mReview: Peugeot 408 GT 1.2 Fastback - The Modern French Revolution

Published by on

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692776265571 408 1

It is no surprise that the French know a thing or two about elegance and beauty.

After all, they were the ones who pioneered haute couture in the 1600s, eventually paving the way for international fashion houses such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent – and along with it, fashion pieces that have withstood the test of time.

This obsession with beauty extends far beyond the world of fine clothing, too. The French automotive industry has long carved out a niche market for themselves, offering refreshing takes on tired body styles across categories. Whether it's a Le Mans-competing hypercar like the Peugeot 9X8, or a compact crossover like the e-2008, alluring design elements are almost a given.

And with the arrival of the 408 fastback, the Lion Brand is going in for the kill with good looks backed up by shockingly competent driving dynamics; qualities that are sure to leave the Germans shaking in their boots.

Speaking the Language of Attraction

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692777527595 408 2

It's a visual stunner, this 408. With swooping curves and elaborate contours all around the raised fastback, it looks like a concept car that's just rolled off the exhibition floor of Mondial de l'Automobile. And in this dazzling shade of Obsession Blue, it turns heads just about everywhere.

Building upon the avant-garde looks of its more orthodox 508 brother, the 408 sports even better proportions than ever before. The fang-style daytime running lights are now slimmer and sharper, complementing well with the angry full Matrix LED headlights. And the textured black elements on its front apron are also effective in accentuating its wide dimensions.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692779456619 408 6

Its grille itself sparks conversations, with body-coloured elements that converge to resemble a cascading waterfall. And right in the middle is Peugeot's brand new corporate badge – a lion's head on a shield. 

And before you say it, no it is not a collaboration with a Singapore Government agency featuring Merlion. In fact, it is a modern interpretation of the Peugeot emblem from 1960, complete with a flat design language.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692779870949 408 7

The same shield can be found on both front doors, which is an uncommon move for mainstream brands like Peugeot. Just as uncommon is the wheel design. The 408 is equipped with 20-inch diamond-cut Monolithe wheels that look like nothing else on the roads. Love it or loathe it, this is an element that sets the Pug apart from its competition.

Wrapped around them are 245/40 R20 Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres, which are simply superb for our road conditions (more on that in a bit). 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692781046716 408 8

In a bid to improve aerodynamic efficiency plus add some visual flair, Peugeot's designers have given the roofline and tailgate a dramatic sloping effect, tapering off at the "Cat's Ear" rear spoiler. And like the headlights, the rear ones are also all-LED, with 3D visual effects and a fancy welcome light sequence. 

From a design standpoint, the 408 has set expectations extremely high for other Peugeot models – and I daresay even other European brands – to match.

In the Lion's Den

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692782345203 408 15

Once again, Peugeot has defied expectations by crafting a cabin that's not only stylish and high-end, but also highly practical. Its upholstery is made up of a well-balanced mix of alcantara, leather, and soft-touch plastics that oozes of luxury. 

Scratchy nasty plastics are kept at a minimum, and I struggled to find them on all the major touch points around the cabin. Well done, Peugeot!

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692783468461 408 16

Its semi-bucket seat design feels plush with its fabric-leather mix, and quite supportive for most occupants without feeling like its squeezing their sides.

You can even enable the massage function on both front seats, with various styles like "Cat's Paw" or "Wave" and up to three levels of intensity. On longer journeys, this is definitely helpful in keeping the driver and front occupant refreshed and at ease.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692782652828 408 17

The driver's cockpit is quite a pleasure to be in as well. You get a crisp and responsive 10-inch infotainment screen that's pivoted to your direction, plus a configurable "i-Toggles" lower display for all your favourite settings (the latter only being available to the top-shelf GT variant).

Where user experience is concerned, it's a huge leap from existing Stellantis software, and easily rivals Audi's MMI system that has received very rave reviews here. A further boon is connectivity, with full support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available, plus a Mirror Screen system with voice recognition.

Switchgear for HVAC settings are physical, as is the radio dial, although if you want to adjust the temperatures, it still has to be done through the screen.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692783856830 408 21

Annoyingly though, Peugeot is still putting all their chips in the i-Cockpit concept, which means a small angular steering wheel coupled with an equally small digital gauge cluster that features an admittedly cool 3D effect. It's simply impractical as it means having to adjust the driving position a fair bit just to get a better view of the readings.

On the flip side, the leather-wrapped wheel feels great to operate, and not much effort's needed in negotiating around tight corners. And I walked away impressed by the mounted buttons, which feel much better than some German offerings (except for the driving assist/cruise control buttons, which require some figuring out from a UX standpoint). 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692784157354 408 20

It's just as posh at the back, with wide enough room for three full-size adults to sit in comfortably. In terms of legroom, the 408 is incredibly generous, although the middle passenger will have to contend with a slight floor hump. Headroom is also somewhat compromised due to the sloping roofline, so folks over 1.75 metres will be touching the headliner.

