The new Peugeot 408 is not quite an SUV but its spaciousness combined with quality and style will surely make it another big hit in rural Ireland
For many decades Peugeot has been a firm favourite among the farming community. The 405 was introduced in the 1980s and quickly became many farm families’ main transport, while 205 and 305 vans were all the rage too.
In both cases the superb build quality and the plucky diesel engines made them perfect for the farming family and rural motoring.
Since these landmark cars the French brand has become less prevalent on the byways of Ireland. For some reason the 06/07s never sold in the same numbers to rural dwellers as the previous models.
Now with the arrival of the 08 designation, there has been a serious upward trend in Peugeot’s sales figures and it is easy to see why, as the quality has returned in spades, and it is backed up by some nice design ideas that make them stand out from the crowd.
The 408 doesn’t really fit comfortably in either the ‘SUV’ or the ‘car’ camp, which makes it hard to compare to any other car on the market. It is somewhere between the 3008 and the seven-seater 5008 on the SUV side, and between the 308 and the 508 on the car side.
Sitting into the “coupé-roofed semi-crossover fastback”, there are clear similarities with its smaller and bigger siblings. This is not a bad thing with the small flat-topped steering wheel allowing perfect vision of the 10in “i-cockpit display” which can be tailored to your liking with as little or as much info as you want.
Entertainment is supplied via a second 10in display with full wireless android auto and Apple car-play connectivity as standard.
The seats are comfy on a long run and hug you sufficiently on the twisty stuff.
The test car had the plucky 1.2 litre 3-cylinder producing 130bhp, delivered through a very smooth 8-speed auto box.
There are two hybrid versions also available with a 1.6L petrol paired with a 81kw electric motor giving either 180 or 225 bhp depending on tuning.
The standout part of the 408 is the space for both rear passengers and cargo. Sitting in the back you feel you are in a far bigger vehicle. Leg room is astonishing but head room for my 6ft 3in frame is only ample.
The boot is a sizeable 536 litres in the pure petrol version and a still good-sized 471L in the hybrid due to the battery position. This rises to 1,611L and 1,545L respectively with the rear seats folded out of the way.
On the economy front the claimed numbers are between 5.9 and 6.9 l/100km, and this matches up fairly well to the real-world number of 6.4 l/100km over 800km of mixed driving.
On the styling front, the chiselled and angular facades, and the new Peugeot grill and badge on the front twinned with the fang-style lights make the 408 very recognisable.
Of any of the cars I have driven over the years, I have rarely got as many looks and comments from people on the street. I struck up conversation with a few admiring passers-by and most couldn’t believe it was a Peugeot.
A couple of times people said, “it’s not a farmer’s car like the 405 was”!
My answer to this was that farms and farm families have changed since the 1980s, so maybe a non-conforming but still massively practical fastback can be a farmer’s car in the 2020s.
The model tested was the 1.2 puretech in Allure Pack specification, which has more than enough tech and creature comforts for most people.
There is a slightly lower spec called Allure and the top GT spec gives all the bells and whistles, including the option of night vision, which may come in handy to find errant livestock.
Prices range from just under €40k up to €52.5k for the GT with the higher powered hybrid option. The car as tested was €41,995.