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Long-term review

Peugeot 408 - long-term review

£34,825 / as tested £36,625 / PCM £458
Published: 11 Jan 2024
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    PEUGEOT 408 GT 1.2 Puretech

  • ENGINE

    1199cc

  • BHP

    128.7bhp

Argh! The Peugeot 408's stop-start procedure is infuriating

Thump, snatch, drive, stop, whirr, go. I've grumbled before about the messy operation of this engine and automatic combo, fitted to dozens of cars across the Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall ranges. In a city, which is where most of my trips begin or end, it drives me mildly bananas.

Coming to a halt, the transmission keeps pulling the car forward too vigorously for too long. So you're pressing the brake pretty hard. Then the start-stop brain cuts the engine. At which point there's no forward drive and the car stands on its nose. So the temptation is to ease the brake pedal. But that only causes the engine to re-start, repeating the cycle and shoving you uncomfortably close to the stationary car in front. It's really hard to come to a smooth stop. Other autos manage it far better.

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My ideal is to sit at red lights with the park brake on. This means if you do get shoved up the chuff, you won't be relying on your foot on the pedal to stop you getting sent like a snooker ball into the car in front of you. Assuming the car behind does safely stop, I then lift my foot off the brake so I'm not dazzling them with my chmsl. (You can look up that silly bit of car-design jargon for yourself.)

In most automatics, when the light goes green you touch the accelerator, the engine re-starts, the park brake releases, and off you go. Not in a Peugeot. The engine has already started when you released the brake pedal a while back. Then it sits there juddering against the torque converter until you touch the accelerator and the park brake releases.

Ah well, I have now painstakingly developed a routine for smoothly coming to, and departing from rest. Slowing for a red light, at about 5mph I nudge the transmission into N. This allows the engine to stop without jerking the car, and gives my brake foot the ability to grease the car to a gentle stop. Then I pull the park brake switch, and then to remind myself the thing's in neutral rest my finger back on the drive selector. When the light goes green I select D and touch the accelerator, the park brake releases and off we go.

Which is a ridiculous faff. Also I can't use it when I'm the front car at the lights because nudging it into D and starting the engine takes enough time that the London delivery-van driver behind me will be leaning on the horn.

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Fortunately for the sanity of future 408 buyers, at least the ones who don't do hundreds of motorway miles a day, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The E-408. I recently drove that powertrain in an E-308 SW (estate), which is pretty much the same car but with less legroom in the back and more boxiness in the boot. Unfortunately its battery is heavier than a small petrol engine and transmission, and you do feel that. It's less limber than Top Gear's 408 through tight corner sequences and the steering is more muffled. But those things are marginal. It's effectively just as quick, and it's transformatively more civilised in low-speed and no-speed running.

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