Looks great in and out, more engaging to drive than you might expect, simple engine/trim line-up
Ride’s a bit busy in town, PHEV not the smoothest, rear space isn’t great
What is it?
This is the Peugeot 508, a biggish family car that harbours secret hopes that it can get competitive with the posh Germans over the way.
It's a proper low-slung fastback (or estate, but more on that here), now in its second generation and facelifted in early 2023. If you want a bit of extra space via a higher roof, or some crossover-y ruggedness, then the new 408 is worth a look.
REMIND ME OF THE RIVALS?
Other rivals have fallen by the way: no Ford Mondeo, Lexus IS, Vauxhall Insignia or VW Passat (in saloon guise at least, the estate is still on sale). The Jaguar XE's death is foretold. The Volvo S60 has gone. Saloons aren't the force they were.
Diesel sales are wilting too, so for the facelift the powertrain range drops to just three petrols: a plucky little three-cylinder petrol, a FWD plug-in hybrid and a sporty Peugeot Sport Engineered one which adds electric drive for the rear wheels too. We review that PSE version separately here.
GOOD LOOKING THING, ISN'T IT?
The 508 is undoubtedly very striking. There are some neatly designed saloons in this size class, but they're all very conservative. The 508, a fast-tailed hatchback, isn't trying to look reserved or German.
The facelift brought changes to bumpers, grille and lights (note the updated three-claw LED daytime running lights), but nothing revolutionary. Inside, the centre screen software is usefully updated, and there's freshened upholstery.
You get in via frameless doors, which allow a lower roof without compromising the size of the hole through which you're climbing. Indoors, it's even more distinct from its rivals, because it adopts the company's i-Cockpit twin-screen design, using a small, low-mounted steering wheel so you view the instruments over its rim.
OK, LET'S GET MOVING. HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
The 508 sits on Stellantis’ EMP2 platform, as used by countless biggish Peugeots, Citroens, DSs and Vauxhalls. It's relatively light for its size, but doesn't feel fragile or floppy. This is the most sophisticated version of the platform, with multi-link rear suspension. There's also the option of adaptive dampers, but it doesn't need them.
You don’t get much steering feel, and your relationship with the car is defined by that tiny steering wheel, which means you can use small arm movements. Then you find keen and level cornering. The ride can be a bit firm and niggly around town, but it settles down on more expansive roads.
The base 1.2 engine is sweet enough and saves 300kg over the plug-in hybrid, so isn't much slower. That PHEV is 1.6 litres with a total combined petrol and electric output of 225bhp, but the handoff between petrol and electric is jerky if you're accelerating through tight bends or roundabouts. All get an eight-speed auto 'box.
WHAT WILL IT SET ME BACK?
Prices start from £34,170 for the base pure petrol, with the PHEV about £10k more. Of course, depreciation is the age-old enemy of big French barges, but Peugeot has got a better grip on it now. Good news for lease rates.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The 508 will always be a slightly left-field choice, when you could have a default low-spec, premium saloon. Or a crossover. But it has its upsides, not least of which is that it does stand out. It’s an oddball in a stylish way, and has a splendidly alternative cabin if you like that sort of thing.
Dynamics are competent if slightly imperfect, but hey, when you get busy with the steering it’s still night-and-day more adept than the crossovers that are so brutally displacing the mainstream saloon from its natural habitat.