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The 408 turns out to be a tempting concept that drives more engagingly than most crossovers

Good stuff

Space, quietness, striking design – it all adds up to something nicely different

Bad stuff

Hybrid not the smoothest or most economical, could be hard to explain the car to people

Overview

What is it?

It’s a good question really – and no one is entirely sure. It’s a sort of hatchback meets coupe meets crossover SUV. Have we reached peak crossover and we’re sliding down the other side of a baffling graph? Who knows, but we applaud Peugeot for at least offering something different. 

It's priced between the 308 estate and 3008 crossover, but pitched somewhere between the 308 and 508. There aren't hordes of direct rivals, but the Citroen C5 X, with which it shares a platform and powertrains, is the obvious one. Otherwise take your pick from any of the many coupefied crossovers out there, including the likes of the BMW X2, Citroen C4 and Renault Arkana.

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What are the engine options? 

There’s a 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol version and two flavours of hybrid set-up featuring a 108bhp e-motor and different outputs from the 1.6-litre petrol unit for a total of 178bhp or 222bhp. The 12.4kWh battery offers you 40 miles of electric range, which in real world driving is around two-thirds of that. All cars get an eight-speed auto transmission and front-wheel drive. An all-electric version is on its way.

It's quite the looker, isn’t it?

Well we think it is. There’s barely a flat surface anywhere on the car, and it provides a chic antidote to some of the samier output from other carmakers in recent years. The 408, to most eyes, carries things off with a bit of panache.

Inside, the dash is like the 308's, itself a pretty angular assembly of screens and switches. As usual for a Peugeot the driver's screen is above the steering wheel rim, almost like a head-up display. The centre touchscreen has its own additional mini touch bar where you can configure your own shortcuts. Trim is reasonably plush, too.

It feels more spacious than a 508 inside, too. It’s decent up front, rear legroom is impressive, and head space is just about OK for the outer two. But only two, really. But when did you last see a car with all five seatbelts in use? More on all this in the Interior section of this review.

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Any good out on the road?

The Peugeot PHEV system isn't the best integrated. It occasionally drops the ball, hesitating between petrol and electric power if you come on and off the throttle suddenly. But the engine cuts in and out quietly, so you don't realise how big a proportion of a journey might be made with it switched off.

Anyway, the hybrid and battery system adds 300kg so the performance boost over the little pure petrol engine isn't that great, and the electric set-up isn’t a fan of slow corners or accelerating too hard.

The hybrid’s handling is more than acceptable though, once you've tuned the way you drive. The steering is sharp but the suspension rolls a bit. Use smaller, more gradual inputs and it's actually quite engaging and fluent. The petrol car has a slightly different character to it – it feels more agile with less weight onboard, it’s more fun to drive down a country road than you’d expect.

Is it expensive?

Prices start at £31,075 for the 1.2-litre petrol engine in entry-level trim, with a sizeable jump to £39,900 for the hybrid, which we reckon is really only justifiable if you’re getting one as a company car, or at least think that you’ll be using it predominantly in electric mode and have home charging capabilities. Head over to the Buying tab for the full lowdown.

What's the verdict?

How much do you want something that isn't the something you had before, nor the somethings that fill the middle lane?

In aiming to touch so many bases, Peugeot was in danger of smashing none. But the 408 turns out to be a tempting concept. The rear space is a good step up from the slightly cramped 308 hatch, and the boot has a lot of floor area.

It drives more engagingly than most crossovers, especially in petrol form, but the PHEV version struggles to justify itself unless it's a company car tax play. Or unless your regular radius from a home charger is little more than 10 miles (in which case do you really need a new car?).

In the end, it's down to looks and image. How much do you want something that isn't the something you had before, nor the somethings that fill the middle lane? And if so, how much do you want something that looks like this? As a rule we admire brave design, and at the very least this qualifies for your shortlist.

The Rivals

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