Peugeot’s diesel-electric hybrid techology appears on its most conventional model yet

What is it?

Peugeot-Citroen’s Hybrid4 powertrain technology may have recently propelled it to the dizzy heights of second place in Europe’s overall hybrid car sales charts, but in our estimations it has yet to feature in a particularly good car. 

Our road test of the 3008 Hybrid4 crossover concluded that you’re better off without the extra batteries, and our impressions of the jacked-up 508 RXH estate weren’t a lot more positive.

Citroën’s hybrid DS5, meanwhile, seemed much the worse, to us, for the extra weight and complication of all that diesel-electric paraphernalia.

Since the summer of last year, however, Peugeot has been offering a fourth Hybrid4 model, with the potential to right some of the wrongs of its rangemates: a Peugeot 508 saloon.

Unlike the RXH estate, it’s a genuine sub-100g/km model, it hasn’t had its suspension interfered with in the name of ‘ruggedisation’ and it doesn’t cost the thick end of £34,000. At least, not quite.

What's it like?

The powertrain is unresponsive, inflexible and almost entirely one-dimensional. It is at least quiet and fairly economical, and good for more than 50mpg in mixed use once you’ve learned how to get the best out of it – which is better than the 3008 Hybrid4 did in our hands. 

But be warned: that learning process will drain the zest out of your commute. You have to be patient with the engine and economical with the accelerator, and learn how to make the best use of that electric rear axle. 

You must also ‘regenerate’ rather than friction-brake wherever possible, and rouse the combustion engine as infrequently as you can. 

Basically, you have to be willing to make progress at all times like a terrified pensioner. Do that and the Peugeot 508 feels like it’s operating as its maker intended; do anything else and it’s singularly disobliging to drive.

Although the 508 otherwise steers and handles well enough, an often noisy and restless ride completes the dynamic picture.

Should I buy one?

Your fleet manager will tell you all about the advantages of the PSA diesel hybrid system for company car drivers. The chief one is reduced benefit in kind tax. A 40 per cent income tax payer will be liable for £115 a month on the 508.

An equivalent Volkswagen Passat saloon (with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, a high-output diesel engine and in Sport trim) would cost £198 a month. 

Poorer residuals and concurrently higher contract hire rates work against the Peugeot in that same comparison, but the Peugeot 508 should still remain the cheaper fleet car at the end of every month. Cheaper than a Volvo S60 D5 automatic and a Honda Accord Type-S, too.

So the Peugeot 508's cabin, along with its attractive running costs, will appeal to business users; the flaccid powertrain and restless ride will put off others.

Peugeot 508 Hybrid4

Price £31,450; 0-62mph 9.0sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 78.5mpg; CO2 emissions 95g/km; Kerb weight 1815kg; Engine 4cyls, 1997cc, turbodiesel plus electric motor assist; Power 161bhp at 3850rpm (diesel), 36bhp (electric); Torque 221lb ft at 1700rpm (diesel), 148lb ft (electric); Gearbox 6-spd automated manual

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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AutoChomp 12 March 2013

If you showed me that

If you showed me that interior without the badge I would never guess Peugeot. Impressive. Shame about the boot. Looks like the old 1 series tacked-on-from-hatchback-design job. Would make a nice estate?

typos1 11 March 2013

I dont know how they could

I dont know how they could get it so wrong - on paper this should be a great drivetrain and Volvo has managed to do good things with its interpretation of the same idea, bizarre

sirwiggum 11 March 2013

But yet the regenerative

But yet the regenerative braking on the VW Hybrid reviews is hailed as the best thing since sliced bread.