From £34,695
Is this all-new hatch a case of alluring innovative style over substance? Let’s find out

Why we’re running it: To see if Peugeot can refresh the family car market with an innovative mash-up 

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Peugeot 408: Month 1

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...

Peugeot 408 side profile

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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!

Peugeot 408 rear lead

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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%. 

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.

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Felix Page

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Peugeot 408 1.2 Puretech GT specification

Specs: Price New £34,825 Price as tested £36,725 Options Elixir Red varnish paint £850, Drive Assist 2.0 £500, 360deg Vision £450, wireless smartphone charger £100 

Test Data: Engine 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 128bhp at 5500rpm Torque 170lb ft at 1750rpm Kerb weight 1392kg Top speed 140mph 0-62mph 8.3sec Fuel economy 48.1mpg (claimed) CO2 133g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Join the debate

Add a comment…
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.

scotty5 10 October 2023

On first impression, though, Peugeot has justified these lofty numbers inside

Seriously? £43k and look at the fingerprints on the touch screen row of buttons. To these eyes it looks cheap, nasty and filthy. It's obviously a cost cutting exercise.

michael knight 10 October 2023

Impressive nit-picking! You could say the same about any car's touchscreen controls - all the way up to Merc S_Klasse and beyond. But good luck selecting the 'self-cleaning' option from your next motor.