Peugeot 508 Review
Sales of saloon cars have been falling, so what’s Peugeot doing launching an all-new 508? Surely it can’t compete with the kudos of German competitors? We flew to Monaco to find out at the 508’s international press test drive.
- Good looking
- Stylish interior
- Fun drive
- Rear knee space
- Rear headroom
Peugeot’s only saloon is the 508, and the new version is being launched into a segment that has been dwindling for a while. So why bother then? Well, the manufacturer feels its executive model still has a role to play in the automotive arena. The new 508 isn’t making a quiet entrance though – it’s been given a ‘louder’ look and, technically, the car is not a proper saloon anymore. It now has a five-door coupe-like body, making it one of the most attractive vehicles the French company has made for a long time. But can the 508 compete with the likes of Audi, VW and BMW? We took it for a drive in and around Monaco to find out.
On the Road
There are several engine choices available on the new 508, comprising three diesels: a 1.5-litre 130PS, and a pair of 2.0-litres with either 160PS or 180PS. There’s a couple of petrols, too, both with 1.6-litre units offering 180PS or 225PS. A plug-in hybrid will join the line-up in 2019. In Monaco, we were handed the keys to the 508 GT Line BlueHDi 160. It was a rational step for us to focus on this engine because Peugeot reckons, despite it being a diesel, it’ll be one of the most popular-selling 508s in the UK. This 2.0-litre model has, as the figure in its designation suggests, 160 horses under the bonnet. Zero to 62mph is achieved in 8.4 seconds, and the top speed is 143mph. What’s more, most 508s are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission, as this one is. Only the cheapest 1.5-litre diesel houses a six-speed manual gearbox.
Aside from a twitchy ride around the narrow streets of Monaco, we found the new Peugeot 508 to be an athletic alternative to its German opponents. Once out of the congested sovereign city-state and on the motorway heading to Nice, our diesel test car was hushed, fast and planted. The unity of the 2.0-litre engine and slick-changing automatic ‘box makes for a dynamic, comfortable and confidence-inciting ride. The suspension is not excessively soft like the former model’s was, but it doesn’t jar you either. When we swung off the motorway onto twisty coastal roads, the 508 did a great job of ironing out road imperfections.
You can select from Active, Allure, GT Line, GT and First Edition trims, and all come with a good spec list. That said, it’s easy to see why most consumers will side-step the base-level Active cars and go for the even better kitted-out GT Line, as tested here. Active models come with an eight-inch sat-nav screen and are fitted with fabric seats. Allure models onwards add a 10-inch infotainment display, ambient lighting and semi-leather seats. However, GT Line models sport a faux-leather finish on top of the dashboard and add contrasting stitching to the half-leather seats. The GT-Line also contains gentle blue mood lighting, which is particularly soothing on an evening drive.
On top of all the kit above, the GT and First Edition models get full leather seating, but whichever trim level you go for, the cabin of the new 508 is a pleasing place to be. In terms of furnishings, it certainly competes with a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.
In the car
The fresh 508 is very competent and doesn’t force its relatively potent ability into your face, as much as, say, a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe would. The power is restrained, but there's heaps of shove when you need it. Even fully loaded with people and luggage, the BlueHDi never struggles and enables you to chomp the miles painlessly. There’s hardly any body roll, and the tiny i-Cockpit steering wheel, as seen in other Peugeot's, gives the 508 a lively feel. The car also has paddles attached to the steering column, allowing you to shift gears if you don’t want the automatic box to do it all for you. Sure, a BMW’s steering is more precise, but the new 508 is still a lot of fun to drive.
The fastback styling has come at a cost – and that expense is rear headroom. There’s space for two adults – and there’s a handy centre armrest with cupholders, but if you’re six-foot tall or over you’ll feel your scalp against the roof. I’m that height, and after swapping the driver’s seat for the back seat, I felt somewhat cramped. It's not just the sloping roof, though - it's the small door windows and limited knee room that rain on the parade. Happily, room in the front is abundant, and the 508 boasts good-sized storage for bottles in all door pockets. There's also a couple of cup holders up front, and a smaller lidded storage area sandwiched between the front seats.
The new Peugeot’s boot has a cargo capacity of 487-litres, which is 14 litres more than the old model offered. What’s more, packing items into the load space is easy, due to the hatchback tailgate. And if you need to stuff more in, you can fold the rear seats to increase volume to 1,537 litres.
The 508 GT Line BlueHDi 160, as tested, will do a claimed combined mpg of 62.8, while emitting 120g/km of CO2. This is competitive for this size of car. Mind you, while circumnavigating the roads of the French Riviera, we only managed to get mid-50s mpg. Therefore, anticipate 50+mpg when fully-laden and on UK soil. CO2 ratings span from 98g/km for the BlueHDi 130 to 131g/km for the 225 petrol, and then there’s that plug-in hybrid option we mentioned that’ll be out next year.
The new 508’s exterior build-quality looks to be rock solid, but the interior slightly less. Yes, it's refined, and the fit and finish looks great, but not quite what you would find in a BMW, Audi or VW. Okay, maybe we’re being picky, and to be fair, the 508 is so new that we can’t 100 per cent evaluate what its quality and reliability will be like. But what we can tell you is that Peugeot has a solid reputation for making durable cars. The motor manufacturer also uses diesel and petrol engines that are based on established technology, so this incarnation of the 508 should prove dependable. Extra assurance comes in the form of a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty.
Until a Euro NCAP rating is revealed, we can't be conclusive on how the new 508 ranks for safety. Nevertheless, autonomous emergency braking is factory-fitted across the line-up. Furthermore, active cruise control, which helps to reduce tiredness on long commutes, is built-in to the line-up’s upper trim levels. So, as long as its body proves resilient in a collision, the 508 should be a safe car. Indeed, we’d place bets on it getting a five-star safety rating due to the fact Peugeot’s recent models have obtained this top score.