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The Top Gear car review:Peugeot 508
What is it like on the road?
The 508 feels wieldy, lithe and confident. The small steering wheel could lead to twitchiness, but actually you can easily place it very accurately on the road, swinging neatly between apexes on a twisty section of road, but relaxedly holding its dual-carriageway lane.
The progressive steering responses come not just from the sensible rack gearing but well-measured roll response and damping. The electric steering has less feel than the hydraulic setup on the old 508, but that numbness is broadly what you get in most of today’s biggest saloons. The 508 dives keenly into a bend, turns tenaciously, and its front-to-back grip levels are well balanced. There’s little pitch or roll to blur that happy picture, either. The smaller-engined versions are even more usefully agile on tight turns and roundabouts.
Most of the time, the ride’s good too. There’s a bit of thump at town speeds, and patter when the road’s corrugated, and that same patter gives the steering column a bit of annoying shake too.
The suspension does settle into a nice loping suppleness when there’s some speed under the tyres. The ones with adaptive damping are better at checking body heave after a major undulation, especially in sports mode. Mind you, the sports and comfort modes differ little in their programming. The passive version’s level of control isn’t too shabby either. The combination of keen turning and level ride are a fine argument for the traditional low-slung hatchback over the crossovers everyone’s fleeing into.
Despite the frameless doors, wind noise is no problem, and neither is tyre roar, so big-mileage cruising is no issue. The diesel engines are likely still the majority sellers, even if their lead is slipping. The 1.5 is peaceful, avoiding rattle or racket, and shifts this biggish five-seater better than its 130bhp might suggest. It’s the only engine that can be had with a manual gearbox. The lever, clutch and throttle actions make smooth shifts an easy and satisfying job.
I didn’t get on with the eight-speed auto. It’s smooth-shifting but infuriatingly restless, ceaselessly changing up and down again in the apparently vain hope of finding a ratio it’s happy with. It has the same problem whether mated to the diesels or petrol. You can over-ride it, but the paddles are small.
The 2.0 180bhp diesel is a sterling enough engine, but adds 100kg over the smaller one so its performance gain is a bit unspectacular.
The 225bhp petrol is brisk, but it’s felt better installed in other PSA cars. It has a few mild flat-spots as it swings through the revs, plus there’s a bit of vibration through the footwell. Even so, it’s more civilised and fun than the diesels, with little aparent economy penalty.
The driver-assist menu goes up to a full lane-centring and radar cruise system. The steering will cling doggedly to a fairly tight motorway curve, until it doesn’t – when it loses sight of the lines (as these tings all do) you’d better have your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Still, get used to it and it does offer a surprisingly effective gentle helping hand that de-stresses you on long trips.