Creature comforts for rear occupants such as AC and USB come as standard, with dual blowers and a pair or USB Type C ports. Front occupants get a single USB Type C connectivity port and a 12V socket, a wireless charging pad, and another Type C charging port inside the cavernous centre console compartment.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692785502022 408 12

Being a fastback, the 408's tailgate opens together with the rear glass, revealing 536 litres of cargo space and even a hidden spare tyre. It's deep and with a large squarish aperture, many bulky items such as golf bags can be stored inside the Peugeot without much issue.

With the 60:40 split rear seats folded all the way down, there's up to 1611 litres of boot space to use. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692786037165 408 13

One issue with all of this, however, is the massive rear bumper. Its overhang is considerable, so if you happen to have items placed in the far end of the boot, your reach will definitely be limited due to it brushing against your knees.

Ready to Pounce in the Lion City

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692786182462 408 3

With a puny 1.2 litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine powering the 1,392 kg mass of glass and steel, it's natural to expect a fairly lethargic drive. But that could not be further away from the truth.

The 408 reaches its peak torque figure of 230 Nm at 1,750 rpm, which makes it incredibly responsive off the line. Overtaking others on the expressway is also effortless, as the Pug pulls away with immediacy that's usually found in higher capacity cars. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692790023909 408 14

But ultimately, the PureTech 130 still a small engine with a maximum output of just 130 bhp. That means it runs out of puff on long stretches of tarmac. Its century sprint timing is reflective of this, clocking a leisurely 11.5 seconds.

Interestingly enough, its Aisin EAT8 gearbox feels much more suited for highway driving. During my time driving the 408, the transmission was buttery smooth as it progressed through all eight cogs along the motorway. 

Only when the car was crawling in traffic jams did the EAT8 show signs of confusion, often bumbling through the lower gears and causing the ride quality to be a tad jerky.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692790547095 408 10

When it comes to driving dynamics, the 408 delivers a quality that keeps pace with established German competitors. It takes on corners like a performance saloon, betraying its high-riding crossover credentials. 

Body roll was not obvious thanks to the stiff (yet liveable) suspension setup, while the cosseting seats ensured that both driver and passenger were not being thrown around inside the cabin. Attacking the bends at high speeds proved to be no problem for the Pug as its Eagle F1 tyres stuck to the tarmac like they were glued onto it.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692791490638 408 9

And along the straights, the 408 delivered a remarkably smooth and silent drive. With foot firmly on the throttle, the engine delivered a nice – if a bit agricultural – note into the cabin, not unlike the BMW 216i Active Tourer. I would even go so far as to say that the 408 felt truly invigorating to drive, a praise that is rarely given to French cars.

All of this comes at a cost, though. The 408 is fairly thirsty when driven hard or with a full load, clocking an average of 11 km/l. This is a far cry from the official claims, ranging between 16.6 to 17.2 km/l, but bear in mind that your mileage may vary and with a much lighter right foot, Peugeot's estimates are still possible.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692792429750 408 19

Safety has always been a forte for French vehicles, and the 408 is no different. It comes with a comprehensive active safety suite regardless of trim level, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist, as well as four ISOFIX mounting points for the rear outer seats. Also standard-issue are six airbags, including front and rear curtain ones.

The Lion Awakens

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1692791907899 408 4

Priced at $99,888 for the Allure spec and $109,888 for this GT spec (both prices without COE), the 408 does not come cheap, and you could even argue that there are more pragmatic choices out there.

But look at it this way. You are getting a very comprehensive equipment list for both on-board comfort and safety, a competent and lively powertrain that's ready to pounce at a moment's notice, and a design that will never look boring even as the years pass by.

Those reasons alone are enough for the Peugeot 408 to deserve your full attention and consideration as your next family car.

Peugeot 408 GT 1.2 Fastback Specifications
Price: $109,888 (without COE)
 CVES Band: C1
Turbocharged Inline-3
PureTech 130
1.2 litres
130 bhp, 230 Nm
EAT8 Eight-Speed Automatic
Driven Wheels:
Front-Wheel Drive
11 km/L (tested)
17.2 km/L (official)
11.5 s
Top Speed:
210 km/h
Fuel Tank Capacity:
52 L
4,635 mm x 1,850 mm x 1,475 mm
2,735 mm
Cargo Capacity:
536 - 1,311 L

Photo Credits: Muhammad Mu'tasim (@mutasimdrives)

Download the Motorist App

The easiest and smartest way to manage your vehicle in Singapore.

Download Now

Read More: mReview: 2022 Peugeot e-2008 - French Quirkiness In Controlled Doses

Download the Motorist App now. Designed by drivers for drivers, this all-in-one app lets you receive the latest traffic updates, gives you access to live traffic cameras, and helps you manage LTA and vehicle matters.

Did you know we have a Motorist Telegram Channel? Created exclusively for drivers and car owners in Singapore, you can get instant info about our latest promotions, articles, tips & hacks, or simply chat with the Motorist Team and fellow drivers.