The 408 is basically the last Peugeot designed under the direction of Gilles Vidal, the designer who left for Renault in 2020. The basic design has been around for much longer, as preparatory sketches were circulating at the Paris headquarters as early as 2015. At the time, however, PSA didn’t have the technology to mass-produce a body with such intricate surfaces, such as those found on the doors or rear fenders. What catches the eye is the “coda tronca” style rear end, designed in such a way that it seems to slope downwards.
From this angle, this Peugeot looks a bit like the Lamborghini Urus, with its raised rear end. As for the nose, it is very similar to the 308’s, with the hood and windshield even being identical. The top version (GT) wears on its sides the new logo of the brand inaugurated last year by the 308 and also receives a specific grille.
The very name of this new Peugeot suggests that in terms of size and price, it will fit between the 308 and 508. However, it should be noted that it has a three-digit designation, with a single “0” in the middle instead of two. So it’s not an SUV or a crossover, contrary to what one might think. The 408 is as tall as the 308 SW (1.48 m), but 5 cm longer. The most important difference is the wheelbase: the 408 is based on the same platform as Citroën’s C5 X, which features a generous 2.79-meter wheelbase.
Rear legroom was a priority because the car will also be sold in China, where rear seating is very important. Peugeot builds the car locally for the local market, but the 408s for Europe will be produced in Mulhouse, France. Let’s remember that there is already a 408 in China, but it’s only a 308 three-box.
Familiar interior and new kind of wheels
If asymmetrical rims are very rare, it’s for a very simple reason: a wheel must be perfectly balanced in terms of weight, otherwise it will generate unwanted vibrations. Peugeot’s engineers realized this during the development of the 408. So it took no less than a year and a half for this little folly to be ready for production. The wheels are 20″, the largest diameter available on this model. The basic 408 is entitled to 17″ elements.
The dashboard is that of the 308. Or rather, it is the 308 that has taken over the 408’s: this interior was intended for the 408 from the start and was taken over, during development, by the 308, which was marketed earlier. In the cabin, two 10″ color screens are standard, one of which has a three-dimensional effect for the on-board instrumentation. The presence of a sloping rear hatch does not affect rear seat headroom, so even tall adults will find plenty of room. As for legroom, it also seems to be very adequate. On this point, the 408 would even be the best of the family.
In the back, Peugeot makes a big deal of the 18.8 cm of knee room, which would be the best in the class, thanks to the 2787 mm wheelbase. Because of the thick floor, the toes of the bench occupants barely fit under the front seats, but the rear seats are no less pleasant. The only condition is that the optional sunroof is absent, as it easily “eats” 5 cm of headroom. Another flaw: it only uncovers half of the roof.
With this in mind, the 408 is very comfortable to sit in, whether in the front or in the back. As for the trunk, it has a volume of 536 liters in the 1.2 PureTech 130 (which is the entry-level model, sold for 35,900 euros), but is content with 471 liters in the two Hybrids, which must deal with a 12.4 kWh battery.
Autonomy and charging
The plug-in hybrids combine a 1.6 turbocharged gasoline engine with 150 or 180 hp with a 110 hp electric motor mounted in the front to develop a total of 180 and 225 hp, respectively. In the 408, the battery is configured to allow, in theory, an electric range of 63 km, but at the beginning of our test, carried out in a temperature that did not exceed 8°C, the screen showed only 35 km.
Still, in EV mode, the Hybrid 225 can easily get through traffic at speeds up to 135 km/h. Need more power? The sixteen-cents engine is just waiting for your right foot. On the highway, the 408 is quiet and comfortable. The only downside is the occasional rolling noise from the 20″ wheels shod with sporty Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
On small roads, the suspension comfort is one of the qualities of the car. Roll control is another one: the 408 turns remarkably flat. It’s a pity that the picture is tarnished by a rather uncommunicative steering, which makes the 408 a car that doesn’t really involve its driver, although it doesn’t have any difficulty to move at a good pace. The same goes for the small control paddles of the compulsory EAT8 automatic transmission, which do not encourage human/machine interaction.
It is therefore preferable to leave the gearbox in D mode (rive) and use B mode (rake) to recover energy. There’s no need to ask this plug-in hybrid to do what it can’t do… If you push the car hard in Sport mode, gear changes will be more brutal and you’ll regret that the gearbox lacks a sense of anticipation: for example, it “forgets” to downshift under braking so that the 408 can take off again efficiently when exiting a curve.
Still, when cornering, there’s no need to rush this Peugeot: understeer will soon appear, even if the phenomenon occurs progressively and hardly disturbs the progress