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Peugeot 508 review (2011 onwards)
What - Peugeot 508
Where - Alicante, Spain
Date - February 2011
Price - £18,150-£28,975
Available - April
Key rivals - Ford Mondeo, VW Passat, Vauxhall Insignia, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Toyota Avensis, SEAT Exeo, Renault Laguna, Citroën C5
Summary - Big new Peugeot offers a relaxed, Gallic take on the traditional D-segment saloon with decent downsized engines and great comfort but is it enough to beat the class leaders?
We like - Refinement, quality inside and out, rear seat comfort, clean and stylish interior design, ride comfort, spacious
We don't like - A tad remote to drive, no beauty, rough 1.6 diesel and its jerky EDC gearbox, on the large side
Why would you drive a big French car? Accepted wisdom says this is - to put it diplomatically - a brave choice. After all, the segment is defined by its talented class leaders like the Ford Mondeo and increasingly squeezed 'twixt crossovers and SUVs from below and premium German players from above.
The French are still at it though, the new 508 the latest in a long line of admittedly popular saloons and estates from Peugeot. And if Europe and the UK are falling out of love with big cars like this growing markets like China are lapping them up.
In places like this big saloons are king and Peugeot expects nearly half of 508 sales go to outside Europe. It's even got a production line for the 508 in China. All of which goes some way to explaining why imposing styling and a luxurious feel are high on the agenda.
Imposing is perhaps the more generous way of describing the 508's looks, the big Peugeot striving to make an impression on a crowded market with a combination of traditional diesel technology, downsized petrol engines and - in 2012 - Peugeot's pioneering HYbrid4 diesel-electric powertrain.
Peugeot expects a 50/50 split between saloon and SW estate for the new 508 but 80% of all sales will be diesels. These range from 112hp 1.6 to two versions (140hp and 163hp) of the 2.0-litre and, finally, a 204hp 2.2-litre.
The core 2.0-litre models match power outputs on rivals like the Mondeo and Passat, the downsized 1.6 a CO2-friendly option available in standard and more eco-conscious e-HDi form. The only petrols are 1.6s in 120hp VTI and 156hp turbocharged THP form.
The latter makes a great case for downsized petrol engines, this familiar unit punching way above its weight and delivering decently brisk progress comparable with a more traditional 2.0-litre petrol engines.
The core 140hp diesel is effective and economical too, the auto-only 163hp and 204hp versions gruff and business-like if not as immediately smooth as the ever-present 2.0-litre VW engine seen in the Passat, A4 and Exeo. In this company the 1.6 feels slow and unrefined.
Ride and handling
Like the 407 it replaces, flagship 508s - based on GT-spec 2.2-litre 204hp models - get a bespoke front axle with, in this case, double wishbone suspension for a sharper, more focused feel than the standard setup.
The steering is weightier and understeer less obvious as a result but the 508 lacks the dynamic sparkle of rivals like the Mondeo and Mazda 6. And the auto is a tad old-school compared with the snappy DSG 'box on the Passat.
No 508 has much in the way of feel from the steering wheel but grip levels are high and the chassis is eminently trustworthy and faithful. The ride and body control - at least on smooth Spanish roads - are commendable too.
As such the 508 is a comfortable place to rack up miles and much more refined than the benchmark Mondeo in terms of wind and road noise. And for fleet drivers racking up motorway miles this'll count more than dynamic sparkle.
The 508 will be offered in Access, Active, Allure and GT, the latter only in 2.2 HDi 200 spec. There'll also be a fleet-focused SR trim level, pitched somewhere between Access and Active and packing exec-friendly features like standard Bluetooth and navigation.
There's an impressively high-class feel to the 508's cabin, Peugeot clearly playing to the premium crowd and successfully chasing the Germans for that all-important quality feel. It does this with just enough French flair to stand out too.
There's tons of space, especially in the back where the kinked C-pillar makes it feel even bigger. And the relatively low dash makes it feel more spacious up front too, Active and above SW estate models getting a huge panoramic roof for a uniquely airy feel.
It's comfy and well screwed together too, an Allure-spec model with parking sensors, keyless go, power-operated and heated half-leather seats and folding mirrors probably the ideal package, especially with the HDi 140 engine. If only they all had the base-spec version's manual handbrake though.
Economy and safety
Gadget freaks may miss the lack of optional driver assist systems like lane keeping and blind spot warnings, but the 508 comes as standard with a full suite of airbags and all the usual stability control systems. Do you really need more?
The eco-friendly 1.6 e-HDi meanwhile features start-stop (good) and a lurching automated manual EGC gearbox (bad) in its quest for green cred, this greenest 508 boasting Passat Bluemotion-rivalling official figures of 109g/km and 64.2mpg.
The MSN Cars verdict
Where Renault and Citroën haven't quite succeeded Peugeot seems to have nailed what a big French motor should be and it's a convincing, comfortable and very refined car with the luxurious feel you'd have paid double for not long ago.
Looks are subjective and the 508 is an improvement over the beaky 407 but it's no stunner, with allusions to the SR1 concept's grandeur looking a bit delusional. Comfort and tax-friendly CO2 figures are the pay-off though.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.6-litre 4-cyl, 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo|
|Engines, diesel||1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo|
|Torque, lb ft||118-332|
|0-62 mph, secs||11.9-8.2*|
|Top speed, mph||113-145*|
|CO2, tax||150g/km, 21% - 109g/km, 13%*|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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