£23,650 - £31,500 Price range
67 - 74 MPG
Peugeot’s 508 saloon came into the range to simultaneously replace the unfancied 407 and the somewhat elderly 607.
It’s based on largely the same underpinnings as the 407, but shares the majority of the grimy parts with its sister the Citroen C5. The two cars aren’t too dissimilar as a result and their wowscore ratings are closely matched.
However, it’s fighting for sales in a tough market sector that include the Mondeo and Passat, but manages some reasonably good reviews with the larger-engined models. Critics praise the premium feeling and balance between comfort and handling, but suggest the cheaper models make more sense to own.
Cheapest to buy: 1.6-litre 120hp Active diesel
Cheapest to run: 1.6-litre 120hp Auto Active diesel
Fastest model: 2.0-litre Hybrid4 GT Line diesel
Most popular: 2.0-litre 150hp Allure diesel
The 508 is a little bigger than the 407 and marginally smaller than the 607 but with a longer wheelbase. This improves the interior space over either car, but the 473 litre boot space is around the average for the class.
Attracting particular praise is the design and layout of the 508, along with general fit and finish. This is an area where French cars have lagged in the past, but while materials quality has never been in question it’s a surprise to find that reviewers peg the build quality as being near the class leaders.
There aren’t a great deal of toys low down in the range though – you’re going to need to hand over more than £21,000 before you get a model with sat-nav, for example.
Peugeots of old have always had a reputation for fun handling and grown up comfort and the 508 is a return to form in that department.
The top spec GT models are praised particularly for delivering the combination of both, but then it actually has a different front suspension from the rest of the range.
The driving manners are in part down to Peugeot’s decision to use an hybrid electro-hydraulic power assisted steering system rather than the electric ones now becoming more common on cars – eschewing marginal improvements in efficiency to keep steering feel.
Longer journeys are made more pleasant by the lack of wind, road or engine noise thanks to several improvements in insulation and damping – the result being “remarkably hushed”.
Only three engines power the 508, but they come in myriad flavours. The basic choices are a 1.6-litre, a 2.0-litre or a 2.2-litre diesel, with the middle unit coming in a variety of power outputs.
The 115hp 1.6 comes with “microhybrid” technology and stop-start, which promises a 10% increase in fuel economy. Unfortunately it’s mated to an automated manual gearbox that is almost universally panned for its un-cooperative manner, but the car shows a 104g/km emissions rating on paper. The biggest unit is the 200hp 2.2 diesel and this gives sub nine-second 60mph sprints and nearly 50mpg combined, but may only be selected with an automatic gearbox.
The 2.0 provides the majority of the motive power, with 140hp, 150hp BlueHDI and 163hp versions. It’s the BlueHDI that makes the best of both worlds, with good pace off the line and 67mpg on paper.
You’d think a 1.6-litre turbodiesel would struggle to pull a car as large as the 508 down the road, but reviews are quite positive about the power and torque on offer. Critics say it pulls strongly from low revs and offers good refinement at speed. The 0-60 sprint is handled in under 12 seconds and top speed is 122mph.
It’s an incredibly economical engine too. Peugeot quotes a figure of 64.2mpg using stop-start technology, which gives it a CO2 figure of 109g/km. This means only group B road tax of £20 a year. Unfortunately, it also means having to put up with an automated manual gearbox that reviewers say is jerky and slow whether you choose manual or automatic mode.
If you aren’t chasing the outright economy of the e-HDi then the regular HDi could be the one for you. It has the same power but abandons the jerky automated gearshift for a manual gearbox which critics say is light to use, even if it offers only five gears to rivals’ six. Buyers seeking an extra gear can find it in the 2.0 HDi.
The engine is described as smooth and quiet and performance is better with the manual gearbox than the automatic, even if it’s not particularly fast. It’s economical too, at 60.mpg and many reviewers pick this engine over the e-HDi as you’re unlikely to notice significantly worse economy. Road tax is two bands higher than the e-HDi, costing £95 a year.
The 1.6 THP is a turbocharged petrol engine also found in the RCZ coupe. The 508 is a much bigger car and although there’s only one review so far, critics praise the engine’s smoothness, quietness and performance - much more so than the diesels also on offer. It’s responsive with enough power for overtaking and should be more than refined enough for relaxed motorway cruising.
With 156bhp there’s plenty of performance on offer, 0-60mph comes up in 8.6 seconds and top speed is 139mph. It’s not as economical as the diesels at 44.1mpg and £130 a year road tax, but it’s also cheaper than the diesels to buy, making it more suitable for low-mileage drivers.
If the 1.6 HDi doesn’t offer quite enough performance but you still want more miles per gallon, the 2.0 HDi could be the engine for you. It manages 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 of 125g/km puts it in £95 per year band D.
Experts like the reserves of torque on offer and the low revving engine at higher speeds helps with refinement and economy without sacrificing too much performance. Unlike the more powerful 2.2 HDi it’s also available with a manual gearbox, a 6-speeder, which the critics say is quick and precise and may suit more enthusiastic drivers.
For a mix of performance and economy, the 2.0 HDi could be the engine to go for in the 508 range.
In top-spec GT trim the 2.2 HDi actually has different suspension to lesser models, but with 201bhp the engine offers plenty of performance and reviewers say it’s a quieter engine than the smaller 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels also on offer.
In common with the 1.6 e-HDi, an automatic is available, but unlike the 1.6 it’s a proper torque converter automatic that critics say is smooth and quick-shifting whether in full auto or using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, and a match for rivals’ dual-clutch systems.
Despite the 140mph performance available, the 2.2 is still economical at 49.6mpg which means a relatively low band F tax bracket, costing £130 a year. However, a high purchase price may put off buyers seeking value.
It’s almost a mundanity now to report that such-and-such a car has bagged a five-star rating, so it’s good to note a model coming along and doing it in style. The 508 rates at 90% for adult occupant safety, 87% for child occupant safety and an amazing 97% for safety assists.
It even gets an additional reward for the Peugeot Connect SOS system, which will connect you immediately to a Peugeot emergency call centre or the local non-emergency number (equivalent to 112) in the event of an accident. This will probably be required in the event of a pedestrian impact, because the car only rates 41% in that category.
While the 508 touts premium quality without the pricetag, the range of kit is merely middling unless you pay out for the top models. However the GT is already hitting £30,000 – that’s well into 3-series or A4 territory, or the mother of all Mondeos or Mazda 6.
Heading down the range to the Active models makes more financial sense and the 508 makes a case for itself on cabin space, fuel economy and road manners, but while the interior is well put together it’s lacking in equipment you’ll find on £19,000 examples of other mainstream saloons.
While the lower-end models are more spartan and the higher-end ones are really rather pricey, the average Peugeot 508 is an astute purchase. Managing class-leading ride, handling, refinement and interior quality, it’s one of the best places to be in the family saloon bracket.
The fuel economy ratings of the diesel engines are excellent without having to chase down the last few mpg from the hybrid and, though it’ll lose value like the Saharan sand import business, the 508 scores well in all the categories that matter.