We haven’t had a saloon this sexy since the 406 from the mid-90s
Remember the Peugeot 405 from the late 1980s? That was a sharp looking car with clean bold lines and a meaty stance. It was followed up by the 406 in the mid-90s, which took the same silhouette but stretched it out and made it sexier still – plus there was a two-door coupe version. Omigod! Are you kidding me? Did Ferrari misplace its blueprints? That was one seductive Pug, slinky and seductive. Sadly Peugeot peaked with that car, and we’ll now jump over the 407 and even the first generation of the French car makers new player in the segment, the 508.
Come 2019 however and the current 508 is released. Somehow it had developed creases, embossed speed lines in the flanks, LED Daytime Running Light (DRL) claws at the front, and a sloping fast-back tailgate at the back, stealing a few coupe styling themes to throw into what has culminated ina very appealing and desirable persona.
Peugeot once again produce one of the sharpest and most eye-catching saloons in the segment – even though it’s not really a saloon, more of a fastback, with a massive hatch-style tailgate, but we’ll get to that. There’s also an SW which is an estate version, or more trendily dubbed a ‘shooting brake’. Somehow that version magnifies the appeal even further.
Inside there’s a slimline futuristic dashboard with an oblong steering wheel… er thing that sits below your line of sight to the instrument panel (an arrangement borrowed from the SUVs in the Peugeot range where it admittedly works a little better, but is no less unique for it here) with a fully digital panel featuring a selection of display styles, plus neat teeth-like toggle switches, large screen and just an all-round concept-car like ambience. Talking of which you can adjust the ambience too – it’s a Peugeot thing, ‘Boost’ or ‘Relax’ anyone?
Prices for this car start from £26,800, with several levels of trim and multiple choices of engines available including diesel, petrol and hybrid variants. For the test we had the range-topping GT a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine – you’re thinking ‘What?! Only 1.6?’.
Fret not, the turbo unit actually produces 225bhp and 221lb ft of torque thanks to turbocharging and can accelerate this luxury executive car from rest to 62mph in 7.3 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph. It drives the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic. Combined fuel consumption is 39mpg and emissions are 130-132g/100km. Price for this one is nearly £38k.
The GT comes with Active Suspension, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping, leather upholstery (premium Nappa leather is also available as an option), electric front seats with massage function, 360 degree cameras, and 19-inch diamond cut Augusta alloy wheels.
Under the powered tailgate is a pretty huge amount of boot space, and of course you could fold the split-folding rear seats (with ski slot) for even more space. Under the floor there is a space-saver spare wheel, plus a power supply on one side and a large woofer speaker on the other – helps with more base for the stereo that’s equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The sloping rear roof just brushes my head, but I’m tall and at over six foot it’s a pleasant surprise to find over inch of free space between my knees and the seat in front (also set for me), and room for the shins and feet too. It’s inviting place with a centre armrest featuring cupholders, two USB plugs and two rear AC vents. The side windows are a little narrow, but if you’re the claustrophobic type there is an optional full-length glass roof option available.
That unusual steering ovoid né wheel arrangement I find works better in the SUVs when it comes to seating position for lanky types like me, because the steering rests too close to my legs. Aside from that though, the cockpit is a captivating place to be, endlessly fascinating for its features and instrumentation customisation, the tactility of finishing and thoughtful features like storage – a deep cubby box, a shelf under the transmission tunnel housing the power supplies and a place to put your phone.
The engine sounds roarty and the acceleration is quick enough with the paddleshifts responding well up the eight gears should you choose to use them, though there’s no rev-matching or particular satisfaction to be gained, so most will just leave it in full auto where it conducts itself very well indeed. Sometimes the engine appears to need a fraction of a moment or two to really engage in the merest hint of turbo lag.
But you’ll never find performance wanting in normal conditions and this will prove an excellent motorway companion as well as a decent cruiser around town. The brakes need a bit of a wake up at times, and you may have to stab them further than anticipated, but they’re not lacking in stopping power.
The car feels stable and plantedand belies its size, feeling easily manageable to pilot through tight spaces and gaps. On the go it remains faithful to the helm, admirably suppresses understeer, and grips well even out of corners, under power, in the wet. More impressive is the ride. Even in sports mode on a particularly bumpy road, it was settled and never jarring, whilst smooth and comfy the rest of the time.
This may not quite be a sports saloon in the drive, but it’s strong in terms of showroom appeal with arresting looks, a sensational interior, great levels of equipment, usable performance, obedient handling, a cosseting ride and decent value for money. A worthy successor at last to the 405/406.