The volume upper medium segment is slowly dying as drivers move over to crossovers, so Peugeot felt a more radical approach was required
On the road
On the road
Although it’s declining in popularity, the upper medium volume segment still has plenty of big-name players, with the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Skoda Superb, Volkswagen Passat, and our CCT100 Upper Medium Car of the Year, the Vauxhall Insignia, all offering good alternatives for those not yet seduced by SUVs and crossovers.
Peugeot’s new 508 thrusts the French brand right into the middle of that scrap, but with a bit of a twist, because the company has done what it did previously with the 3008 and 5008 SUV pairing and tried to make its new car significantly classier than the one it replaces.
In the case of the 508, that also means the car has two objectives. The lower trim levels, such as the Allure spec driven here, go up against the core rivals mentioned above, albeit at a bit of a price premium, while the trims at the top of the range stretch the 508 out to match up against prestige four-door coupe models such as the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe and Volkswagen Arteon. Lofty ambitions.
The 508 is off to a good start, thanks to a striking, bold and captivating fastback design that really marks the car out from its more staidly styled rivals. It’s low slung, with a long bonnet,while good use of the LED running lights helps create something that’s certainly distinctive on the road from every angle, but particularly the front. It works well.
The engine line-up is currently five-strong, although a plug-in hybrid will be added by the end of next year. The entry-level diesel is a 130hp 1.5-litre unit that, in eight-speed automatic form gets the 508 below 100g/km, which is a decent achievement. It’s also the only 508 that comes with a manual gearbox, and is the only engine offered in the entry Active spec.
Coming in Allure or GT-Line are the 130hp 1.5, and a 2.0 163hp diesel or 181hp 1.6 petrol. The top two trims – GT and First Edition – are the only ones available with the top petrol and diesel engines –a 224hp 1.6 and a 177hp 2.0-litre respectively. These are the only engines that are available on these two trims.
The entry Active spec isn’t expected to be particularly popular, and given the £1300 increase to Allure adds the 10.0-inch touchscreen, front parking sensors, rear camera, keyless entry, power-fold mirrors, blind-spot detection, attention assist, smartbeam headlights and speed limit recognition, it’s a pretty logical step up. All cars get autonomous braking, lane-keep assist, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and rear parking sensors.
Beyond Allure, the GT-Line spec brings the attractive and clever i-Cockpit layout, privacy glass, cosmetically upgraded interior and exterior and front and rear LED lights, all of which are nice rather than necessary upgrades. Going up to the most powerful engines, the GT spec adds active suspension, adaptive cruise control, electric memory massage leather seats and upgraded
audio, while the First Edition cars have a night vision system with a range of 200m - further than the headlights – as well as a 360-degree camera and park assist system.
Despite the long bonnet, the new car is actually 80mm shorter than its predecessor and smaller than most rivals; a Vauxhall Insignia, for example, is almost 150mm longer. Most of the space feels like it has been taken out of the rear-seat area, where space is well below that offered by rivals. The roofline also impacts heavily on headroom, with care needed not to bang your head on the top of the door opening when entering the rear seats. Boot space is also down on more regular saloon and hatch volume rivals, although it’s slightly larger than the Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe.
Up-front it’s a much better story on every level. The seats are comfortable, the dashboard is as characterfully styled as the 508’s exterior and there is good use of a variety of quality materials, including the aluminium-style keys for shortcutting to various infotainment functions. However, these are much less useful at night, when the low illumination of the symbols is drowned out by the light from the screen, so you have to remember which one does what. The infotainment system itself is also far from the most intuitive or logical, and could be quicker to boot up on entering the car.
Obvious from the moment you drop into the cabin is Peugeot’s now-familiar small steering wheel. It has its pros and cons – at lower speed it’s easier to twirl for manoeuvring, especially because the steering is so light, but some drivers find that something larger would feel better at higher speeds. At least it’s positioned in a way that doesn’t block the view of the wide instrument cluster.
Given the low emissions figure, the performance from this entry 130hp diesel engine is certainly more than adequate. It’s not sporty, and the more potent engines further up the range offer decent levels of power without severely damaging the emissions figures, but this engine is certainly the choice for company car drivers who want a stylish car that minimises tax implications.
