Peugeot 508 review

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Peugeot's classy medium range 508 model remains a sharp act. Jonathan Crouch looks at the sleeker, improved version.

Ten Second Review

Big French cars used to be interesting. Distinctive. Now, they are again. Or at least this one is anyway, the sleeker improved version of the second generation Peugeot 508. As before, it competes in the now much-abandoned medium range Passat and Mazda 6 segment but offers something quite different, with a choice of five-door 'Fastback' and SW estate body styles. You might even prefer it to something with a premium badge.

Background

Once upon a time, European roads were filled with volume brand 'D'-segment cars. Mondeos were plentiful, as were the mainstream mid-sized Vauxhalls, Renaults, Citroens and Peugeots that competed with this Ford. But that was then. A new 'D'-segment model is quite rare to see on the roads these days - partly because so many brands no longer bother to sell them. Which is somewhat short-sighted given that the huge Chinese market, unafflicted by badge snobbery, simply loves cars of this kind.

Hence the reason why Peugeot developed this second generation 'R83'-series 508 and launched it in 2018, unconcerned that it would probably be as rare a sight as a unicorn on British highways. For likely buyers, that's actually been part of the appeal and this MK2 508 Fastback and SW estate range has fared reasonably well, though this package of mid-term updates will be welcome.

Driving Experience

There are no significant mechanical updates here - which is surprising because on the base PureTech 130 petrol model, we'd expected to see the mild hybrid 48V tech lately introduced into this engine in the 3008 and 5008 SUVs; doubtless that'll be along shortly. As before, that 1.2-litre three cylinder engine putting out 130hp can only be had with EAT8 8-speed auto transmission. This time round though, there's no accompanying alternative 1.5-litre four cylinder BlueHDi diesel.

To replace diesel drive, Peugeot can offer you a Plug-in Hybrid powertrain based around a 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine, mated to a 109hp electric motor powered by a 12.4kWh battery. Previously, this PHEV set-up was only available in mainstream models in 225hp form, but now the brand also offers a slightly de-tuned 180hp version of this drivetrain too. Either way, expect an EAER-rated EV driving range figure of around 40 miles. If you want to go faster in a 508 Hybrid, you'll need the pricey Peugeot Sport Engineered 360hp 4WD version, which trims the 0-62mph time to just 5.2s.

What's a mainstream 508 like on the road? Well Peugeot's bold claim at the original launch of this car was that "if you drive it, you'll buy it". Don't expect from this that we're looking at a super sharp-handling BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe rival here, but you might be surprised by just how crisply the 508 responds - and of course it's a consumate high speed cruiser, aided by a well-judged supple multi-link rear suspension set-up.

At the wheel of any 508, you're positioned in front of Peugeot's distinctive 'i-Cockpit' dashboard layout, which as usual, sees you looking over the rim of the steering wheel at the instrument dials, rather than conventionally through it. And as usual, the leather-stitched tiller in question is a small, grippy thing which gives you the illusion of greater interaction with the car. Or maybe it won't be an illusion. Higher-spec models are fitted out with adaptive damping. And all variants get the usual drive modes system, which adapts steering, throttle and gear change timings to the way you want to drive.

Design and Build

If you were familiar with the original version of this second generation 508, you'll immediately notice that the front end of this updated model has a considerably sleeker look. There are now three lighting 'fangs' and a redesigned grille, similar to that which features on the smaller 408, has gloss and textured black features, as well as the latest Peugeot emblem. Plus the narrow beady LED headlights now have standard-fit matrix tech. As before, there's a choice of either a 4.75-metre-long five-door hatch model (which the brand wants us to call a 'Fastback') or a swoopy 4.79-metre SW estate variant. The idea is to position this car as an alternative to models like the Audi A5 Sportback or the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Which might be something of a stretch, even though like those cars, this one has a set of trendy frameless windows.

