What is it?
The new Peugeot 508 has already shown itself to be a car of some class in a crowded segment dominated by mainstream, big-name talent, but the real battle for mid-sized saloon buyers is fought at entry level into the fleet market, where low emissions, standard equipment and economy score volume sales.
Arguably the firm’s range champion is the 1.6 e-HDi version, which utilises a micro-hybrid stop-start system aligned with an automatic six-speed, electronically controlled gearbox to return 109g/km. Unfortunately, experience has taught us that the EGC transmission is as ponderous as a change in seasons and probably best avoided.
Consequently, this model, which replaces the EGC with a five-speed manual and retains PSA’s familiar 1.6-litre diesel engine (although it loses stop-start), should earn its own admirers.
What’s it like?
Even without its magic ‘e’, the downsized HDi unit still manages to dredge 60mpg from the saloon’s not inconsiderable bulk while emitting 124g/km of CO2.
While the 508 has certainly benefitted from a substantial leg-up in general refinement over its predecessor, this model in particular cannot quite isolate the scratchy rumble of its vocal powerplant.
It takes a fair old prod to tempt the engine into overcoming inertia, but once in motion its modest 177lb ft of torque is available from 1500rpm, making the big Peugeot seem a shade more sprightly than its 0-62mph time of 11.3sec suggests.
There’s little point in working the 508 too hard, though; the four-cylinder unit revs cleanly enough, but as every one of its 112 horses is spent by 3600rpm it’s hardly necessary to force it towards a spluttery redline.
Far better to keep the 508’s curiously old-fashioned, long-throw gearbox in the low-rev sweet spot and reap the rewards of a respectable chassis and half-decent ride comfort. Do this for long enough and the 508 Active will almost have you convinced.
Should I but one?
But unfortunately for Peugeot, this end of the market is a vicious numbers game, and the similarly equipped Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Hyundai i40 all offer lower emissions and marginally better mileage for the money. Sadly for the 508, they are also all arguably better to drive.