There was a time, before the turn of the 21st century, when picking the best-driving car in any ordinary family motor sector invariably meant securing yourself a Peugeot.

Unfortunately, the 508 arrives at a time when that guarantee no longer exists. Back in the 1990s, buying a car from the French firm promised you “the drive of your life”, and even if that was only likely to be true if you endured an otherwise sheltered motoring existence, a model with a lion on its nose was generally the best driving in its class. Cars such as the 205 supermini, 306 hatchbackeven the 106 city car – built a powerful perceived lead for Peugeot on ride and handling.

It’s a lead that’s since been squandered, by dull-to-drive offerings like the 206 and 307, and that Peugeot would rather like returned. Its 5008 and 3008 have threatened to be the most interesting handling cars in their respective, generally uninspiring, niches, with the second generation of the latter set to take the baton on and forward. And the 508 has the potential to go a stage further and become a mainstream Peugeot, one that sells in vast numbers, that is as engaging as any competitor.

Replacing both the 407 and the ancient 607, the Mondeo-sized 508 is part of a class that – albeit not so dominant as it once was, when the cars like the Ford Cortina, Vauxhall Cavalier and Peugeot 405 were in their pomp – is still one of Europe’s most significant and competitive.

The 508’s lineage can be directly traced even further back than the 405, however, as far as the 403 of 1955. That was replaced by the 404, then the 504 and 505, where the car’s lineage diverges. The 505 was replaced by both the 405 (in 1987) and the larger 605 (in 1989), both of whose lineage continued to the 407 and 607. The 508 reunites them again.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S road test review hero front
    Car review
    22 June 2018
    Is AMG's rapid GLC 63 SUV the answer to your prayers, or to a question nobody’s asking?
  • Dacia Duster 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    It's still not as refined as other SUVs, but in terms of sheer value the second-generation Duster is very much in a class of its own
  • Ford Ka+ Active 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    This SUV-inspired makeover for Ford’s city-friendly small car will find its fans, but the Ka+ Active doesn’t set any new benchmarks for the class
  • Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 long-term review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and price, but is it still a fun-loving kid at heart? Let’s find out
  • 2018 Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 4
    First Drive
    21 June 2018
    Shogun Sport name returns to the UK, attached to a seven-seat 4x4 that, Mitsubishi hopes, deftly combines practicality, comfort and toughness