The big saloon, rebooted Not so big and no longer strictly a saloon, but the new 508 is all the better for its long-overdue sharpening up. By Phil McNamara
WHAT'S FRENCH FOR Groundhog Day? There are plenty of good reasons why new-car buyers keep rejecting big French saloons. They tend to look bland, lack dynamism and lose value quickly.
Renault simply stopped bringing them to the UK, but here comes Peugeot’s latest attempt to break out of that jour de la marmotte.
The new 508 might just succeed in rewriting the script, not least because it isn’t that big, it isn’t actually a saloon and it looks far from bland.
The new hatchback - Peugeot calls it a fastback - stands 60mm lower than its predecessor, and is 80mm shorter: that’s some serious pruning. The windows are frameless, which helps lower the roofline. It’s also fractionally wider and the bonnet is lengthened, giving wedgy, stocky and handsome proportions. The front-drive underpinnings are shared with the 5008 and DS7 SUVs.
There are four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5- and 2.0-litre diesel engines at launch, with others to follow. Most are mated to an eight-speed auto, though you can specify a six-speed manual on the 1.5-litre diesel.
That base turbodiesel, here driven with the eight-speed auto, makes i28bhp, which may sound puny for this style of car, but it kicks out 22ilb ft at i75orpm, and the 508 is a light car: around 70kg less paunchy than its predecessor. The engine revs out (mostly) smoothly, with noise extremely well muffled.
There’s a choice of regular springs and dampers or active suspension. The conventional set-up controls body movements well, and the long-legged ride is particularly comfortable at motorway speeds, if a little more brittle over bumps around town. The steering lacks feel, although its lightness makes the car easy to manoeuvre through the tiny steering wheel.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol four is available in two forms, making 178 or 222bhp and knocking a couple of seconds off the o-62mph time.
The eight-speed auto responds snappily to kickdown, but there’s too much cog shuffling. Put it in Sport mode and it becomes even more hyperactive and hangs onto a gear a shade too long.
The digital cockpit is remarkable: futuristic and stylish, but always functional and easily tweaked to suit your preferences. There’s sufficient kneeroom in the back for six-footers.
There’s a wide load bay, or if you want more then the SW estate is just a few months behind the fastback.
The 508 has a likeable, easygoing character, with a decent ride/handling balance and compelling civility. And the digitised cockpit is a knockout.
If you see someone driving one, it’s not a sign of madness or desperation, but perhaps a discerning iconoclast.
> Price : £26,600
> Engine : 1499cc 16v turbodiesel, 128bhp @ 3750rpm, 2211b ft @ 1750rpm
> Transmission : 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive
> Performance : 9.9sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 76.3mpg, 98g/km C02 (16/17in wheels)
> Weight : 1420kg
> On sale : October 2018
Cockpit, refinement, fresh look
Over-light steering, fussy auto 'box
Viable alternative to established execs and burgeoning SUVs
★ ★ ★ ★ ★