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Peugeot 408 engines, drive and performance

2023 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 3.8 out of 53.8

Written by Tom Wiltshire Published: 3 November 2023 Updated: 3 November 2023

  • Choice of three powertrains
  • One pure petrol or two plug-in hybrid
  • No high-performance or 4WD model, yet

Petrol engines

At the entry level, you can specify your Peugeot 408 with a 130hp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol. We’re very familiar with this engine, as it’s used in everything from the dinky 208 hatchback right up to the seven-seat 5008 SUV – and in all applications, it punches above its capacity.

It’s not fast in the reasonably large and heavy 408, but it does provide more than acceptable pace for keeping up with traffic, merging onto a faster road or overtaking on a country lane. It does require working hard, though, and the eight-speed automatic will drop three or sometimes even four ratios in a bid to keep you in the narrow sweet spot.

It’s also fairly noisy when revved, but that is not really an issue when it comes to taking on the 408’s best aspect – undertaking long journeys in the most relaxing manner possible.

Plug-in hybrid engines

There’s a choice of two plug-in hybrid powertrains available for the 408, both badged HYbrid followed by their power output. They’re both based around the same 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor, but with either 180hp or 225hp. The 180hp unit is available across all three trim levels, while the more powerful 225hp is reserved for the top-spec GT car.

While this hybrid powertrain’s been used across many products from Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall already, its application in the 408 feels the best so far. The 180hp version blends petrol and electric power very smoothly indeed, with an almost imperceptible shift between them most of the time. Acceleration is punchy, throttle response is good, with little in the way of lag, and overtaking is effortless.

Running on electric power it’s of course totally silent, and it can do that for around 20-30 miles against a WLTP claim of 40. When it cuts in after running in EV mode, the 1.6-litre engine’s very quiet, which is surprising considering in previous applications it’s been quite raucous. We’ll put that down to very effective soundproofing. It still has that slightly tinny sound that mars these cars, but thanks to low noise levels, it’s not intrusive or too off-putting.

The 225hp unit is commendably swift, and more of the same, though we reckon it’s not worth the extra over the 180hp. There’s also a good chance the future might bring the more powerful 360hp, four-wheel drive PHEV powertrain and some Peugeot Sport Engineered branding. Watch this space…

Peugeot 408 side dynamic
The quickest Peugeot 408 is the PHEV version with 225hp, although we fully expect a 360hp variant to follow in due course.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Typically direct and pleasant Peugeot steering
  • Comfortable ride
  • Not a sports SUV, but better for it

The 408 has direct steering, which feels even more pointy thanks to the trademark tiny steering wheel that’s mounted low and in your lap. It’s well-judged in its weighting, being light and easy at town speeds but firming up reassuringly as you go faster.

It does feel a little bit of an odd match to the car’s suspension, though, which is pliant and well-damped, but not exactly sporting. It’s not as soft as our 2023 Best Large Family Car, the Citroen C5 X, yet it’s more comfortable than more traditional rivals such as the Renault Arkana or Cupra Formentor, striking a brilliant balance between a compliant ride and agile handling. Even on large, 20-inch alloy wheels, the 408 never crashes or judders even on the UK’s pockmarked roads.

There’s some body movement and roll in the corners, but the really refined ride and low noise levels make this an uncommonly good long-distance tourer. But more than that, the body control is excellent when you get on twistier roads, which means this is a family car you can enjoy driving. That little bit of extra ground clearance over an equivalent hatchback allows it to take speed bumps in its stride too, so it’s good for the urban grind.