What is it?
The latest Peugeot 508 is an all-new version of the brand’s large family car.
Fastback exterior style, technology-led cockpit, good residual values
The new Peugeot 508 surprises in many areas. Visually it is highly attractive, its technology-led cockpit is mostly a pleasure to use and it offers quality in both construction and performance. It is a worthy consideration as an alternative to a premium-market car.
There is a new Peugeot 508 in town and we can hear readers saying so what? The old one didn’t write any significant headlines, a basically forgettable large car which in recent times generated UK sales in the mere hundreds.
Well hold up, because the new 508 is nothing like its predecessor. From styling to technology Peugeot really has torn up the 508 history book, and that has a lot to do with the cars the new version is expected to take on.
You might think that those checking out the new 508 would have it on a list that also includes such mainstream cars as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. Not Peugeot, evidenced by the price; the new 508 range starts from £25,000 and the most popular version we drove on the launch event has a cool £31,200 price tag – before options. You can get a Mondeo for under £20,000, one close in specification to our Peugeot for around £25K.
No – Peugeot is aiming higher, much higher. Think Volkswagen Passat, but think particularly BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – the upmarket makers have been stealing sales from the mainstream market for some time now, and Peugeot thinks it’s time to claim a slice of their pie…
It’s a bold aim, and it’s been tried before by other markers with not a lot of success – can Peugeot break the mould?
That mould has certainly been cast aside with regard to the styling. In contrast to the bland ‘rep car’ exterior of the previous 508, the new one comes in a stylish fastback shape, sloping significantly towards the rear, with four-door curves while remaining a five-door hatch (an estate SW version will follow).
It looks low and wide, because it is low – frameless doors, the sort you find in sports coupes, are fitted and they help produce a roof height of just 1.9 metres, some 6cm lower than its predecessor.
This is generally a more compact proposition, shortened by 8cm – downsizing is not something we are used to in modern cars but it does mean that visually, the 508 certainly ticks the box.
Buying and owning a Peugeot 508
From launch, the new 508 line-up offers 14 different versions across four engines – petrol units of 180hp and 225hp, and 130hp and 160hp diesels. It’s notable that 10 of those 14 models are diesel powered – Peugeot predicts that the fleet market will still take the vast majority of what are expected to be greatly increased sales for the 508, and for motorway-munching company drivers diesel still makes sense.
There are five trims on offer, though its name suggests the range-topping First Edition to be on sale for only a limited time.
Entry-level is Active, and even at this level Peugeot supplies enough toys to attract the buyer. These include such niceties as dual-zone climate control, auto wipers and headlamps, rear parking sensors, electric driver’s seat adjustment and a Connected 3D navigation system, on a centre console touchscreen that also offers DAB radio, voice control and Apple, Android and MirrorLink smartphone connections.
Crucially all 508s come with a proper active safety package – auto emergency braking, distance alert, lane keeping and road edge detectors all included. A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating should be a given.
Despite all those diesel engine options, Peugeot expects the best-selling 508 to be the 180hp petrol model, with the new eight-speed auto transmission, and in GT-Line specification – third of the current five trim levels.
We drove this car on the launch and it is an impressive package. It’s designed to look more sporty, with extra body detailing such as the chequered grille and rear diffuser, and more stylish 18-inch alloy wheels. And it gains a host of equipment such as full LED headlamps that self-level, a wireless smartphone charging panel at the base of the centre console, and upgrades to interior detailing and the ‘i-Cockpit’ instrument display (more on which directly).
Inside the Peugeot 508
This reviewer believes that a major test as to whether a car can be considered ‘premium’ is the interior. Volume manufacturers are getting very good at producing quality interiors, but all the time they are racing to catch up to a level that the likes of Audi and BMW have been at for some time.
Well, the new Peugeot 508 makes a very good effort at reproducing such quality – especially the GT-Line model we are testing. A host of environment upgrades over lower-spec models include leather effect, double-stitched seats, a proper leather steering wheel and aluminium pedals.
Crucially it’s all very well put together. The surfaces, the combination of gloss metal and brushed aluminium finishes, all feel pleasingly upmarket when touched. The short but ergonomically shaped gear lever on auto models takes up very little space between the front seats, though it also takes a little getting used to.
