First Drive: Peugeot 408 2023 Review

Peugeot says it's a new saloon-SUV-hatchback. It certainly looks interesting...
08th February 2023
Ethan Jupp



The legacy of the 40-line of Peugeots is a curious one. Once Peugeot’s bread-and-butter repmobile of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, its demise was entirely emblematic of saloon car extinction. Of course, Peugeot persisted, albeit in higher-up markets with the stunning 508, but the repmobile saloon-come-family car that was the 407 went out of production over 12 years ago, temporarily ending the lineage. But now, in a market where its once great rival, the Ford Mondeo, has finally met its demise, the Peugeot 40- is back as the new 408, and boy is there a lot to unpack.

Peugeot calls this captivating machine a blend between an SUV, a hatchback and a saloon. The 408 is self-described as a focal-point model for Peugeot and a passion project for its people, with the marque having worked on the car for over eight years, vacillating over its design and positioning within the range as the entire brand moved vertically upwards into a more premium space. Indeed its closest rivals in terms of its coupe-ish silhouette come from Germany and Sweden rather than France, Spain or Japan, though it does undercut the likes of the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA comfortably on price.

We like

  • Surprisingly engaging dynamics, great ride
  • Quirky but functional UI
  • Captivating design

We don't like

  • Necessity of 'GT' spec for best looks
  • Sturdy pricing
  • Plastic paddles



The 408 is almost all about design and redefining what a repmobile family saloon can be in 2023. And we do say saloon, because there’s been a massive amount of effort put into getting the lines and proportions right at the nose. A crossover it may be strictly speaking, but the front profile looks compact, with dividing lines shrinking the above-wheel area to give the impression it’s lower than it is.

They’ve gone all out in this ‘GT’ spec too, given it gets its own dedicated matrix LED light unit that’s different in shape to the non-GT car, as well as the hypnotising body colour-highlighted grille and these trippy love-em-or-hate-em wheels. GT cars also get diagonal ‘claw’ lights at the back, as opposed to the vertical items on the non-GT car. All in, from the front and in profile, it’s a proper looker.

From the back? Not quite so much. This frumpy rump smacks of a concept that’s had to balloon a little to accommodate platform hard points and cultivate decent rear visibility and space for passengers – similar to what the Lamborghini Urus went through in the transition from concept to production. In fact, from the rear, and rear three-quarter, the 408 does have a bit of French better-looking Urus about it. Overall a success we think, though we can see why some – especially the saloon car faithful – might find it aesthetically challenging. It’s certainly an acquired taste, not helped when sat next to the achingly pretty 508 saloon.

Performance and Handling


Being lifted compared to say a 308 (though lower than a 3008) the big Pug isn’t the last word in weight distribution and a low centre of gravity. The PHEV especially with its extra 300kg of hybrid gear, heaves a bit at speed though in general and with smooth inputs, body control is good. The lesser-powered three-cylinder however felt more tied down and better controlled, although both have a more sophisticated chassis feel than expected. Both ride superbly well and handle the varied challenges UK roads throw at them with little issue. Dare we say it, they were more pleasant at speed across the Cotswolds in January than some lower, harder hot hatches might be.

In terms of performance, the plug-in car obviously sports an advantage, with a combined 225PS (165kW) to call upon. That being said, that hybrid boost is easily depleted. We got in our car with an indicated 15 miles of range on the clock (a full battery is supposed to deliver 40 miles by WLTP calculations, for the all-important eight per cent BIK rate) and that didn’t last the duration of our route. What is interesting is that the car’s trip computer showed that over the last 1,000 or so miles, over 300 of them had been in electric-only mode. Used correctly, a PHEV really can make sense for some. Even out of electric mode and even in the non-hybrid 130 version, economy is reasonable, with 40-50mpg indicated.

Jumping out of the PHEV and into the 130PS (96kW) three-cylinder, we were worried the 1.2-litre engine would feel strangled. While not a rocket ship, we were pleasantly surprised. The 408 in non-PHEV form is surprisingly light, at 1,392kg, so with a bit of ankle-flexing, the three-pot will get you down the road just fine. All that said, we can’t help but wonder what an all-wheel-drive PSE version, with more electric range and more horsepower to call upon, would feel like. Needless to say it’ll be quite expensive, if it happens. In all, both 408s are surprisingly good to drive and pack the kind of performance most normal drivers will see as adequate.



That driving experience is aided by what we consider a very pleasant interior indeed. The wheel for starters, could divide opinions, but we love it. It’s small, premium in feel and the shape is pleasingly LaFerrari-like, and designed to be positioned below your view to the gauges.