As before, the unusual style-led exterior looks are mirrored by an original interior, with a redesigned dashboard and centre console. The fascia's still highlighted, as mentioned in our drive section, by the usual Peugeot i-Cockpit dashboard design, plus there's a large 10-inch capacitive infotainment touchscreen angled towards the driver and a 12.3-inch head-up digital instrument display. The centre screen benefits from updated media tech, allowing for wider customisation options. The auto gear shifter's different too, switching from the previous olf-school 'trigger' to the more discreet finger-pull selector that now features on other Stellantis Group models. As before, the cabin can also feature the brand's 'i-Cockpit Amplify' system, which enables the driver to choose between two levels of ambience - 'Boost' and 'Relax'.

The rear seat space is reasonable, but three adults will need to be on friendly terms. The Fastback has a large, shallow 487-litre boot. With the SW estate, the cargo area is 530-litres in size, extendable to 1,780-litres.

Market and Model

You'll need to think in terms of 508 pricing starting from around £34,000. With this updated range, there are only two mainstream trim options - 'Allure' and 'GT', plus the top high performance PHEV 'Peugeot Sport Engineered' model, for which you'll need around £54,000. Allow £1,200 more for the SW estate bodyshape.

All 508s have EAT8 auto transmission and there's a £1,600 premium for the SW estate. Even base 'Allure'-spec gives you Connected 3D Navigation with voice recognition, automatic dual zone climate control and the 'Peugeot i-Cockpit' digital instrument binnacle screen. At the top of the range on plush variants, equipment runs to just about everything Peugeot could think of, including a superb 'FOCAL' surround sound Hi-Fi system, night vision and fully automated parking assistance. There's also a 360-degree colour camera system and a wireless smartphone charging plate to keep your mobile's battery topped up during long drives. The wrap-around seats offer five multi-point massage programmes, there's a range of premium and sophisticated trim and upholstery materials and you can have a panoramic opening glass roof.

All the usual drive assistance elements are included - and you can have level two semi-autonomous capability. Expect to find features like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane assist, rear parking sensors, a rear reversing camera and an automatic high beam.

Cost of Ownership

Peugeot usually specialises in extremely efficient running cost returns and this 508 is no different in that regard. Let's get to the WLP-rated figures. For the 1.2 PureTech 130 petrol unit with its EAT8 auto transmission, the figures are up to 50.0mpg on the combined cycle and up to 127g/km of CO2.

For really frugal running cost returns though, you'll need the clever Hybrid Plug-in variant, which in '225' form returns up to 274.8mpg on the combined cycle. This uses an 12.4kWh battery which can be fully charged in an hour and 40 minutes using a standard 7.4kW Wallbox. Once that's done, an all-electric EAER-rated driving range of up to around 40 miles is possible. Hybrid versions can be equipped with either a 7.4kW or 3.7kW onboard charger. Even better news is the CO2 reading applied to this model, up to 23g/km, which means that it attracts a Benefit-in-Kind rate for company car drivers of just 8-12% (depending on variant). The faster 'PSE' Hybrid4 model manages 158.5mpg and 40g/km.

Of course running costs are about a lot more than just fuel economy and CO2 readings, so what else are you going to need to know? Well, there's the usual unremarkable three year/60,000-mile warranty. And if you are paying for maintenance work, you can budget ahead for it by taking up Peugeot's 'Service Plan' that for a fixed monthly fee, can cover you for up to 50,000 miles of motoring over either three or five years.

Summary

There are of course bigger and more prestigiously-badged 'D'-segment models you could choose over this one. A couple might also be a little more fun to drive. But as a piece of pavement theatre, this Peugeot stands apart from most of its rivals, especially in this updated form. Are there issues? Well you have to avoid the more affordable trim level to get the full 508 design experience and that means you really will be paying premium brand money for one of these - which means you've really got to want one. But you might. The avant garde cabin, the lovely focused driving position and the distinctively French quality feel are all things that will endear the right kind of buyer to this car. Someone bored with Teutonic excellence and carpark cred who comes to this segment in search of something deliciously different.

And in summary? Well not everyone will like a 508 and even fewer will be minded to buy one but if it had more generic appeal, it wouldn't be the distinctive contender it is. This car makes its segment a more interesting place, just as big Peugeots once did. There's a sense of inherent desirability here you just can't get from most of the other contenders in this class. If you like, it's the 'want one' factor. And here, you might find that a very strong draw.

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