What is it?
Peugeot is poised to launch its £33,695 Peugeot 508 RXH hybrid estate crossover that looks certain to become the new darling of Britain’s business user-choosers. The company’s marketing men estimate that as many as 90 per cent of their new RXH diesel estates will find homes with business buyers after the model arrives this May because, under current company car tax law, the car will cost an ‘owner’ about £1600 in tax annually, whereas a Ford Mondeo estate of similar power and performance would set you back around £3400.
It’s all because the RXH’s diesel-electric Hybrid4 system – a 161bhp front-drive diesel engine electronically linked to a 37bhp electrically driven rear axle – emits a mere 107g/km of CO2, according to official figures, a level that attracts much lower benefit-in-kind tax than equivalent conventional models.
What’s it like?
However, the Hybrid4 system isn’t all good news. When we tested the same powertrain recently in a 3008, we were disappointed in particular by its unresponsive six-speed automated manual gearbox and its inability to get close to the official combined fuel consumption figure. A conventional diesel auto, we felt, would have been better.
However, in the 508 RXH, the new-tech powertrain makes considerably more sense because the impressive all-wheel drive traction works well with the RXH’s ‘soft road’ equipment – ride height raised by 50mm, wider tracks front and rear and underbody protection measures – to deliver a car that’s effective on rough tracks and in mud and snow.
The gearbox hesitation is there, and remains annoying, especially when you try to accelerate as briskly as normal 197bhp diesel autos can do. However, you eventually learn to defeat the problem by selecting Sport and permanently locking the diesel engine and electric motor together (which harms economy), or limiting the effect by manually selecting a lower gear, via the left-hand steering column paddle, before putting your foot down. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Despite the raised ride height, the car corners neatly and securely, although the firm spring rates (so far tried only in France) may be problematic in the UK. This is one car that we need to sample urgently on Britain’s typically rutted roads and which, we suspect, Peugeot should have tested more in this country.