Audi A4’s new rival: Peugeot 508

I DON’T know of anyone that owns a Peugeot 407. I don’t even know of anyone that ever considered owning one, even second hand. This is possibly because it is French and big French cars don’t sell so well in the UK. Or maybe it’s because it wasn’t much of a looker. French, for sure. But more like Gérard Depardieu than Olivier Martinez. Even rarer was the Peugeot 607, a car so rare on British roads that I have never actually seen one.

Peugeot’s new 508 replaces both. It’s a rival to an Audi A4, Ford Mondeo or VW Passat depending on how much money you want to spend. This is one reason why the new 508 is so surprising. Because in terms of quality it will give the A4 a run for its money and in terms of looks – unlike its predecessors – it’s striking indeed. Alluring even, thanks to its streamlined looks and helped, as ours was, by a shimmering Alpine Blue paint job.

An amazing thing has been happening at Peugeot. The man that used to design cars like basking sharks has retired. In his place is a Frenchman called Gilles Vidal who is doing rather a good job. The big gaping grilles are on the way out while Peugeot interiors like this 508 are of a far higher quality and sophistication.

So Peugeot is flying. The 3008 and 5008 are both excellent cars, if a little funny looking. While its desirable little CRZ sports car has changed the way people perceive Peugeots, this 508 is even classier.

At night in the cabin, the ambience is quite lovely, thanks to the white lighting that bathes the cockpit in a seductive glow and chrome trim elements combined with a lacquered piano-black finish in the centre console and doors. The head up display feels useful and modern – it raises out of the dash – but is also discreet (that is, easy to ignore should you choose to do so).

The interior is spacious and comfortable with plenty of headroom and legroom and the electric leather seats and leather steering wheel add to the premium feel. Thanks to some clever packaging in the interior – the 508 has the interior space of the 607 yet is essentially the same size as the 407 – the boot is cavernous too. We could have got four babies buggies in it, but thankfully we just need the one.

This Allure trim model gets additional tech including the parking assist system, an electronic parking brake (am I the only one that prefers a traditional handbrake?) and an “open and go” system that allows you to just swipe your hand inside the exterior handle to get access and then press a starter button to drive away.

Which you can do quite briskly thanks to its 163bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, an engine I have raved about in other models. The steering and handling is good and the car is definitely enjoyable to drive although the ride is quite firm (something I prefer). It is also refined. There is some engine and road noise but the interior remains a quiet place to be.

Would I buy it? No. But only because the SW estate version is even better looking.

THE FACTS: PEUGEOT 508

PRICE: £23,880
0-62MPH: 9.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 140mph
CO2 G/KM: 129g/km
MPG COMBINED: 57.6

THE VERDICT

DESIGN ****
PERFORMANCE ****
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ****

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April 22, 2014, 2:25pm