drive around town and charge at home, I suppose your MPG ceiling in the PHEV would effectively be infinity.

The problem with the PHEV – and it is a big one – is, as I mentioned in my first report, the price disparity: £34,825 and £43,450 to buy or £414 and £598 per month on Peugeot’s PCP finance scheme.

It’s hard to say how long it would take to earn that back through fuel savings, but it ain’t gonna be next week. With that said, if you’re a company car driver, it will cost you far less in benefit-in-kind tax, at 8% rather than 32%.

PHEVs have always seemed to me like a rarely reached answer on one of those ‘yes/no’ flowcharts. But if your branch does end with ‘PHEV’, please do consider the 408, and not just for its fabulous styling.

Love it 

Pleasant noise

I’ve always liked the growl of the Puretech triple, but the near silence of the PHEV in EV mode reduced my stress levels in traffic.

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Loathe it

Annoying noise

Until I lowered my window, that was, because the motor squealed under acceleration. It made me yearn for an angelic synth tone

Mileage: 1989

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Life with a Peugeot 408: Month 1

The 408 has had a baptism of fire – or rather of furniture, bags and plants – delivering my girlfriend’s and her mate’s stuff from flat to flat. We hired a Ford Transit to move the sofa, but nothing else was too big for the hatchback once we folded the rear seats. It took 10 trips to shift all the gear, but it might have been 100 if we had used his Hyundai i10. 

Mileage: 1131

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Welcoming the 408 to the fleet - 13 September 2023

It’s a saloon... It’s an SUV... It’s a Peugeot 408! When a car maker says things like it’s “introducing a novel silhouette to the market” and “reinventing the hatchback”, it can be tempting to snort at the hyperbolic puffery, but in this case such assertions are hard to argue with.

The 408 came out before the closely related Citroën C5 X, and while there’s a whiff of Polestar 2 about the shape, there’s a lot more ground clearance, because the extra body height isn’t due to a floor-mounted battery.

Aye, this is a good old-fashioned petrol. Or rather I should say new-fashioned. It strikes me that Gilles Vidal and his team were very clever here in essentially designing a big family car of the Ford Mondeo ilk but sitting higher off the ground and adorned with some other SUV-esque design touches to almost trick the great uninterested away from all their Nissan Qashqai-a-likes.

I’m all for anything that brings the average height of cars on our roads back down, and especially so when the result looks fantastic, as I believe the 408 does from every angle. Its sharpness speaks of Peugeot’s slight drift upmarket – as does its newly redesigned logo, which several people have said looks quite Ferrari but to this football nerd is rather more FC Sochaux. Oh, hang on...

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Peugeot 408 side profile

Having learned to drive in my grandad’s old 406 SW and then bought a 206 as my first car, I dearly want Peugeot to win. But it will need to play out of its skin to do so, because it has taken on a tough challenge with the 408.

It seems everybody wants to ‘go premium’ these days, but that’s far easier said than done, and many who have tried have fallen short – except in eye-widening price rises, of course.

We’ve gone for GT trim – the priciest of the three – which takes our car to £34,825. Swap its petrol engine for the slightly punchier plug-in hybrid powertrain and you’re looking at £43,450. Sheesh!

On first impression, though, Peugeot has justified these lofty numbers inside. Its i-Cockpit dashboard configuration continues to look futuristic, even after a decade on the market, and it has now been enhanced by the introduction of larger digital ‘buttons’ called i-Toggles.

The seats are deep-set, supportive and trimmed in decent faux leather. And the other trim materials include Alcantara, soft-enough plastics and bits of aluminium. I like the stitching, too, in the lime green of Peugeot Sport Engineered - as seen on the Le Mans hypercar. 

Also on the standard list is six-way electronic adjustment, heating and a massage function for the front seats; heating for the steering wheel; ambient lighting; dual-zone climate control with a purification filter, a 10in, 3D-effect digital dial display and a 10.0in touchscreen with sat-nav and smartphone mirroring. I mean, goodness, my 206 didn't even have air-con!