The seats in GT spec have a nice PSE-style green stitch, are comfortable, supportive and can be positioned surprisingly low, aiding again that pleasant driving experience. What aren’t particularly pleasant are the rattly plastic shift paddles for what is a good eight-speed transmission. It’s a box you might want to flick through and that combined with how nice most of the rest of the interior feels, will make the tackiness of the paddles stick out. So many manufacturers – on expensive cars as well as on more conventional stuff like this – continue to get what is a key touch point weirdly wrong.

In terms of practicality, the 408 is just about spacious enough in the back, with the clever sloping styling hiding passable headroom. Four passengers at 5”11 is probably the limit for a super long journey but it’s better in terms of aperture and accommodation than the average saloon. What the styling does limit however is rear visibility, though happily, the reversing camera is standard on all models. The boot’s decently big, though the boot lid doesn’t drop down as low as some would like and indeed, some saloons, so heavy stuff will require more of a heave up. It’s also worth noting that the PHEV’s boot is around 60 litres shallower thanks to that battery.

Technology and Features


The gauges themselves are all-digital, intuitive and configurable via a button on the end of the left stalk, with orientation towards performance, economy, navigation and more possible. For the PHEV, there’s a side-view of the car showing which way power is moving, either from the battery into the wheels, engine into the wheels or brakes into the battery – Prius-esque with a bit of French flair. There’s even a nice 3D effect on GT models that will be cool or a gimmick depending on how you’re feeling. We’re in the former camp.

That digital display is ten inches and is joined by a ten-inch infotainment display and below, what Peugeot calls the ‘iToggles’, which is its word for a configurable touch screen that houses six shortcut buttons of your choosing, including for climate. Compared to the Volkswagen touch controls that have replaced buttons? It’s more intuitive, once you’ve set it up as you wish, but we reckon the switchable panel found in current Kias is probably the less confusing and therefore more desirable alternative, even if it’s not as configurable. Happily, the voice controls are reasonably competent. You can raise the cabin temperature for instance by saying “hey Peugeot, I’m cold” – we tried it, it works quite well. What also works well – and this is a rarity – are the driver-assistance systems, with lane-keep and AEB almost imperceptible in our experience.

In terms of equipment we like to see that those screens are standard fitment, with no ‘cooking’ option. Likewise there’s plenty of other standard gear in GT-spec cars, including front and rear parking sensors, a parking camera at the rear, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, Matrix LED lights (GT only), an electric tailgate and much more. The lovely leather-effect and alcantara trim with green accents is also a no-cost option on GT spec cars. Options include 360-degree cameras, a premium hi-fi and the 20-inch ‘monolithe’ wheels. Peugeot has tried to keep the options list simple, so a lot of what you want will be simplified down into ‘packs’, which streamlines production as well as making life easier for customers. Heated and electric seats for instance combined into the ‘Driver & Passenger Seat Pack’.



The trouble is, at the end of all of that and with a few boxes ticked, you could well be left with a £50,000 on the road price. Now, the three-cylinder is, spec-for-spec, a lot cheaper but the point remains, given the least you’ll be paying for a 408 is £30,000. Given the full 408 experience is best in a GT over the Allure specs, with the cool styling and added equipment, you’re starting from £34,000 if you get a 130PS GT with no options ticked. More conventional it may be, but with a very similar cabin and the same powertrain, we would be very tempted by the 308 SW for £4,000 less car-for-car. Likewise, its close cousin, the Citroen C5X, is £1,500 or so down spec-for-spec too.

All that said, if you’re passionate about Peugeot, the 408 carries a bit more significance. It’s the heart and soul of the company on four wheels; its ethos manifest. If the quirks and looks of this car have gotten under your skin – and we can fully sympathise if so – you’ll be happy to read this is a perfectly competent, good-driving motorcar and a thoroughly pleasant place to spend your time.



Hybrid – 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo + electric motor

Petrol – 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol


Hybrid 225PS (165kW)

Petrol 130PS (96kW)


Hybrid 360Nm (266lb ft)

Petrol 230Nm (171lb ft)

Transmission Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight

Hybrid 1, 706kg

Petrol 1, 392kg


Hybrid 7.8 seconds

Petrol 10.4 seconds

Top speed

Hybrid 145mph

Petrol 130mph

Fuel economy

Hybrid 211-269mpg (claimed)

Petrol 41-48mpg

CO2 emissions

Hybrid 26g/km

Petrol 136g/km


Hybrid £44,700

Petrol £34,650