Motoring with Tony Conlon: Peugeot 408 has a whole lot of everything

The latest Peugeot 408 joins a stable of cars that embody everything I love about the French marque, including style, build quality, power options, technology, comfort and handling.

The 408 is different insofar as it is a fastback saloon that slots into the crossover league because of its higher than saloon ground clearance. It is also offered with large wheels (17” to 20”) and comes with plastic body protection coverings on its wheel arches, just like an SUV.

To put it simply, there is a bit of everything in this car: saloon, coupé, fastback, crossover and SUV. Offered in Allure, Allure Pack and GT trim levels, this Peugeot’s unique personality carries itself with a great deal of panache.

My Allure Pack version for the test-drive sat on pretty 19-inch ‘Jaspe’ diamond cut alloy wheels.

The 408 stands out first and foremost for its dynamic fastback style and its lovely stance. Its lines are sharp, and the grille, which is the same colour as the bodywork, bears the new Peugeot Lion emblem in the centre.

The Obsession Blue paintwork on my test car looked good, and while the inverted cut-out of the rear bumper is unexpected, it does lend the profile a strong look. At the front, the fang-shaped light signature perfectly integrates the 408 into the Peugeot family, as do the three-claw LED lights at the rear. The airflow over the roof of the car is guided by two ‘cat ears’ which create an optimal aerodynamic corridor towards the boot lid spoiler. These two features are distinctive elements of the 408's style.

With a length of 4.69m, wheelbase of 2.79m and a height of 1.48m, the 408 offers remarkable rear legroom. The boot is also generously sized, with a volume of 536 litres, which can be increased to 1,611 litres once the rear seats are folded down.

I found the 408 offered a lovely inner ambience of refinement and good build quality. The seating proved supportive and comfortable, and visibility was generally good, apart from a slight lack of observability through the rear screen.

The Peugeot offers the latest generation of the Peugeot i-Cockpit. It is clear to see that the emphasis is on quality and connectivity, with the very latest technologies. The 10” digital instrument panel and the central 10” touchscreen, which have fully configurable i-toggles arranged below it, looked and worked extremely well. Each i-toggle offers a touch sensitive shortcut to settings such as climate, phone and radio.

Powered by six cameras and nine radars, the driver assistance system includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, night vision - which warns of animals, pedestrians or cyclists ahead before they appear in the high beam - long-range blind spot monitoring (75 metres), and rear traffic alert, which warns of a potential hazard when reversing.

The car also comes with automatic post-collision braking system, driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist and intelligent speed adaption.

With an all-electric model expected later this year, the French manufacturer presently offers two 1.6 litre rechargeable hybrid versions (with 180 and 225bhp outputs) and a 1.2 litre petrol, which is the subject of this report.

If anyone told me years back that a car of this size would be offered with a 1.2 litre petrol, three-cylinder engine coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, I’d have fallen down and rolled around in laughter.

Today it is possible because modern engine design and technology allows for much bigger power outputs; in the case of this car, 130bhp has been achieved.

Driving in each of the driving modes, Eco, Normal and Sport but mostly in Eco, the Peugeot returned between 6.0 l/100km (46 mpg) and 7.1 l/100km (39mpg). This engine is willing and refined, so it’s a car that could buy someone a lot of time and enjoyment as they wait to see where the whole electric vehicle (EV) scene will end up.

The driver of this new 408 could have all the luxury elements of a large, comfortable car that handles with the confidence of a car a lot smaller. They could drive without any range anxiety and wait and see battery ranges grow to travel the distances achieved by today’s petrol and diesel cars.

They could wait for proper by-laws relating to charging points, watch the growth of the nationwide charging point network and, like today’s fuel stations, be able at a glance to see what the specific costs of a kW/h of electricity costs.