Ah, the D-segment. Once, when it was normal for a car maker’s range to consist of five models and having five channels on your television seemed quite the extravagance, the D-segment – large family cars – was the dominant force in UK car ownership.
Model ranges and their respective levels of sophistication were glaringly obvious in this company car-focused market. The badge on the back might even have included an ‘i’, standing “for ‘important’”, as a driver on a TV documentary said at the time. There were big players – Ford and Vauxhall, predominantly – and a British Touring Car Championship focused entirely around big family saloons (and one Volvo estate). And, absolutely, Peugeot was part of it.
These cars are still around but when manufacturers including Renault, Nissan and Toyota have decided that the segment is not really for them, you can see where we are: in a space into which Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have muscled and where mainstream makers are trying to push upwards in terms of price, style and quality to remain relevant and profitable.
Which brings us to the latest Peugeot 508, styled in a department headed by 2019 Autocar design award winner Gilles Vidal. It is a rakish, attractive car that has to do two things: be a competitive everyday estate car and yet take on vehicles with seemingly more alluring badges. Can it do it?
The 508 line-up at a glance
A big diesel family car seems almost parochial these days but still makes a lot of sense to a lot of buyers. The base 1.5 HDI can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or the eight-speed auto, but everything else is automatic only. The single 1.6 petrol engine does a lot of heavy lifting, offered in two flavours alone or with the hybrid added (and with a more powerful four-wheel-drive variant coming).
Base trim is Active, which is 1.5 HDI only, then there’s Allure, then GT Line (costing £1750 more than Allure), with top-level GT reserved for the top power outputs only.