Peugeot 408 Review - Select Car Leasing
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Peugeot 408 Review

Introduction

The Peugeot 408 is slightly larger than the 308 and, somewhat predictably, slightly smaller than the 508. So is it just another hatchback sitting in the middle of Peugeot’s range? Well, yes and no.

There’s more to it than that, as the 408 has been jacked up a little, with some rugged touches added to the design. The bodywork has been sculpted into a bold coupe shape, lending it a sporting stance, too.

So what is it? We drive the 225hp hybrid-powered version and find out.

Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5

At a Glance

Let’s clear up what the car is first. Despite the raised suspension, it’s not a rugged off-roader, and, despite the coupe styling, it’s not a sports car. Ultimately, it’s a fairly conventional but very stylish hatchback.

The bold and muscular styling does look good, from the aggressive sabre teeth LED lights at the front to the cat ears on the roof at the back — these mask some of the bulk of the car, which is a little more hatchback shaped than the bodywork and paint might suggest. The remaining lines, angled strakes and detailing look a little untidy, but it’s all very distinctive.

Peugeot will supply the 408 in one of three trim levels; Allure, Allure Premium and GT. All come pleasingly well equipped, with even the entry-level model receiving LED headlights, a 10.0-inch infotainment system, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, climate control, a reversing camera, and a long list of safety equipment.

You can pick each with either a 1.2-litre petrol engine offering 131hp or a plug-in hybrid with 180hp to play with. Opt for the Allure Premium or GT model, and you can upgrade that to a quicker 225hp unit.


Key Features

Peugeot has long been criticised for its dreadful infotainment system. Impenetrable, inefficient and dated, it should have been put out to pasture some years ago. Happily, Peugeot has finally made a change and introduced a new, modern system — and not a moment too soon.

The 10.0-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, angled towards the driver, looks sleek and modern, with a smartphone-style interface that’s crystal clear. The menu system is more intuitive than before (although some options still seem hidden away a little), and the navigation is up to date. It’s a transformation from what went before.


A row of touch-sensitive buttons sits below the screen, which Peugeot calls i-Toggles, that offers one-touch access to essential features. These are also programmable, so you can choose to have a button for Android Auto or the trip computer.

Pleasingly, there’s even a row of physical rocker switches below offering tactile controls for the heating and ventilation controls, with a volume control to the left as well.

Most buttons aren’t even necessary anyway, as more reliable voice control has been included. The ‘Ok Peugeot’ command (mostly) allows you to change settings without lifting a finger, letting you keep your eyes on the road.


Performance & Drive

We spent our time with the 408 in the top-of-the-range GT, with the 225hp version of the plug-in hybrid engine. The PHEV system is the same across countless Citroen, DS, Peugeot and Vauxhall cars, so there are few surprises; there’s a 1.6-litre petrol engine in the front, paired with an electric motor powered by a 12.4kWh battery pack. It all combines to produce enough power to accelerate the 408 to 62mph in 7.8 seconds.

It’ll go well beyond legal speeds (apparently 145mph), shifting its eight gears smoothly as it goes. It’s all lovely under everyday driving, with the hybrid system favouring electric power and keeping the petrol engine in reserve when it needs more help.


Using that performance isn’t pleasurable, though. The engine needs to work hard to deliver all that oomph and lets you know about it through a raucous engine note that is far from pleasant. The gearbox begins to stutter, too, lagging when shifts are required to maintain progress.

Surprisingly, cruising along at speed is where the ride quality is at its best. It glides over most bumps and cracks in the road without issue, while gentle curves feel safe and comfortable, with an impressively neutral chassis balance providing confidence.


It’s not so composed in town, crunching through potholes from time to time, but it’s no worse than any of its rivals.

Don’t think about heading off-road, though. Despite the raised ground clearance and chunky side mouldings, it’s a strict on-road model. You could be brave and tackle a grassy car park, but I wouldn’t suggest you venture further than that.


Running Costs

The battery pack in the 408 is officially, at least, able to drive the car for up to 40 miles. That’s optimistic, but it’s not too unreasonable an estimate. It does mean that the car tips into the lower BIK rate for plug-in hybrids, with company car drivers facing an 8% BIK burden.

Official testing also suggests that you’ll get 211mpg from the Peugeot, but this depends entirely on your driving patterns. Trundle 15 miles to work and back each day, and you’ll rarely use any petrol at all, but tackle a 300-mile motorway blast, and you’ll be lucky to get 40mpg. If you need a vehicle that goes the distance, be sure to check out our guide on official vs real-world battery range to find out how range can work for you.


A three-year warranty (limited to 60,000 miles) should see most through a lease deal, although extending to a fourth year and beyond is possible if necessary.

