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Peugeot 408 review: SUV-meets-estate mashup

Quirky looks and plug-in hybrid appeal, with some compromises

Peugeot 408 PHEV review tracking front

If you liked the idea of the Citroen C5 X we reviewed recently, the new Peugeot 408 might fill you with even more enthusiasm. While it’s based on the same Stellantis EMP2 architecture, the 408 is an even more distinctive proposition: the designers have really gone to town here, although it’ll have you mulling over how to describe it to your neighbours.

There’s a little bit of SUV, especially in the high-riding stance and chunky cladding along the sills, but also a whiff of sophisticated coupe thanks to the stylish sloping roofline. Peugeot dubs the car a C-segment fastback, which is both good to look at from most angles and very practical if you’ve got a young family. Granted, the styling might prove an acquired taste for some, but it did turn heads when we were out on the road in it.

The interior is rather cool too. If you’ve crossed paths with one, you’ll find a lot on offer within the 408 that’s already been seen inside the Peugeot 308. Nothing wrong with that and, overall, we think the result is largely a success.

The styling

Peugeot has made a concerted effort to make a style statement with its recent models and the 408 is no different. It’s an interesting thing to look at, with a 2790mm wheelbase that helps compensate for some of the 308’s space issues. We sampled the 408 in plug-in hybrid form and GT trim level, which feels quite plush thanks to lashings of leather and Alcantara. When you’re in the driving seat, sitting in front of that dinky steering wheel, this feels like a car that would be perfect for a long run down the motorway.

Before you get in though, it’s worth taking a tour of that exterior. The Peugeot 408 has some quirky lines, most of which work. The low point is the big hunk of plastic lower bumper at the back, though in the darker colours like the gorgeous Obsession Blue the effect is reduced. The front is interesting for sure, with those striking LED lights. A sizeable grille, with colour-coded flourishes and an enormous Peugeot badge as its centrepiece works to great effect too. The design curios carry on down the sides, with more badging on the sculpted front doors.

Neatly styled alloys also look the part, especially the optional 20in rims. There are some cute little ‘cat’s ears’ integrated into the roofline, which smooths out the aerodynamic line of the roof towards the tailgate. Overall, the look is, well, quite memorable. It’s certainly a little livelier than that seen on the Citroen C5 X.

Considering its overall size and the roominess you get in either of the front seats, the feeling doesn’t quite transcend to the rear. In fact, if you’re tall you’ll appreciate the solid levels of space for your feet. The downside though is the way the roofline slopes down towards the boot, which does sacrifice clearance inside. The way the headlining has been carefully sculpted to make a little room for your bonce marginally addresses the problem. This slightly claustrophobic vibe in the back seems to be made worse by the dark colour of the interior. A couple of smaller kids probably won’t be bothered by this, though.

The boot area is flat, easy to load stuff into and very accommodating, with a powered tailgate adding to the premium feel. Underneath that, there’s a storage area for the PHEV power cables if you’re planning on plugging in for the night when you get home.

The drive

The Peugeot 408 is a plug-in hybrid and, as is the case with PHEVs, it makes sense if you’re pootling around town on short shopping and school runs, with a full electric drive mode supplemented by Hybrid and Sport. In the case of our drive though, the 40 miles or so of battery-only range soon got bypassed in favour of the 1.6 litre, turbocharged petrol engine. We got to experience the 222bhp car and it feels happy enough in most day-to-day driving situations, just as long as you don’t push it unexpectedly. When you do it tends to pile on the revs as if caught by surprise.

There’s an 8-speed automatic box, which works well enough if you leave it alone to do its thing, even though there are paddle shifters on the steering column if you want to dip in and pick the gears yourself. When you’re on a longish run this combo works well enough most of the time, the engine and gearbox pairing having enough power to get the job done, but a little bit of uncertainty comes into play when attempting quick overtakes.

You can have some fun in the Peugeot 408 though, especially through twisting country roads where it feels more agile than expected. This is helped by that small steering wheel, which lets you work the car through corners nicely, while the relatively narrow wheels and tyres add to the fun. Top speed is 145mph and it’ll get from 0 to 62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is all fine and dandy.

The technology

There’s some great tech to be found once you’re in the driver’s seat, with Peugeot’s 12.4in i-Cockpit layout lying before you. What you see in your line of sight, just above the small angular steering wheel, can be customised to suit your preferences using a toggle dial on the wheel itself. The 3D-style graphics are particularly effective, especially if you’re making use of the dependable sat nav.

On top of that, the central 10in infotainment screen looks good, with a relatively fuss free layout that delivers a decent and refreshingly crisp view of everyday options like the navigation. This is supplemented by a selection of rather large physical buttons, which because of their size are certainly easy to tackle when you’re driving without becoming distracted. There’s also a dedicated Apple CarPlay option as part of the line-up.

Peugeot 408 verdict

Getting heads to turn your way is a challenge in lots of cars, but the Peugeot 408 manages to catch the attention of passers-by with ease. That’s hardly surprising, with that angular bodywork, a lively choice of paint colours and zingy alloy wheels.

On the inside, the Peugeot 408 is also largely spot-on, with plenty of comfort, a neat layout and some lovely trim touches. The PHEV setup will work for plenty of people who’ll use the car for shorter runs on a regular basis, and the concept as a whole makes it ideal as a family runabout that isn’t, mercifully, just another SUV.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Perfect if you’re after a family-friendly PHEV that isn’t an SUV and fancy some personality in the looks department.

Peugeot 408 technical specifications

Engine1.6-litre petrol, plus electric motor
Battery12.4kWh
Power222bhp
Torque196lb ft
0-62mph7.8sec
Top speed145mph
Fuel efficiency269mpg (combined)
Charge rate100kW
Cargo volume471 litres