Peugeot 508 – the Lion is finally ready to roar

By Philip Hedderman

Forget about the Bluemotion Passat and hybrids like the Prius – there is a new economy kid on the block.

It’s cheaper, bigger, better and above all, more frugal than the rest and I don’t even think it knows it.

The new Peugeot 508 was supposed to be a lot of things, but modest wasn’t one of them.

At the launch in Alicante earlier this year the French marque laid out its plans for their new super saloon.

The main objective was to kill two birds with the one stone by replace the mega successful 407 and the not-so hot 607.

Bridging the gap between a higher end luxury limo and a bread and butter mile muncher is no mean feat.

Finding a happy medium at a reasonable price is a delicate operation and one, if you get wrong, could be disastrous.

Thankfully a mixture of Gallic flair and clever engineering has paid off – well almost.

The styling is nothing sort of outstanding, making it one of the most striking chariots on the road.

I was stopped several times by punters staring lustfully as they muttered “nice car …. erm, what make is it”?

It’s interesting that they questioned its origins considering I’ve had wagons at twice and three times the price that barely garnered a second glance.

That shows how radically different the 508 is from the older brother it is replacing.

From the back it’s got the Jaguar XJ thing going on with the skewed vertical LED light strips or “claw marks” and the boot lid sandwiched in between snazzy chrome.

The front is where all the real action is with sweeping lines straddling the middle of the longer, more elongated snout – culminating in the elaborate centre piece a single floating grille and piercing headlights to create a slick, wide-eyed look.

Right bang in the middle is the trademark sparring lion and the very subtle, yet defining word, ‘Peugeot’ emblazoned on the lid – for the first time in some years.

Those of a certain age will remember the name riveted into the hood of every make and model.

Now, nostalgia is doubled edged sword and dreamy days of the gargantuan 506 is one thing, the reliability issues of the 309 is quite another.

Thankfully those dark days of constant breakdowns are a thing of the past and the tried and tested 1.6 litre HDi diesel powerplant is a true champion.

Some charlatans would suggest the Pug is doing a Henry Ford of late – “you can have any engine you like as long as it’s the 1.6 litre HDi”.

Look, horses for courses, but hey, it’s working and to coin another cliche – “if it ain’t broke … don’t fix it”.
The model I tested had, you guessed it, the

1.6L HDi 112bhp oil burner, generating 124g/km which translated into a €156 annual road tax.

Initially, I was critical of the 5-speed manual gearbox and thought ‘surely a six speed would be mandatory in a big bus like this for mpg and the like?’

I could not have been more wrong as it savaged mile after mile both urban and motorway until I had amassed an eye-watering 1,200kms on the trip – and the fuel light stayed off.

In fact, the digital read out stated that there was still another 80kms in fumes to get me to the pumps for a refill.

For the first time ever I ran out of time before juice, and she had to go back.

Economy like this is what VW call the Bluemotion for which they charge a hefty premium.

Not here, but I can’t help but think that was a marketing error by the suits not a deliberate ploy.

Drive-wise, the new 508 is very capable indeed and is as comfortable on the fast lane of a motorway as it is on country boreens.

Now you won’t get the same engaging drive of the Ford Mondeo or the Mazda 6, but that’s down to the steering which lacks any real feedback and the 112bhp was left wanting and in real need of more grunt.

That said, for a few quid more all these thing can be remedied and I suppose it’s not a bad thing to drive the very car most of us will opt for.

Inside, things are a little more impressive and with a real Germanic feel about the modern upmarket cabin.

Stylish, no nonsense clocks are functional and uncluttered – giving a business-like aura to the cockpit while aluminium trim flows around the central console and around the doors.

There there are plenty of soft-touch materials throughout, but the build quality could have been a little better.

The passenger cup holder malfunctioned and the spring jammed causing a piece to come free and the leather effect gear sock had already begun to show signs of wear and tear.

But for an extra few shekels the 508 is more than able to compete with the big boys and comes with a range of luxury features to match, including a colour head-up display, heated shanghai massage seats for the driver and front passenger, wall-to-wall Nappa leather and a host of other optional goodies.

The GT version is well worth checking out with a 2.2L V6 HDi 204bhp (€302 annual road tax) which hits 0-100kmk in just over 8 seconds while returning 47mpg.

Prices for the 508 start at €24,850 for the 1.6 litre HDi diesel.

– PHILIP HEDDERMAN