The driving experience won’t trouble Audi or BMW, but is fine for people not expecting a sporting bias. This is more of a stylish long-distance cruiser than sporty four-door coupe. It rides well, and minimal wind, road or engine noise penetrates the cabin. The manual gear change has a nice, precise feel to it, although the metal lever itself is very cold to the touch on chilly mornings, and previous experience of the automatic gearbox is also positive.
Peugeot has made a big play of the fact that there would be a hefty residual value improvement with its new models, and that has certainly come to fruition with the new 508. While the previous car languished in the low-20s at times, KeeResources has the new car at more than 37%, well clear of all its volume rivals in what is an impressive turnaround. Along with the excellent emissions figure, that RV helps the 508 make inroads into the deficit caused by having a higher P11D price than its key rivals. That said, insurance and service, maintenance and repair costs could be more competitive. Still, overall, it puts the 508 in a position where, while not class-leading, the whole life costs figures don’t prohibit choosing a car that has such striking visual appeal.
The 508 is a car with distinct strengths and weaknesses, and not necessarily all the ones expected of a Peugeot. The styling, residual value, efficiency and interior design and quality all count heavily in the new car’s favour, although the poor rear-seat space, SMR and insurance costs, plus the high up-front price are all perched firmly on the other shoulder.
But the new 508 is bold and distinctive, which it needed to be to grab attention in a struggling sector, and Peugeot’s promise not to force sales and damage the RV, along with moderate volume ambitions, mean it should be possible to succeed where its predecessor didn’t.
The new Peugeot 508 replaces a car launched in 2011 (right) that was down below 1000 units per year by the end, thanks to a combination of poor residual values and a sector that has been hit by people downsizing, moving to premium brands or, crucially, into crossovers and SUVs.
This 508 has a dual role, according to the company, with lower trim levels competing with the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6 and VW Passat, while more expensive and better-equipped models – the new 508 is entering much higher-priced territory – are being positioned against the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4-Series and VW Arteon.
Jean-Philippe Imparato, Peugeot brand chief executive, described the new 508 as “our comeback in the D-segment”, and predicted that in two or three years’ time we will “see that the sedan is making a real comeback”.
In the UK, Peugeot feels it is well placed to launch the new 508 with its loftier ambitions, thanks to the success of the 3008 and 5008 models, pointing out that it’s not unheard of for a 5008 to tip over the £40,000 mark once customers have dabbled in the options list.
What they said
What They Said
"The all-new Peugeot 508 takes the latest I-Cockpit and adds features including Automatic Emergency Braking, Distance Alert, Active Lane-Keeping Assistance, Speed and Road Sign Recognition, Peugeot Connect SOS and Assistance, Connected 3D Nav, Mirror Screen and front and rear parking sensors. Allure spec and above includes heated seats, keyless entry system and a colour reversing camera."
"Advanced safety equipment, attention to driver comfort and low emission engines from 98g/km make for a compelling package."
Martin Gurney, director of fleet and used vehicles, PSA Groupe UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The LED lights front and rear are both distinctive and look good
The interior design gives the 508 an impressively premium feel
Frameless windows front and back reflect the more striking design
...And one we don't
The aluminium buttons look great, but at night you can’t see which one does what
It’s not as sporty to drive as the looks might suggest, but everything is pleasant enough.
Across the range, the post-WLTP figures actually outpoint some rivals’ emissions from before the changes, let alone after.
Rear space is limited by the dimensions and roofline, and the boot space is decent rather than being exceptional.
Allure spec gets most of the things company drivers will be looking for, and there’s good tech further up.
The 508 does virtually everything right on the design front, and is certainly striking enough to make a mark in this tricky sector.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
Comfortable seats - with massage function on high trims - and a nice ride quality make for a good cruiser of a car, while refinement is good across the range.
The 508 looks great on the inside as well as the outside, with quality materials and distinctive design.
Not the 508’s strongest suit. The system is neither the fastest nor most user-friendly, and elements such as the climate control being on the screen means you have to wait for it start before changing the temperature when you get in.
Whole life costs 8/10
The 508 is hampered by being repositioned as a higher-price alternative in the sector, but fights back strongly with the high residual value and low emissions.
CCT opinion 8/10
Impressive and classy, the new 508 has plenty to like about it.
An impressive and head-turning design, the 508 also manages to back up the style with substance in terms of RV, emissions and quality, although it’s far from cheap.