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The Top Gear car review:Peugeot 508
For:Looks great in and out, well equipped, corners decently
Against:Busy automatic gearbox, ride's a bit busy in town
What is it?
Striking-looking isn’t it? There are some very neatly designed saloons in this size class, but they all seem pretty terrified of being noticed across a crowded car park. The 508, actually a fast-tailed hatchback, isn’t trying to look reserved or German. That never worked for the French carmakers in the past.
So it doesn’t look much like a Passat or 3 Series or Insignia or Mondeo or A4. It actually closely resembles the Exalt concept which Peugeot built a few years back. A car we pretty much ignored, figuring they’d never put anything like that into production.
Another off-trend but welcome change: the new 508 is shorter than the old, by a substantial 8cm. It’s lower too, which is why it looks wide, when it isn’t. The endless swelling of cars – generation by generation – is doing no-one any good. If you want minicab rear space and have a long parking bay, get a Skoda Superb or VW Arteon.
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 iCockpit twin-screen design. This puts various major elements in a different spatial relationship with each other, versus what all other carmakers call normal.
Style isn’t all it needs of course. Costs matter too. Fuel consumption and sticker price are thoroughly competitive on the 508. But there’s another lurking cost that terrifies people away from big French saloons. Depreciation. Your old 508 was worth about the same at three years as your three-year-old underpants. And low residual value means high monthly payments on lease or PCP, which is how everyone buys cars in this class.
We’ll explain, in the Owning section, how Peugeot seems to have got a grip on this.
The mechanical package is basically a pick of parent PSA’s selection box. So it’s the EMP2 modular platform, which is light (the 508 has lost 70kg), economical and safe. The 508 has the wide track and multi-link suspension from the DS 7 SUV, and most versions have adaptive damping.
Engines are the old friend 1.6 petrol, in two outputs up to 224bhp, and two diesels, a newish 1.5-litre and the familiar 2.0. Nearly every one is an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Later in 2018, a plug-in hybrid version will be along. And an estate. They already showed photos of that, and it too is quite the looker.