Some months ago, back in the January issue of Diesel Car, our esteemed editor asked his humble correspondents which car had impressed them most in 2018. I went for the Peugeot 508, a car that wasn’t necessarily my favourite car of the year, but my most improved. Although I hadn’t spent long with the French fastback, I noticed (and applauded) a marked improvement in design and driving experience.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m now the custodian of Diesel Car’s long-term 508. But this is about more than just finding out whether my first impressions were correct. You see, cars such as this were the calling card of sales reps everywhere, but these days company car parks are a grey blur of austere German premium brands. Which begs two simple questions. Why did Peugeot bother building the new 508, and is it relevant in the modern world?
To help answer those questions, we’ve enlisted the help of this high-spec, sporty-looking GT Line model, which might not necessarily reflect the car’s character, but certainly makes the most of the new car’s styling. The glossy black trim complements the large styling bar across the boot lid, and the chrome on the badges and grille is classy without being chintzy. In this trim with the Ultimate Red paint, I think it must be one of the best-looking cars ever to grace this particular corner of the car market.
Okay, I admit that’s a bold statement; the fastback body shape puts it firmly in the sights of the exceedingly handsome Ford Mondeo, and it also competes with the Mazda6, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat – none of which you would call ugly. But even with all that in mind, I’d still say this is one of the smartest designs to hit the road in the past 12 months.
And the external design is matched by that of the interior. The dashboard is futuristic and clean, with a vast swathe of carbon-fibre-effect trim across its width and a wide 10-inch touchscreen in the centre. Buttons are few and far between, with just a row of piano-like hotkeys below the screen and a few heating controls beneath those. We’ve got the i-Cockpit digital instrument cluster, too, as well as a sci-fi gear lever and some smart black leather seats with spaceship-style stitching. But if you think the 508 is all style and no substance, you’d be wrong. The boot is massive and there’s loads of legroom in the back, although the sloping roof means headroom isn’t exactly abundant.
And although we’ve only just passed the 1,000-mile mark, the car seems pleasant enough to drive. Up front, we’ve got a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 161bhp and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It isn’t the most potent option available, but it’s arguably the best blend of performance, price and economy. With this combination on board, it’ll manage 0-62 mph in 8.4 seconds (just a tenth slower than the top-of-the-range 174bhp diesel GT model), and if you’re gentle, Peugeot says you’ll manage something in the region of 45-51mpg. After a leisurely jaunt to Norfolk returned 51mpg, I’m prepared to believe that.
I’m struck by the ride quality, too. French cars are famed for their marshmallow-soft suspension, and although the 508 isn’t quite like riding a four-wheeled cloud, it’s very composed and controlled. But then it should be, when it costs premium-car money. Our car came in at a smidge over £31,000 before we added the £725 Ultimate Red paintwork, or the £1,550 leather interior. Or indeed the £1,300 night vision camera.
So it looks like the impression garnered last year was accurate – this is a supremely stylish and apparently competent rival to the Mondeo. But at this price point, it needs to be good, because it’s also up against the likes of Audi and BMW. The next few months will tell us whether or not it’s good enough to compete.
Date arrived 3rd April 2019
Fuel economy WLTP combined 45.2-51.1mpg On Test 48.6mpg
GT-Line trim really shows off the 508’s newfound style.
The grey alloy wheels look filthy even when they’re spotless.