Peugeot 408 GT First Impressions: Civic (Or Even C-Class) Who?

Even just 4.08 minutes in the new Peugeot 408 should be enough for anyone to think twice about buying a Civic, or even a C-Class for that matter…

It would perhaps be fair to say that Peugeot has had a rather interesting past couple of years in Malaysia, with some tremendous highs at the beginning of the prior decade unfortunately followed by a sustained period of treading water, as it ping-ponged from one local guardian to another in the last few years. 

Fortunately however, the recent news of parent conglomerate Stellantis taking control of its local presence seems to have lit a spark under the French lion’s arse once more. And among the first true sign of this newly-reinvigorated Peugeot in Malaysia has come in the form of this soon-to-launch 408. 

A slightly jacked-up fastback crossover type thing, Peugeot is currently eyeing for this new model to spearhead of its second renaissance over here, and once again seduce prospective buyers away from the likes of Honda’s evergreen Civic into its fanciful French folds. So of course, the obvious question to ask here then is whether this big lion actually stands a chance at all in doing exactly that?

Well, in spite of only having this particular pre-production example all for about 4 hours, it nevertheless was already more than enough to confirm that the 408 not only easily outshines the conventional Asian C-segment competition, but BMW and Mercedes should also be somewhat afraid of this particular roaring lion too. Such is because this Peugeot is really just that good a car, to the point that if the current guesstimated price is on point, it would actually make one wonder if Peugeot is actually making money from it or not. 


Let’s kick off the examination of this Peugeot’s many fine qualities with its exterior, which for the lack of a better word is just plain sexy. 

Featuring a set of aggressive LED headlights flanking a front grille that looks as if a lion has clawed at it, this particular Peugeot does indeed have a face that is sharp enough to cut glass. Things also only just continue to get better further down the flank of this 408, with the crispest of creases that bounces the light in different directions across the lower half of this rather large (and vibrantly blue) fastback being contrasted by its svelte and swoopy roofline ending at a subtle rear rump spoiler. 

This flagship GT spec tested here brings with it some ultra cool-looking (albeit likely ultra expensive to replace) massive 20-inch rollers as well, which fully commits to this French fastback’s jacked-up stance and further accentuates the 408’s imposing stature on the road. A stature, which in combination with its aggressive face, was incidentally oh so handy to part traffic with, though more on that later…

And just finishing things off at its rump meanwhile, its rear three quarter is perhaps the best angle of this 408. From the wingtips on its roof spoiler to its chiseled rump featuring a tri-claw LED light signature, there were more than a few comments for this particular view on this Peugeot to look more than a bit like a sleeker Lamborghini Urus, which is no bad thing in anyone’s books! 


Now moving along inside, the 408’s rather angular interior design brings with it the same Parisian chic to match sharply styled exterior aesthetic. Though perhaps more impressive than how this cabin looks is to be the quality of the materials that has been used to line it, which is not just a step above what is currently offered in its traditional Asian C-segment competitors, but may even be a tad higher-end than what one might possibly find in the more expensive German alternatives. (Looking at you, Mercedes-Benz.)

Moreover, this Peugeot lands yet another punch on its rivals by delivering some properly cool tech that will dazzle even the most sensible of buyers as well. The most immediately interesting/gimmicky of these has to be its holographic 3D-effect that adds depth to the twin dials in its digital instrument cluster, while the surprisingly more useful novelty is incidentally its user-configurable i-toggle row of “buttons” on the screen that is found right below its crisp central display on this GT spec. 

Befitting of its premium status too, Peugeot has even incorporated a massaging feature for both its reasonably comfortable fronts seat of this GT variant, with no less than 8 different styles to choose from. It is a shame though that there no ventilation function for said thrones, which would have been nice in the hot and humid Malaysia. 

Being French, there is undoubtedly still some typically French ergonomic weirdness to contend with as well. The glovebox for instance is pathetically small, its bonnet release meanwhile is resolutely on the left, and the audio controls on the steering wheel are weird: track change is a up-down toggle switch, while volume controls are through buttons. 

And while on the topic of the steering wheel, Peugeot is still electing to stick with its tiny two spoke version on the 408. This in turn does bring about the unintended consequence of when set to a normal position that is, its surprisingly thick rim basically runs rights across the somewhat slim digital instrument cluster. 

Handily however, the wheel is so small that it doesn’t chafe one’s knees when set lower to an almost arcade game driving position to clear the cluster. And rather surprisingly enough, while this may seem uncomfortable at first, the opposite in fact was the eventual response from the few people who got to drive this 408 for a while. 

Now while small the wheel may be too, what is decidedly not so though is simply the amount of space within this (admittedly large for its segment) Peugeot. There is to be more than enough of it up front for even the most generously proportioned of drivers, with there also being plenty of cubby space in the centre console for anyone’s odds and ends, but truly, the space behind is to be the 408’s trump card in this department. 

Rear leg room in particular within this 408 is positively palatial, with even the longest-legged able to stretch out behind an equally lanky driver. And while headroom is at a premium with that sloping roof line (even if there is a scollop in it to give that little bit more space within), its large rear windows and low belt line does still at least offer a great view out and an added perception of greater space within, in spite of those chunky front seats obstructing most of the view to the front.  

