Peugeot's improved 508 certainly isn't backwards about coming forward. June Neary warms to the boldly styled saloon
Will It Suit Me?
When Peugeot's 508 first arrived to replace the old 407, it was instantly one of those cars that turned heads. The years have mellowed things a little but the company's hoping that minor updates will keep things current. Sitting on my drive recently, it was still creating quite an impression with my neighbours who were frantically twitching their curtains trying to figure out just what had landed. It's certainly different.
The front end is especially nice, the sweeping lines of the long aluminium-crafted bonnet sweeping down to a proud Lion badge that close inspection reveals is sitting above a subtle 'Peugeot' script. One thing it's not is boring and at first acquaintance it seemed a whole lot better screwed together than some Peugeot products I'd sampled.
The 508 may take up a lot of road but the passenger compartment isn't the biggest in class. Yes, there's room to swing a generously sized cat up front without doing too much damage to the soft furnishings but kneeroom in the rear isn't overly generous, especially if a taller driver has bagged one of the front seats. Again, the styling has have taken priority over practicality when it comes to boot space, the stub tail preventing a truly big boot. The solution in this instance is to opt for the low slung 508 SW estate version which has plenty of room astern.
Right from the outset, the investment in quality is manifest. The fabric seating of our test car felt better and seemed of higher quality than many of the bargain basement leather trims fitted to upper-spec mid range saloons and the seats had both enough lateral grip and were comfortable enough. The steering wheel is trimmed in leather and the dashboard follows the trend for 'waterfall' centre consoles on which most of the major instruments are placed and sees a welcome move away from the rattly hard plastic ventilation and air conditioning controls that have blighted many Peugeots of yore.
Quality is the over-rising theme with a centre console stylishly lacquered in black with highlight touches of chrome. The driver's seat adjusts to every contour of your body. And the level of fit and finish is on a par not only with mainstream rivals but even with German premium badged offerings from the compact executive sector.
Behind the Wheel
It feels plush and old-fashioned French to drive - which for me is a good thing. Peugeot offers two distinct front suspension systems on this model. Most 508s get a straightforward strut set-up, but to better handle its extra power, the flagship 204PS 2.2-litre variant retains the double-wishbone-type set-up from the old 407.
Most buyers though, confine their selections in the all-diesel line-up to the 1.6 and 2.0-litre engines, with this revised version's big news being the addition of the brand's latest generation 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel, offered with 150bhp in manual form or with 180bhp as a 6-speed automatic. In either case, there's enough performance to compensate for the fact that the 508 line-up no longer provides any petrol options, an SW version of the 150bhp variant making 62mph from rest in 10.1s on the way to 130mph but more importantly putting out a pokey 370Nm of torque, so you won't have to stir the gearbox too much into action if you're really running late.
Alongside the BlueHDi offerings sit the older Euro5 engines carried over from the original 508 range. Most will probably want the entry-level 1.6-litre e-HDi diesel models which offer 115bhp. That's enough, in a 508SW, to take you to 62mph from rest in 12.1s if you specify the ordinary 6-speed manual gearbox. That's a fraction quicker than the figure you'll get if you order this variant with Peugeot's slightly jerky EGC 'Electronically Controlled Manual Gearbox' - essentially an ordinary stick-shift without the clutch. Both 1.6-litre e-HDi models top out at just over 120mph.
For my test, I opted for the version that bridges the gap between that base 1.6 and fully-fledged BlueHDi 508 motoring - namely the 2.0-litre HDi 140bhp variant. It's a good compromise of speed and efficiency, in SW estate form getting from rest to 62mph in 11.1s on the way to 130mph if you're quick with the lovely short-throw 6-speed manual gearbox. There's a 6-speed automatic version too, which gets a slightly pokier 163bhp version of this powerplant to compensate for the extra weight of the self-shifting transmission. The same engine in fact, that's used in the most interesting 508 model, the HYbrid4 variant.
Value For Money
Prices kick off at around £22,000 for the entry-level 1.6-litre e-HDi diesel version. When stacked up against rivals from Ford, Mazda and Vauxhall, the price looks reasonable. The question is, would you put your hand in your pocket for one? With the premium brands like BMW and Audi offering small cars in this price bracket, many potential customers are willing to sacrifice a bit of space in order to have that sprinkling of Teutonic fairy dust to plump up the resale values. Three years down the line, how much will your 508 be worth? It's something you'll need to factor into the equation when you make price comparisons.
Could I Live With One?
Personally, I'd love a 508 on my drive. The neighbours, however, seem undecided.