The one downfall is leasing costs compared to a key rival. The 408 is identical in so many areas to the Citroen C5 X, even sharing the same plug-in hybrid powertrain and most of the physical dimensions. It even shares a quirky style that’s unlike most other vehicles. The Citroen, however, is around £3,000 cheaper, which translates into a £100 a month saving on a lease, at least at current rates. The decision will need to be made by the heart or the head.


Interior

Peugeot is pushing to have its cars seen in a more premium light, and the cabin design is as close to achieving that ambition as the manufacturer has yet managed. Every inch of the cabin seems to be covered in some swish material, from soft-touch plastics with contrast stitching, through glossy piano black panels, to textured faux metal with subtle downlighting. It looks great, although it doesn’t take long to find some areas that are a little cheaper than you might like — the gear selector surround, for example, feels particularly low rent.

A 10.0-inch infotainment screen is integrated into the middle of the dashboard, with a second touch-sensitive panel underneath, offering one-touch shortcuts to various areas. It’s been seen in the 308 already, but it is a big step forward for the Stellantis group and on par with some of the better systems in cars today. Even better is the row of physical rocker switches and a rotary knob below the screen to operate essential functions such as the window demisters and audio volume.


Splitting opinion is Peugeot’s continuing insistence on using its i-Cockpit layout, with a tiny steering wheel sitting low down and the impressive 3D digital instrument panel poking out over the top. It works for some and doesn’t for others. On a personal level, I like the concept, and it works for me in many other Peugeots, but somehow the driving position means it doesn’t quite gel in the 408. My short legs and long body probably count against me, and you may be more successful.

Space, once you’re inside, is generally good. The low roof can catch your head on the way in, but it pops up a little and offers enough headroom for six-footers in every seat, front or back. The roof doesn’t taper quite as much as it looks — those cat ears disguise a more conventionally high roof line — so the shape is more accommodating than a coupe it’s pretending to be. A big bonus is a large boot, with 536 litres of cargo space on offer in some models, with 471 litres in this plug-in hybrid version. That’s almost as large as the Peugeot 508 SW estate car’s boot and even larger if you forego the PHEV option.


Safety

Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the 408, but much of the car is the same as the 308. So close, in fact, that the safety testing firm has given the 408 the same rating — four stars from the maximum five available. While the 308 generally performed well, it lost points in side impact testing.

Despite that, the 408 comes loaded with safety technology to keep you away from an accident in the first place. There’s the equipment you expect, such as automatic emergency braking, cruise control and speed limiter. There’s also lane-keeping assistance, speed limit and traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, a reversing camera and LED headlights.

Parents can fit two child seats in the rear, both with Isofix attachments.


Options

Despite having just three trim levels, options are few and far between — especially those worth the money. A heated steering wheel and wireless smartphone charger might be nice additions but aren’t strictly necessary. At the same time, the £600 Focal stereo system doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the sound when streaming Taylor Swift to the car. Don't judge me.

An optional Seat Pack on GT models adds some lovely heated and massaging seats, but at £1,100, it’s something of an extravagance.

Even paint might not be necessary, as the ‘free’ colour is a rather lovely shade of metallic blue. Other colours are £575, although the very stylish Elixir Red will set you back £725.


Rival Cars

One particularly important rival for the Peugeot 408 is its closely related sibling, the Citroen C5 X. Both cars share the same chassis, engine and plug-in hybrid system, and even the same wheelbase. The cabins are similar in size and specification, too, although the 408 looks and feels more sporting than the C5 X. The Citroen is significantly cheaper, though.

The Cupra Formentor (below) is a more traditional SUV, but combines practicality with an aggressive, sporting stance. It’s fine to drive, stands out in a crowd, and offers a sensible family package, although it can get costly.


Peugeot itself makes a rival in the smaller but more sensible 308 (below). Again, it shares much with the 408 but without the coupe-SUV styling. You sacrifice a little boot space, but much of the rest is similarly sized, with a significant price tag saving. Sensible, grown-up motoring.


Verdict

At first glance, it’s not clear what the Peugeot 408 is, but dig deeper, and it becomes evident that it’s not the sporting coupe it’s presenting itself as. Nor is it a hugely practical SUV, but it’s none the worse for that.

Look at it as a regular hatchback with a bold, innovative design, and it starts to make much more sense. It’s spacious and, for the most part, practical, with high equipment levels and lots of safety tech.

If you drive it at ten-tenths, it reveals its shortcomings, but it’s a refined and capable car at all other times. It’s style-led, clearly, which means it’s more expensive than some more sensible options, but sometimes it’s worth splashing out a little to look good.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Peugeot 408

**Correct as of 06/02/2023. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4,169.34 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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