Peugeot is very proud of its technology and this is particularly true of the ‘i-Cockpit’ – effectively a 12-inch digital instrument panel which combines with the 10-inch centre console touchscreen angled towards the driving seat – placing all the info the driver needs easy to hand.
However, the steering wheel is also somewhat small and, in order to see said instruments, it needs to be set lower than some drivers may find comfortable.
When Peugeot first launched the i-Cockpit we dubbed it ‘out Audi-ing Audi’ and we still get excited by it, principally the range of display options that allows the prioritising of information. The choices are between ‘Driving’ and ‘Navigation’, plus on our GT-Line version a ‘Dials’ mode and – on top-level First Editions – a Night Vision setting. About the only thing you can’t do that you can in an Audi is to put Google Earth imagery on the instrument panel…
The central touchscreen, meanwhile, is equally efficient – though not so much the row of ‘piano key’ switches under it. As they lie flat, it’s difficult to see the function engraved on each, and it takes some familiarity to ensure you don’t (for example) activate the phone while trying to call up the navigation…
As for the basics – legroom is great, front or back. You might think, however, that the sloping roofline compromises rear-seat headroom, and to a degree it does. If you are of average height it’s no problem, but taller travellers may be less comfortable.
Meanwhile, the boot is slightly bigger than either Audi’s or BMW’s, at 487 litres extending to 1537 with the rear seats folded.
Driving the Peugeot 508
Peugeot expects the 1.6-litre petrol engine, with 180hp on tap, to be the one most buyers choose and this is no surprise. Refinement comes as expected but it’s brisk too, feeling enthusiastic as it takes the car through 62mph from rest in just under eight seconds. Cruising on the motorway it’s as hushed as any from those perceived premium rivals.
Less satisfactory is the auto transmission. Generally it works well, but having eight different speeds on offer it can be too keen to switch between them. This is annoying but it doesn’t happen that often – a good thing as Peugeot is only offering entry-level 130hp diesel versions of the 508 with a manual transmission.
This 508 is some 70kg lighter than its predecessor, achieved by a combination of smaller dimensions and more modern materials. Combine this with a well-sorted suspension of traditional MacPherson strut design up front and a multi-link rear end, and the result is a surprisingly well-handling car for its sector.
Heading into corners the small steering wheel allows inch-perfect placing. While there’s not a lot of feedback through the electric power steering that has replaced previous hydraulic setups, the car remains well composed and with plenty of grip. It’s no BMW, but then no rival is. It is more enjoyable than is the norm in the big car sector.
We are yet to try the active suspension available as standard on the GT variant and an option on our GT-Line. The adaptive dampers allow Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport modes and we are told the chassis tightens up considerably when set to Sport.
No matter – our car remained perfectly compliant on the road, producing a confident yet comfortable drive.
Does the Peugeot 508 meet the lofty aims of its designers? Generally yes. It does feel more upmarket than the mainstream Ford and Vauxhall opposition, the niggles only just that in an overall quality package.
It’s a much better car to drive than the crossovers that are eating up the big car sector, and it should rate a test from those looking at Audis or BMWs, particularly company drivers.
Their fleet managers should like it too – Peugeot is working very hard to keep residual values of the 508 higher than one would expect from a mainstream car. Predicted three-year values are 41%, significantly better than any predecessors and also likely to return more money than an Audi or BMW.
These sensible factors are wrapped up in a car that not only behaves well but offers seriously attractive visuals – well worth taking a second look at.
|Make & model||Peugeot 508||BMW 3 Series||Audi A4|
|Specification||GT Line||320i M Sport||Sport|
|Price (on-road)||£31,200 (range starts £25,000)||£32,300 (range starts £27,800)||£33,165 (range starts £27,815)|
|Engine||1.6-litre petrol||2.0-litre petrol||2.0-litre petrol|
|Power||180 hp||184 hp||190 hp|
|Torque||250 Nm||290 Nm||320 Nm|
|0-62mph||7.3 sec||7.2 sec||7.3 sec|
|Top speed||155 mph||146 mph||149 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||49.6 mpg||43.5 mpg||52.3 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||125 g/km||149 g/km||122 g/km|
|Euro NCAP rating||Not yet tested||5 stars (2012)||5 stars (2015)|