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Peugeot 408 rear lead

Away from comfort features, there’s also adaptive cruise control; lane-keeping assistance; blindspot monitoring; three selectable driving modes; a powered tailgate with a foot sensor; keyless entry; and LED matrix headlights with automatic full beam.

I’m grateful for the added option of a 360deg parking camera in addition to the standard beepers, and for the tremendous premium paint, but I would rather have the Focal premium stereo (because the standard one is pretty puny) instead of the wireless smartphone charger (because all these ever seem to do is cook your phone) and Peugeot’s Drive Assist 2.0 system (because all such things ever do is wind me up).

That petrol engine, by the way, is the 128bhp version of the PSA Group’s (so nowadays Stellantis’s) turbocharged three-cylinder 1.2-litre unit, called the Puretech. This has been much lauded over the years, and I rather liked it during the pandemic days inside my 2008 crossover, as it was eager, was economical (45mpg) and emitted an appealing growl.

There’s no diesel 408, and I’m the worst imaginable candidate for a PHEV, having no home charger and a 140-mile daily motorway commute. If you’re a company car driver, even one with a similar use case to me, you might want to know that it’s a 1.6-litre system with a 42-mile EV range, reducing BIK tax from 32% to 8%. 

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Any criticisms? Well, I strongly disliked the driving position that the small, rectangular steering wheel of the i-Cockpit forced when I had my 2008, and it's much the same story in the 408, but I won't start banging on about that again now. I knew what to expect and it's a subjective rather than objective issue, clearly, when millions around the world seem to have no problem with it. 

This 408 seems to tick (almost) all the right boxes for me, then. Let's see how many I scrub out in the weeks and months to come. 

Second Opinion

I was immediately impressed by the character and punch of the 408’s tiny three-pot: it’s more than enough for a car of this surprisingly generous stature. I hope it suits Kris’s lengthy commute, though, because over 300 miles with me on the motorway, it failed to crack 40mpg.

Felix Page

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Peugeot 408 1.2 Puretech GT specification

Prices: List price new £24,825 List price now £34,695 Price as tested £36,725

Options: Elixir Red varnish paint £850, Drive Assist 2.0 £500, 360deg Vision £450, wireless smartphone charger £100 

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 48.1mpg Fuel tank 52 litres Test average 38.8mpg Test best 40.5mpg Test worst 36.3mpg Real-world range 444 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 10.4ec Top speed 130mph Engine 3 cyls, 1199cc, turbo, petrol 

Max power 131bhp at 5500rpm Max torque 170lb ft at 1750rpm Transmission 8-spd automatic Boot capacity 546/1611 litres Wheels 19in, alloy Tyres 205/55 R19, Michelin e-Primacy Kerb weight 1392kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate NA CO2 136g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £991.56 Running costs inc fuel £991.56 Cost per mile 19 pence Faults Software niggles

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Join the debate

Comments
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rhwilton 16 December 2023

If the road tester can't see the instruments over the steering wheel, he won't be able to see the front wings either. Why is he sitting so low in the car? The last time I did that, I had a crash helmet on for a track day. That's not "a normal driving position". Skip the Max Verstappen fantasies when on the road. 

405line 14 December 2023

A technically and visually interesting thing, how does 1.2 litres albeit with 170lb ft at 1750rpm cope when full of people and possibly luggage and how reliable is the engine going over the longer term with a high specific output. 'Drifting upmarket' may be easier now as there are less mechanical bits, but how will the fixtures and fittings hold up over time and does it handle well like old peugeots did?  I will be keeping an eye on these.

xxxx 10 October 2023

Never mind the 43k for a car with finger prints, it' 35k plus for a bigg'ish family sized car with a 1.2 3 pot, autocar might think it can get to 60 in 8.3 seconds with 130 hp but I'd be don't.