THE PEUGEOT 508 is a bit like tucking into a vindaloo after settling for the chicken korma the previous five Friday nights. Visually, it’s the lone chilli in a sea of family car coconut milk.
On the outside, in both its five-door Fastback (saloon with a sporty-looking sloped rear end) and SW (estate) forms, it will turn more heads on the high street than the Skoda Octavia, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class.
And you certainly can’t accuse the Peugeot 508’s interior of being boring, either. Its i-Cockpit dashboard design is far more interesting than most alternatives’ and all models come with two large infotainment screens that make the cabin look bang-up-to-date.
If you’re more interested in old-fashioned, solid build quality, however, the Peugeot 508 might not be the car for you. It’s certainly not terrible, but the Peugeot’s materials don’t feel as consistently brilliant as those in its posher rivals.
But driving the Peugeot 508 at least feels much sportier than pottering about in the Skoda thanks to the 508’s low-set driving position. Not everyone will be a fan of its cabin layout, though, as for some its small steering wheel can hide the driver’s dials.
Still, whether you go for an entry-level or top-of-the-range 508, you get a 12.3in digital instrument binnacle, backed up by an 8in central display in Active models and a 10in unit across the rest of the range.
Unfortunately, the built-in sat-nav’s maps don’t respond particularly quickly when you pinch to zoom or swipe to pan across the screen, and the system’s icons are also quite small which makes them tricky to accurately press while driving. You do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard, though, so you needn’t bother with all that.
Space in the front of both the Fastback and SW is good but if you often carry adults in the rear, you’ll want the estate. A tall person sitting in the rear of the Fastback will feel more crushed than cocooned – it isn’t great for headroom, nor overly generous with knee room. The SW is better in both regards but ultimately still outgunned by a Skoda Superb.
The boots are fairly generous, and while the Fastback’s shape limits vertical load space its large lid hinges at the roof for exceptional access, so loading bulky items is amazingly easy. The estate has even more impressive load-carrying chops, of course, and its squarer rear end is in no sense less attractive, thanks to a very clever and modern-looking exterior design.
In both its five-door Fastback and SW estate forms, the Peugeot 508 will turn more heads on the high street than any of its rivals
And if you’re considering a sporty-looking fastback or estate car, you’ll likely have more than a passing interest in how it drives – and you won’t be too disappointed. Both cars are fun to drive down a country road yet manage to smooth out bumps quite effectively, too.
The Peugeot 508 isn’t quite so clever when it comes to semi-autonomous driving tech, however. It’s available with active cruise control and lane assist, but these systems aren’t as sophisticated on the motorway as those you’ll find in its German rivals.
Peugeot’s 1.6-litre petrol engines will soon take your mind off that. With either 179bhp or 221hp, both sound sporty, can accelerate past slower-moving traffic easily and maintain a decent lick on twisting B roads.
If you regularly drive long distances, however, you’ll want the diesel model and the 129bhp 1.5-litre model is your best option. It isn’t outright quick but it has plenty of punch for motorway driving and should easily manage more than 50mpg at a cruise.
And for the ultimate in fuel economy figures, there’s a plug-in hybrid version. You can drive around 30 miles on electricity alone and even with a punchy petrol engine it has a claimed 217mpg. Of course, that’ll only happen if you charge it regularly and spend a lot of time moving about without the engine running.
Choosing a 508 or 508 SW over its more sensible rivals may still be a heart before head decision but actually, the gap to premium German rivals is smaller than ever, and you’ll be buying one of the most interesting and distinctive cars in these classes for quite some time.
Peugeot 508 rivals
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