Test drive Peugeot 508: Function follows form
Peugeot has added a good helping of style, dynamics and pizzazz to an otherwise very rational car in a bid to make it different from its competitors, which are all fighting to survive. Does this new approach make it a fleet hit?
Street cred: 9/10
The new Peugeot 508 is a real eye-catcher. Never did a test car we drove turn so many heads – except maybe for the Toyota Mirai we tried out last year. Indeed, Peugeot has done a magnificent job, bestowing an air of sophisticated grandeur and coupé-esque athleticism upon a conventional car silhouette.
That raises expectations as to the driving dynamics and we were not disappointed in this respect. The 508 is very well balanced, demonstrating the French superiority in chassis tuning. Our vehicle was powered by the 1.5 BlueHDi mated to the 8-speed automatic, a very pleasing combination indeed. 130hp and 300Nm are enough in most cases, but we did miss some oomph during acceleration. The gearshifts are quick, smooth and sharp so that this small diesel gives the best of itself.
The interior left us with mixed feelings. The raked roofline is not without consequence for the rear headroom. When getting in, large adults have to bow deep to get past the thick and low C pillar, with the risk of hitting their head against the frameless window. The massive A pillars are equally disturbing from a visibility standpoint. The impressive i-Cockpit with its tiny steering wheel, digital driver display and retro toggle switches is polarising: some like it – a lot, others would not buy this 508 (or any other Peugeot model) because of it.
Fleet cred: 7/10
Looking at the cost aspects, this 1.5 diesel boasts an interesting CO2 rating of 99g/km (NEDC 2.0). This theoretical frugality was confirmed by our average fuel consumption of just 4.6l/100 km (61mpg) over 1,500km, a large portion of which were driven on British roads between Folkestone and Goodwood. Interestingly, because the dashboard is digital, you can change the dials from kilometres to miles in just 3 steps.
We were also delighted by the general fit and finish – Peugeot has done its homework. The infotainment system with TomTom Live services looks neat and works fine, but there is no denying that Tesla’s and BMW’s systems are more intuitive to use while offering even more features. And there are more ergonomic improvements to be made beyond the HMI.
First, the USB ports are invisibly placed behind centre console, making it difficult to plug in the charging cable of your phone. Second, the cruise control command still takes the shape of a separate ‘satellite’ to the lower left side of the steering wheel, making it impossible to see the buttons. Managing the (adaptive) cruise control is therefore a matter of trial and error and is possibly a safety issue.
As to the other safety aspects, this 508 is not exceptionally specced. AEB City and lane departure warning come standard, whereas lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go are available at a reasonable supplement. The systems work ok, but not always smoothly.
The bottom line: 16/20
The 508 procures an overall pleasing driving experience while neatly staying within the fleet manager’s TCO boundaries thanks to its 99g/km CO2 rating and modest thirst. Ergonomically and practically, Peugeot is not really hitting the mark, though.
- Efficient powertrains, low CO2
- Driving pleasure: balanced chassis, 8-speed auto
- Sophistication: Fit and finish, design, cockpit
- Ergonomics, certain commands invisible
- Visibility ¾ front and rear
- Rear headroom and access