Peugeot 508 (2018-present)

The striking Peugeot 508 aims to woo Mondeo man with a bold design, high-tech interior and a surprisingly good drive

Despite demand dwindling for saloon cars among private buyers in the UK (you can blame SUVs for that), there remains a buoyant market in Europe, while for large fleet operators and motorway-loving sales folk, it remains the vehicle of choice.

Peugeot was once among the most popular manufacturers of such a vehicle but a decline in quality, questionable residual values and more accomplished models from rivals have seen it slip down the pecking order.

But with the latest 508, the French manufacturer wants to claim back its patch and become the best "high-end generalist brand", according to Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato.

To take on the likes of Ford's long-reigning Mondeo, Volkswagen’s latest Arteon or Passat and Vauxhall's Insignia, Peugeot has employed some head-swivelling exterior styling, while going against the general trend of up-sizing and shrinking the 508's footprint, so it appears more squat and muscular on the road.

But fret not, the new, shorter 508 doesn't scrimp on the interior roominess and by employing the French marque's latest - and lightest - basic platform, it has been able to squeeze an extra 14 litres of luggage space in the boot.

However, the sweeping 'fastback' silhouette might be very easy on the eye but it does impede on headroom for rear passengers, which could be a problem for taller occupants.

According to the French manufacturer, this shouldn't be a problem, as it doesn't expect too many buyers to regularly transport adult occupants in the back, as it knows the large majority of its customers are going to be business users.

As a result, it offers a range of diesel and petrol engines, which vary from the extremely frugal (and slightly underpowered) 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 diesel, to the more powerful 2.0-litre iterant that develops 160hp or 180hp.

The PureTech petrol engines, both 1.6-litres in capacity, are offered with either 180hp or a range-topping (and quite pokey) 225hp maximum power figure.

None of the aforementioned units emit more than 131g/km of CO2, which makes them extremely competitive in terms of monthly running costs, while fuel economy is as high as 74mpg in the smaller diesel versions.

But rather than merely getting bogged down in competitive economy and residual value figures (more on that later), Peugeot has also ensured the 508 rides and handles well.

You could even say the driving experience is verging on fun and engaging, if only the engines offered more power.

The steering wheel is small and responsive, making the 508 feel agile and sprightly, while optional variable damping, which electronically adjusts the suspension to be softer or firmer, means it can be wafting and comfortable or more hunkered down and athletic when the mood takes.

Most of the engine range, bar the entry-level 130hp diesel, come with the marque's new eight-speed automatic gearbox, which swaps cogs effortlessly when driven normally but can be slightly slow to react under more aggressive inputs.

On top of this, there are paddles mounted behind the steering wheel that allow for manual gear changes, but these are fixed (rather than moving with the steering wheel) and can be difficult to locate when focussing on the road ahead.

But this comes part and parcel with the 'avant garde' interior design, which customers will either love or loathe.

That tiny steering wheel features a flat bottom and a flat top, which is incredibly unconventional but allows the driver to peer at the new i-Cockpit digital display that sits where analogue instruments would typically reside.

It consists of a 12.3-inch TFT display that can be adjusted and adapted to show a number of different read outs, including infotainment data and navigational instructions, while a ten-inch touchscreen (eight inches on basic Active trim) sits in the middle of the cockpit and controls all manner of other functions.

The layout itself is reminiscent of a concept car, with machined metal toggle switches and piano black surfaces giving it a real sense of luxury an interesting alternative to the competition.

With prices starting at £25,000 and rising to over £40,000 for the most lavishly appointed models, it puts the 508 in direct firing of the extremely popular models from Volkswagen, Ford and Vauxhall, but also sees the likes of the Audi A4 and Volvo's V60 come into play.

In short, it faces extremely stiff competition and for all of its merits, we could still struggle to see many of these French fancies on UK roads due to the rivals' tight grip on the market.

Last Updated 

Saturday, June 30, 2018 - 22:45