Oh, and of course with its large size comes an expectedly large boot in this 408, with its liftback adding even more practicality to the proceedings by offering a capacious truck opening. 

On The Road 

Now as for things at the other end of the car on the other hand, the most apt word to describe this 408’s 1.6-litre turbocharged purely-petrol four-cylinder is probably eager. That snail under the hood does after all feel like it is almost straining in anticipation to excitedly spool up every time the throttle is more than just tickled, with it then providing more than enough get up and go to satisfy anyone wanting to do so with this large Peugeot. 

And once it does go, this 408 has the impressive ability of masking how much it can do so too. Thanks to an expectedly continental level of NVH isolation in this Peugeot, there is to be minimal road and wind noise disrupting proceedings up to speeds well above the speed limit. The engine rumble is muted enough too on the cruise to let those fantastic Focal speakers (exclusive on the GT trim) shine, with it providing more-than-decent clarity and bass right out the box. 

Peugeot has also done a more-than-decent job as well with the suspension tuning on this 408, which sees this high-riding fastback to somehow still feel sturdy and stable enough (and dare it be said Germanic enough) to see high triple-digit speeds on the highway feel like double-digits instead. Though even more amazingly still, unlike its Germanic counterparts, this large French luxobarge manages to mercifully continue to offer the expectedly French levels of comfortable damping, which masterfully insulate one’s arse from the worst of the rougher roads around PJ.    

Even then however, this 408’s dual-ability in offering a cushy yet stable ride is to only be the second most impressive aspect of its ride and handling, as the top honour instead goes to how good this car goes around corners. Front wheel drive only it may be, but its chassis is so well sorted that those stock 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres on this GT spec just grips and grips… and then grips some more still, irrespective of how hard the mad person behind the wheel hoons it around the bends.   

The 408’s steering feel further encourages the hooning too by being sufficiently well-weighted and direct to the point that it shrinks this rather large fastback into something much smaller than it is to drive. And while on the point of shrinking, the steering also becomes just that little bit lighter at lower speeds to further complement its amazingly tiny turning circle in making this C-segment car no harder to drive than a tiny hatchback in the city. 

As for its brakes meanwhile, it to be is best summed up as progressive in its feel: smooth when on little pressure is applied for gentler stops, with there still being some real meat when more pressure is applied to really bring this large sedan to a prompt halt.  

What unfortunately is not so progressive however is to be its 8-speed automatic transmission, which has a tendency to be somewhat hesitant when actually on the job of changing gears, especially when giving it some. Now if being kind, this could be construed as perhaps replicating the harsher shift action of a dual-clutch transmission for that sporty feel; but if being frank, it just feels like it is holding onto the clutch (which it doesn’t actually have) for a tad too long between each change. 

Another slight niggle too that somewhat spoils the overall driving experience in this Peugeot is for the Lane Keep Assist to be on by default, and has to be switched off in the menu every time the car restarts. And while this is more of an EU ruling than the car’s fault, it would have been nice to have a physical button to just press to turn it off, rather than to dig through a menu on the infotainment screen every time before setting off. 


Now in summarising this Peugeot, it may not actually be hyperbole to say that this 408 should easily be top (or bee at least somewhat high) on the cross-shopping list of anyone considering anything from a Civic to a C-Class. As the rather lengthy review above detailed after all, it is really just that good, with it ticking all the boxes of style, space and substance to be worthy of that honour. 

And just before anyone thinks too that this Peugeot is a car to buy with one’s heart rather than head, it should be highlighted that the resale values of this latest crop of Peugeots (and its 3008 in particular) is actually doing no worse than the equivalent Mazdas… 

So it really all comes down to how well Stellantis can make good on their renewed promise to revitalise notoriously spotty Peugeot aftersales service then. The product is already fantastic, and all it really needs is equally good customer support for this large lion to be roaming Malaysia in equally large prides. 

Odds & Ends

  • There are to be two turn signal icons on the instrument cluster: one in the digital screen and another on the binnacle as a light itself. 
  • The sunroof button was somehow accidentally pushed in while trying to operate it with an admittedly sharper than usual jab. But this slight issue may be put it down to the fact that this is test car is a pre-production example, rather than the usual French build quality. 

  • While the 3D effect gauge cluster was cool at the beginning, it did strain this glasses-wearing writer’s eye in the long run. Fortunately, there is the option to turn this holographic effect off and be left with just a conventional view of the dials.
  • Maybe it is just this writer’s skinny frame, but there is the slight nitpick also for the side bolsters of this 408’s front seats being ever-so-slightly too pronounced, to the point that it felt as if one’s shoulders pushed forward to almost encourage the holding of the steering wheel, which is good for the driver, but not so good as a passenger. 
  • One other rather interesting anecdote from my short time with it was while cruising on a stretch of PJ highway late at night, everyone on the fast lane just moved right away to the middle lane when the 408 (which wasn’t even going above the stated speed limit) wafted behind. Thank that lion face I suppose, which scared everyone off…

Peugeot 408 GT Technical Specifications

Engine: Turbo PureTech 4-cylinder

Capacity: 1,598 cc

Gearbox: 8-speed A/T

Max Power: 218 hp @ 5,500 rpm

Max Torque: 300 Nm @ 2,000 rpm

Price: RM 179,900 (estimated)

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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