We've seen the Stellantis Group's 1.6 Plug-in Hybrid powertrain feature on a growing number of models, but none have quite as much panache as this one, the Peugeot 408, which in PHEV form seems to offer an appealing combination style, power and parsimony.
Many so-called industry 'experts' will tell you that Plug-in Hybrid models have quite a limited shelf life, stop-gap solutions until the market is completely swamped by a wave of new EVs. We think the PHEV area will last a lot longer than that. Indeed, with spiralling electricity prices and an increasingly under-funded approach to the necessary expansion of the public charging network, there's a good argument for suggesting that choosing one of the appealing new breed of Plug-in Hybrid models is the way to go right now. Here is arguably the most stylish one you could choose without completely breaking the bank, the PHEV version of Peugeot's 408. It ought to be badged '4008' because it's supposedly some sort of Crossover. It would also avoid the naming conflict with a completely different 408 model the brand sells in other markets. But anyway, the '408' badge is what's been chosen for this design. So what have we got here?
Though it's now been around for a few years, you might still marvel at the technology on offer in this Hybrid 408 variant, which mates an 81kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre PureTech petrol engine that primarily contributes to total outputs of either 180 or 225hp driving through the front wheels. The 12.4kWh battery that powers the motor is supposed to deliver an EAER-rated range of up to 40 miles before the engine cuts in. Compared to the alternative three cylinder PureTech 130 conventional version of this model, you'll feel the weight of the extra battery package if you start trying to throw the car around. But it's a lot lighter than would be the full-electric e-408 model that will probably be offered at some point - you'll need to wait a little for that. Like the humbler 1.2-litre PureTech 130 petrol 408 variant, there's an 8-speed EAT8 auto transmission and if you're quick with its steering wheel paddleshifters, rest to 62mph in the 180hp version takes 8.1s en route to 140mph. There's an extremely nominal performance gain with the alternative 225hp version (which improves those figures to 7.8s and 145mph): and the gain will, in reality feel even less than that because the two powerplants share exactly the same torque figure of 250Nm. Semi-autonomous drive tech is offered via a 'Drive Assist Pack' that allows stop-and-go driving in lane and semi-automatic lane changes with the indicator toggle stalk.
Apart from the badging and the extra charging flap, there aren't any visual giveaways as to this 408's PHEV status. It's certainly a good looking thing. As this model's lengthy seven year gestation period suggests, Design Project Manager Pierre-Paul Mattei and his team had some difficulty in getting the Peugeot board to sign off on the 408 - and it's not difficult to see why. Even Mattei admits that 'giving the car dynamism without hiding its roominess' was problematical. Eventually, the project was probably green-lighted because this car shares so much with the 308 hatch it was developed alongside. Actually though, it's closer in quirky concept (and size) to another unconventional Stellantis Group Gallic model, the Citroen C5 X. The 408, according to its stylists, is a 'reinvention of the mid-sized sedan', with feline fashion touches like the radical front grille, an unusual bulbous rear diffuser and a duck tail spoiler. It's clearly been designed around the unusually styled 20-inch wheels of top variants, so with base 17-inch rims, owners might be disappointed with the finished effect. There be disappointed if they come expecting an equally 'disruptive' sense of style inside too because the dash is lifted entirely from the Peugeot 308. Many though, will see that as unusual enough, with its trademark Peugeot 'i-Cockpit' tiny steering wheel, over which (rather than through which) you view the virtual gauges on the 10-inch Digital Driver's Display. Another 10-inch screen adorns the centre of the fascia, with digital shortcut keys beneath and the brand's latest voice control system. In the rear seat, there's more head and knee room than you get in a 308 - but not much more. And out back in the 408 Hybrid, there's a 471-litre boot extendable to 1,545-litres with the rear bench folded. That's down from the 536-litre and 1,611-litre sizes you'd get with a conventional PureTech 130 version of this model.
Prices start from around £40,000 for the Hybrid version of this 408. That gets you the 180hp version with base 'Allure' trim and represents a substantial premium of around £9,000 over the alternative conventional 1.2-litre PureTech 130 EAT8 automatic petrol model. Progress up to mid-level 'Allure Premium' trim (just under £1,000 more) and you'll be offered the alternative of a faster 225hp version of this PHEV powerplant (at an extra £1,500 over the '180' version). Top 'GT' sporty trim offers this PHEV package with both outputs, at prices ranging up to around £45,000. Standard equipment across the range of course includes the brand's usual 'i-Cockpit' dash layout, which includes a Digital Dial Display and a 10-inch centre infotainment screen with wireless 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and Peugeot's latest voice control system. LED headlights and tail lamps are standard and entry-level models ride on 17-inch wheels, but you'll want to trade up to the unusual 'squared-off design' 20-inch rims of top variants which are aero-styled to contribute to the 0.28Cd drag factor. Key options include thicker side glass, night vision and a 'Drive Assist Pack which offers limited semi-autonomous drive tech and Rear Traffic Alert.
As we told you in our driving section, there's an EAER-rated driving range of up to 40 miles on full-battery power. And the Hybrid powertrain here puts out just 26g/km of CO2 in both its forms. The 180hp version returns a combined cycle fuel return of 214.7-270.3mpg: for the 225hp model, it's 211.3-269.5mpg. Insurance groups are between 28E-31E. From a household plug, the 50kWh battery will be replenished in just over seven hours. You'll find 3.7kW single-phase charging supported as standard, which means recharges will take three hours and 50 minutes. A 7.4kW on-board charger is available as an option and plugged into a wallbox, the battery will take one hour and 50 minutes to be topped up. The Plug-in Hybrid 408 variants offer a thermal pre-conditioning function too. Via the MyPeugeot smartphone app or by using the vehicle's touchscreen, owners can schedule a wake-up time for the battery. This means that the cells can be at the optimal temperature for efficiency from the time you start up, plus of course the interior can also be pre-cooled or pre-heated too.
You've got to be pretty convinced by both the 408 and the Plug-in Hybrid proposition pay for at the kind of money Peugeot is demanding here. But if you are, there's a lot to like. We wouldn't bother paying the extra for the 225hp version. And the 408 only really looks at its best in top 'GT' trim. But hit the sweet spot in the range and you'll have the neighbours looking over the fence. And the EV driving range is sufficient to make petrol station visits a relative rarity. For this kind of outlay of course, you could have a full-EV. Maybe, for instance, a plusher version of Peugeot's own e-308, perhaps in SW estate form to match the 408's versatility. But we think that right here, right now, a 408 Hybrid is a better all-round bet. Try one and you might find you agree.