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New: The Renault Rafale against the Peugeot 408

Bearer of Renault’s strong ambitions, the unprecedented Rafale seems – on paper – already well equipped to face its (many) future rivals in the SUV coupe category. But it’s the Peugeot 408, a somewhat different model, that we decided to confront it with first. Here’s why…


By unveiling its latest flagship a few weeks ago(1), Renault sent a strong signal. The manufacturer is taking a step forward in terms of design, and is also aiming for a certain move upmarket. It’s clear, a new wind is blowing at the Losange, and it is symbolized by the Rafale, a new model. It is a coupe SUV, designed on the technical basis of the recent Austral and Espace, but which stands out with new aesthetic codes. And when we discovered it, we couldn’t help but think of the Peugeot 408… Coincidentally, or not, both were officially launched in June, one year (and four days) apart. Both sporting, moreover, on this occasion, a beautiful blue livery… Let’s not go overboard, the similarities between Rafale and 408 did not escape anyone. And for good reason, both have the same “father”: the Rafale is the first production Renault model entirely designed under the direction of Gilles Vidal, head of the brand’s design since the end of 2020, and defector from Peugeot. However, there is no question of talking about copying between the two models, far beyond that: if the “signature” of the French designer is present, the differences are numerous when we look at the details, starting with the positioning.

Launch: spring 2024

L x W x H (in m): 4.71 x 1.86 x 1.61

Hybride simple : 200 ch

Plug-in hybrid: 300 hp (autumn 2024)

Price: from €45,000 *

* Estimation car plus.

Launch: already marketed

L x W x H (in m): 4.69 x 1.86 x 1.48

Petrol engine: 130 hp

Plug-in hybrids: 180 and 225 hp

Price: from €37,350

Opposite horizons

Peugeot has decided to cover its tracks by refusing to put its new model in a box. In any case, not that of coupe SUVs, nor that of classic sedans, evoking only “a new species” with the fastback silhouette. A positioning between two genres, of which its name (408 and not 4008) is also revealing. The Rafale, on the other hand, clearly assumes its ambition as a rather high-end coupé SUV (BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupé type). Its size (4.71 m long, 1.86 m wide and 1.61 m high) is also consistent. If the 408 displays similar dimensions in length (4.69 m) and identical in width (1.86 m), it asserts its singularity by its low height (1.48 m), clearly not identifiable with that of an SUV , but more willingly to a “cross-coupe”. This is where the biggest difference between the two models lies. For the rest, both opted for a slender silhouette with a plunging roof line. Their profile differs all the same by the more horizontal hood of the Rafale and the prominent shield of the 408. On the other hand, the similarities appear in the treatment of the lines, very worked, tense in places, curved in others. But it is at the front that the resemblance is the most disturbing, with a grille unlike any other in the Renault range, and with the false air of Sochaux productions… It nevertheless asserts its identity by adorning itself with small diamonds and being framed by new in-house daytime running lights (inaugurated by the restyled Clio). First, we find the universes to which each belongs. For the Rafale, that of the Austral, embellished with a unique graphic design of the counters. For the 408, that of the 308, which is still “throwing up”, but which will soon be surpassed by a new generation of the i-cockpit, inaugurated in the future 3008… Concerning the habitability, both benefit from a nice wheelbase (2.74 m for the Renault and 2.79 m for the Peugeot), allowing generous rear legroom and good headroom. But the central place has been sacrificed in favor of a “high-tech” armrest in the Rafale, and it is hampered by the central console in the 408.

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From a more technical point of view, the options diverge. When it is launched in the spring of 2024, the coupe SUV will only be available in a 200 hp E-tech full hybrid version. In the fall, it will be enriched with a rechargeable hybrid of 300 hp, four-wheel drive (with an electric motor on the rear axle). As for the cross-coupé, already on the market, it is offered with the PureTech petrol unit of 130 hp and two plug-in hybrids of 180 and 225 hp. Designed on the basis of the 308, it will soon be able to benefit from a 100% electric version. Finally, if our tests of the 408 proved that its dynamic behavior was consistent with its sporty look, Renault does not intend to be outdone with the Rafale. In order to provide real driving pleasure, it will be able to have 4Control Advanced four-wheel steering, specific settings for springs, shock absorbers and anti-roll bar, a more direct gear ratio of the steering… Finally, beyond their apparent resemblance, their respective qualities, and their prices which should be €45,450 for the 408 (in plug-in hybrid) -, both should stand out in terms of “vocation”. That of a real coupé SUV for the Rafale, and that of a more atypical and exclusive model for the 408…

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