The Peugeot 508 is comfortable, cheap to run and offers a drive that a hot hatch could be proud of, but none of its engines has the performance the car deserves
The Peugeot 508 is available with a choice of three diesel and two petrol engines. Most models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
In fact, it’s only the 130hp 1.5-litre diesel – the cheapest car in the range – that comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. That shouldn’t put you off, though, because the basic diesel has enough power in reserve to ensure you don’t need to be changing gear like your life depends on it simply to make steady progress.
It’ll get from 0-62mph in a so-so 9.7 seconds but it’s mid-range punch – when overtaking slow A-road traffic, say – is pokier than that figure suggests. What makes its performance is easier is that Peugeot reckons it can return fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg.
The Peugeot 508 drives like a sports car that is trapped in a five-door body
If you want more performance, you can also choose from 2.0-litre diesel models with 160 and 180hp, but they’re expensive to buy and still not that fast.
We’d advise you sidestep them, though, and instead go for the 180hp 1.6-litre PureTech petrol, which’ll return impressive fuel economy of up to 52.3mpg on a mixture of roads. It’s not only smoother than the diesels, it also feels sportier to drive and quicker – getting from 0-62mph in a respectable 7.9 seconds.
Finally, there’s the top-of-the-range 225hp 1.6-litre PureTech petrol, which is only available on high-end trim levels. That makes it prohibitively expensive, particularly because it is only marginally faster than the 180hp model.
Old Peugeot cars used to be famed for their ability to smooth out bumpy roads while also being agile in bends – a reputation that’s set to return with this new 508.
The 508 can gobble up country roads at an impressive lick, absorbing bumpy surfaces with ease and gripping the road with confidence – leaving you to deal with the important job of pointing it safely around corners.
You’ll find the i-Cockpit steering wheel – that feels oddly small in other Peugeots – fits the 508, allowing you to zap it in and out of bends without flailing your arms. Torque steer – a writhing sensation through the steering wheel under acceleration – isn’t even a problem in the 225hp model and it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that the Peugeot 508 could handle a lot more power.
Turn off the country roads and onto the motorway and the Peugeot’s suspension does an even better job of smoothing out bumps and the quiet cabin – there’s only a little road noise – helps long trips fly by.
But not quite as quickly as they do in a Volvo V60 with fully autonomous driving tech. In the Peugeot 508 you’ll have to content yourself with the active cruise control, which can brake and accelerate for you, and the gentle steering of lane assist that’s fitted to GT models and above.
On the upside, you do get an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard on all but the entry-level diesel model. It changes gear smoothly, taking the stress out of stop-start town traffic and you don’t have to worry about low-speed shunts because the 508 comes as standard with automatic emergency braking.
Rear sensors are fitted to all models so parking’s easy – even if the view out the 508’s sloping rear end isn’t brilliant – and moving one trim level up to Allure buys you front parking sensors and a rear camera.