The all-new 408 combines the best of SUV, saloon and hatchback with petrol, hybrid and EV powertrains.
Peugeot’s 408 model is a completely new model. It adds a fastback design to the compact car range that currently includes the Peugeot 308 SUV and 308 hatchback.
The Chinesemarket 408 small saloon is unrelated to this fastback. It combines an aerodynamic coupe-esque silhouette with plenty of space and excellent driving dynamics in a compact package.
The 408 is on the same EMP2 modular platform that the 308. It measures 4690mm in length and 1480mm high, which is almost 40mm more than the 308. It took seven years to create the final product. The design was considered very radical at the beginning and required convincing from board members.
Pierre-Paul Mattei, design project manager, said that the challenge was to give the car “dynamism while not hiding the fact it’s spacious”.
Mattei explained that a classic fastback, such as the Peugeot 508, starts to drop its top line at the B pillar. But here it is the rear of the rear doors, which makes rear access easier and more spacious.”
The Peugeot’s front grille looks very similar to the current range, but it has been modernized by introducing a vertical body-colour design in which the colour blocks get larger towards the edges.
Mattei stated that the new grille will be used in future to support electrified cars of the next generation.
Mattei said that the interior was designed alongside the 308: “Our job was to balance making the car the 408 with the best parts of the 308”. The interior features Peugeot’s latest iCockpit layout. It includes a digital dial display, a 10.0in infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. There is also extended storage.
From launch, three powertrains will be available: two plug-in hybrids that should match the 308’s electric-only range (around 40 miles), and a turbocharged, 128bhp, three-cylinder petrol. All three powertrains are connected to an automatic transmission. Although a date has not been confirmed, the petrol engine will be replaced by a mild-hybrid unit at the end of 2023. An electric e-408 will then follow.
Peugeot hopes that the 408 will bring new customers to its brand. It is priced between the 308 (which starts at PS33.225) and the 3008 (which starts at PS33.225). Despite being shorter than the 508 saloon, it is still more expensive than the 308.
“Customers could be small hatchback owners who desire more space but the same driving experience,” Aurelie Bresson (408 product manager) said. “Or compact SUV owners looking to have a distinctive car and a more dynamic driving environment. Or larger saloon owners seeking modern lines and a longer car.
They have one thing in common: they are open-minded and don’t buy a car just for its functionality.
No threat for the 508
Peugeot describes the 408 as an SUV that is based on a traditional saloon. However, it insists that the larger 508 can still be used.
Phil York, Peugeot’s marketing chief, said to Autocar that the 508 does a great job for them.
It’s an iconic brand product – high-end products.
“We have the 508 PHEV [performance PHEV], that is an intriguing proposition in the market, and the 508 SW [estate], that fulfills a specific customer requirement too.
“We are very satisfied with 508’s work for us.”
Autocar data shows that Peugeot sold just over 1200 508s last year in the UK, compared to 12,200 3008s. York however suggested that the 508 plays a significant role in the fleet market, and suggested that an “animation in life cycle” (or facelift), will be done soon.
Q&A – Pierre-Paul Mattei. Peugeot 408 Design Project Manager
This project has been going on for seven years. Did you worry that the car would be out of date?
“It was my hope that nobody else would design this car. This is a huge opportunity for us. It’s a great opportunity for us.
The new 308 was created in tandem with the 408. Back to top
“By looking at it this way, I knew which parts would be carried over between the 308-408, especially technology such as front and rear lights. The windshield is exactly in the same place as the 308. The interior was designed for the 408, but the same design could be used for the 308. Because both cars are located in the same segment .”, this was possible.
What was your biggest challenge when designing it?
“To add dynamism to the car’s unusual proportions. We knew that a classic saloon design would not work. One designer tried it with the 508 silhouette at its rear and was quickly disappointed. We needed to create a new design language that would give the car dynamism and not hide its spaciousness inside em>
The rear bumper is different from other Peugeots. Why?
“This rear bumper was required. It makes the car appear narrower than it really is. It is actually quite large. This bumper inverted creates dynamism by removing the body color. This bumper is disruptive.