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Peugeot 408 1.2 Fastback GT is a practical drive with interesting quirks

Peugeot 408 1.2 Fastback GT is a practical drive with interesting quirks
PHOTO: CarBuyer

You'd probably already know that SUVs have long overtaken sedans and even hatchbacks as the vehicle of choice among car buyers. While there are still a fair share of C-Segment sedan offerings today, there are some brands who have stopped selling them altogether; or have pivoted with interesting results. A good example would be Toyota, who have split their Corolla model range into a sedan and an SUV.

For Peugeot on the other hand, the 408 for Singapore is now offered as a crossover. As we all know, the term "crossover" is very loosely used. So in Peugeot's case, where it differs in form factor from its slightly smaller lifted hatchback Citroen C4 cousin, the 408 is endowed with fastback DNA. 

Like the rest of the current range, the 408's pen-strokes include extroverted sharp-angular lines, and creases. At the front, "slahsed" daytime running lights, telling that this is the lion who killed Mufasa.

I like that despite going fancy, Peugeot has kept the 408 as practical as it should be. This is telling from their almost-straight roofline, which stretches till almost past where the rear seats are located.

However, at the rear, where the C-pillar meets the lifted beltline, I do feel that there is too much going on there for my liking. The signature three-lens tail lights also have been re-interpreted, and are now kick-up in the opposite direction.

So, the example you see here, is the range-topping GT Line model. Therefore it gets additional kit, both on the inside and outside. One of these upgrades from the standard car, would be those massive 20-inch asymmetrical alloys, which are not at all my cup of tea. Just to let more of the world know that you are driving a Peugeot, the front doors also are marked with the brand's shiny-new lion-crest badge.

On the inside, there is that carry-over of its external swooping angular design theme, where the dashboard seems to come right out of the (near) future. For the driver, there is a 3-dimensional instrument panel, which is a little similar to the one in the 2008. The way it works, is that it projects some of your driving data onto the panel, while the rest of your information is presented through a conventional screen. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Peugeot has also done away with that quirky "banana-shaped" gear shift lever, which you can still find in the 3008, 5008 and 508 cars. In its place, there is a neat "switch" assembly, which we first saw in the 2008.

Themed like the instrument panel, the 10-inch i-Cockpit infotainment interface has been extensively revised. Not only does it boast improved graphics, it also is significantly less laggy than previous iterations. While there is a slight learning curve to using the infotainment's interface, I still find it easy enough to navigate.  It supports both Apple and Android devices, and to keep your stuff juiced-up, there is also a wireless mobile charging pad at your disposal.

As this is the GT Line car, there is a new, fully customisable i-toggle panel, located below the infotainment touchscreen. While this is not a must-have, it does make accessing certain crucial features… like the (GT-Line only) massage function, much easier.

The lower-spec 'Allure' trim car though, makes do with a physical air-conditioning control panel (which you can see above).

While the 408's dashboard has got plenty going for it, a few improvements can definitely be made. This might not apply to most drivers, but for some (like me), once you have found your correct driving position, you might find that the top of that odd-shaped steering wheel literally blocks the instrument panel (dat mins horr… I actually cannot see how fast I am going).

Another other common issue across the board of Peugeot, Citroen and Opel (the PSA family side of) vehicles, is the simulated 180-degree top-down reversing camera. It is notoriously inaccurate, and switches views at that last crucial moment when you are backing towards an object.

Niggles aside, the 408 accommodates four in very good comfort. Rear passengers are treated to what I feel is better-than-average legroom, while space for your shoulders and head are decent too. Its 536-litre boot, has its floor sitting a little below the sill, though it offers a squared loading area, devoid of odd-shaped corners.

For contrast, the Toyota Corolla's cargo hold measurement stands at 470 litres, the Mazda 3 at 444-litres, while the Skoda Octavia trumps everything mentioned here, boasting a whopping 600-litres.

The 408's cargo area can be extended to 1,611 litres by dropping the rear seats. But while you have the advantage of a huge aperture for easier loading of your stuff. Unfortunately, the rear seats do not go flat, leaving a kerb in the way of longer objects.

With the discontinuation of the 508 being sold here, in part as result super high Category B COEs, the only petrol engine left in the passenger car range is the familiar 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. It puts out the same 130hp and 230Nm, and is also paired to their familiar 8-speed automatic transmission.

While its 100km/h sprint timing of 11.5 seconds is nothing worth shouting about, the 408 does hold its own, by being a very comfortable cruiser. While gear changes are acceptably smooth, I find that the engine does develop that familiar three-cyl rasp, once you go hard on the accelerator.

At 1,392kg, the 408 a heavier car than the similar-sized and classed Skoda Octavia. Also, since the Peugeot does not come equipped with a fuel-economising 48V MHEV system, the Skoda's fuel efficiency is naturally better. Just to put some contrast to this, the official (combined) fuel numbers between the two are at a respective - 5.8l/100km versus 4.3l/100km.

That said, in the bigger scheme of things, the Peugeot's fuel efficiency is still pretty decent. I averaged 5.9l/100km, which is almost identical to its official stated figure.

Behind the wheel, you'd quickly notice that there is a good amount of noise-reducing padding within the cabin. That rear-end though, lets in a little more rumble than I would like. However, the intrusion is minor, and most would hardly complain.

To no surprise, the 408's suspension seems largely tuned for comfort. However, the C-segment car surprisingly holds its own, obliging you when you choose to have a dab of spirited driving. That soft rear-end is still able to hunker down, and take in most of what the road throws at it. Despite the slightly numb steering, it is clear that the people at Peugeot have definitely found that sweet spot between competent handling and comfort here.

But I have to admit, that what makes piloting the GT Line car even more enjoyable, would be the extremely supportive front seats, coupled with that 8-pocket air massage system. In traffic jams, I am a more relaxed creature.

Unfortunately, the new Pug arrives at a time when COE prices are hovering at an all-time high. At the time of writing, the GT fastback/crossover retails at an eye-watering $209,387, while the Allure trim variant at $199,387, would still give you a searing pain up the wazoo. This is especially considering that Peugeot is still very much a bread-and-butter brand.

But allow me to "wet blanket" this a little more. The Audi A3 sedan, which is for comparison, a premium class C-Segment car, begins at $188,809 (less than the Allure trim variant).

2023 Peugeot 408 1.2 Fastback GT

Engine 1,199cc, inline three, turbocharged
Power 129hp at 5500rpm
Torque 230Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 11.5 seconds
Top Speed 210km/h
VES Banding C1 / S$15,000
Fuel Efficiency 5.8L/100km
Agent AutoFrance
Price S$209,387 with COE
Availability Now
Verdict: Well-sorted handling and very well equipped, the Peugeot 408 GT is practical and comfortable… And also a bag of interesting quirks. Pity the price.

ALSO READ: Rolls-Royce ushers in a new era of mobility with launch of all-electric Spectre

This article was first published in CarBuyer.

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