Peugeot 508 hatchback review
"Peugeot has upped its game with its latest 508, a big hatchback that could give premium rivals a fright"
- Arresting looks
- High-tech interior
- Engaging handling
- Limited rear seat headroom
- Few petrol engines
- Occasionally choppy ride
Peugeot demonstrated that it hasn't lost faith in the large saloon car market with this new 508. In the face of falling demand for large family cars like the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6, the Peugeot 508 seems to have an uphill struggle on its hands. Can its sharp looks and high technology levels make it a viable alternative to its direct rivals, or even the ever-popular BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class from the compact executive class? Peugeot certainly hopes so.
The 508 slots into a range that includes the 2008, 3008 and 5008 for buyers who simply must drive an SUV, leaving it free to fulfill the more traditional family-car role with more than a little style. It's easily the most eye-catching large car to come from the brand in a very long time.
The latest 508 has more visual appeal than its rather forgettable predecessor. It's a confident-looking machine at a time when car-park prestige is all-important – and has a massive bearing on the residual-value figures that control Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deals and are so crucial to fleet operators.
The 508's nose is dominated by a front grille that's either slatted or studded, depending on trim level, and flanked by purposeful-looking headlights; GT and GT Premium also get blade-like daytime running lights, which give the car an even more eye-catching look. It's sporty and distinctive, and fits well with the corporate style seen elsewhere in the Peugeot range. This family resemblance is also encountered at the rear of the car, where noticeable blisters top the rear wheelarches, and a dark panel that runs horizontally through the bootlid is pierced by the glow of three tail-lamps either side. The 508's sweeping fastback form is reminiscent of the Volkswagen Arteon, as are its frameless windows, and this gives the Peugeot quite an upmarket flavour.
An even sportier model is now on sale, acting as a halo model at the top of the 508 range. Called the Peugeot Sport Engineered (PSE), the car has a powerful plug-in hybrid engine and racy touches to match its performance. There are winglets on the bumpers, deeper air intakes and lots of acid green flashes to distinguish it from the rest of the range.
The interior is no less bold in style. We've become used to cutting-edge cockpit design in Peugeot's SUV range and the 508 offers a similar look and feel. The dashboard has been styled to accommodate a driving position that's more low-slung and laid back than the one in the Peugeot 5008 SUV, but shares that car's small steering wheel, which is intended to be looked over instead of through when you’re glancing at the instruments. It makes it easy to see Peugeot's I-Cockpit electronic display, which is standard across the range and can be configured to display an array of information. Combine this with the row of piano-key buttons for minor controls and the 508 has a real hi-tech ambience.
Although the 508 is big on sporty appeal, not all versions have quite the power to live up to the car's muscular looks. Entry-level Active Premium only offers the lowest-powered petrol and diesel engines but you do now get an automatic gearbox as standard; there’s no manual option anymore. A punchier 1.6-litre 177bhp BluePureTech 180 petrol engine is available on all other trim levels and a 222bhp PureTech 225 petrol engine is reserved for the range-topping GT Premium.
The 508 is now available as two different plug-in hybrid models, now that the PSE has joined the range. The regular PHEV has a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 178bhp, along with a 108bhp electric motor. Combined, they can produce up to 222bhp and enable an electric range of up to 39 miles but the additional motor and battery pack also makes it quite a bit heavier. The hybrid model is the most affordable version to run for company-car drivers, with just 29g/km of CO2 emissions bringing savings in some key areas. However, costing around £36,000 in Allure trim, it is a pricey car to buy privately.
Diesel buyers can look forward to fuel economy of up to 62mpg but it may only appeal to high-mileage drivers as it’s £2,000 more than the similarly powerful petrol engine. The diesel emits a claimed 120g/km of CO2, for a reasonable Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax for company-car users. There was a more powerful BlueHDi 180 diesel engine but this is no longer available following the decline in diesel sales.
The PureTech 180 petrol will appeal more strongly to enthusiastic drivers, thanks to a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds, while the 225 version brings the sprint time down to a little over seven. Even better news is that the latest 508 has the handling to exploit that power, too. It can't match the BMW 3 Series for sheer joy, but few will complain that the Peugeot is dull to drive, and it's more fun than a Volkswagen Passat or Vauxhall Insignia.
Expert independent car safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded the 508 an impressive five-star rating. No doubt contributing to this achievement is the driver assistance pack, consisting of adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function. Lane-positioning assistance is available, while autonomous emergency braking is standard across the range.
We can't vouch for the 508's reliability until it features in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Peugeot was the best-performing French brand in our 2020 survey, with an eighth place finish out of 30 brands.
On balance, though, the Peugeot 508 still has loads of appeal, with sporty looks and an imaginatively designed interior, and it drives at least as well as its Ford, Volkswagen and Vauxhall rivals. While it might prove difficult to persuade buyers away from their SUVs, the 508 might well attract sales from would-be BMW, Audi and Mercedes buyers.