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Peugeot's handsome new repmobile is a true game-changer, with refinement and dynamics ability to match its smart new clothes
12 April 2011

What is it?

It's no exaggeration to say that every family-sized Peugeot of the past 20 years has been a failure in this country, mainly because, while the mostly-German opposition was growing in prestige and 'polish', the French (lulled into a false sense of security by a loyal home market) were giving us family saloons that were absolutely no better than they had to be. The 406 was honest but dowdy. The 407 was badly packaged and its styling exuded such naïve aggression no thinking man could imagine parking it on his driveway.

What’s it like?

The new 508 is all different. With its latest executive car – whose name-change to include the '5' from '5-series' is highly significant – Peugeot has left the old days behind at a stroke. The car's new look is convincingly svelte and modern, and while it's still not in the Mondeo class for rear space, it's as good as most in the sector and its boot is vast. Best of all, it now exudes what its predecessors never had: class. Which leaves one lingering question. We've already learned about its array of proven mechanicals and its comprehensive five-level model range (Access, SR, Active, Allure and GT). But how does it behave on British roads?

Our test car was a £23,100, 140bhp 508 Allure, a specification tipped to appeal to many buyers for its affordability and comprehensive equipment (including keyless entry, an automatic electric parking brake and half-leather trim). The diesel isn't the most powerful available (there's a 163 bhp offshoot) but it's the most powerful available with the conventional six-speed gearbox, with a peak torque output of 240 lb ft which is within a whisker of the top-range engine's 255lb ft.

You feel the torque as soon as you drive. The engine is well subdued, and feels strong. But there's enough shove at low revs in high gears (1500rpm in top equals 60 mph) to make the car feel impressively quiet and long legged. The steering and brakes are both excellent. The light, accurate wheel responses, which load just a little as cornering speeds rise, and the strong but easily modulated brakes, both bring to your mind a description the outgoing 407 never had: polish. The car has evidently had a dose of the painstaking dynamic development that routinely goes into Fords and Vauxhalls nowadays, and it shows.


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The ride quality is a little surprising - for its sportiness. Riding on standard 18-inch wheels (lesser models have 16s and 17s) the 508 Allure has an almost Ford-like decisiveness about its body control – and the cost of that is a little more surface sensitivity than we've come to expect of bigger Peugeots. It still consumes UK-style potholes with aplomb, and feels solid and well screwed together. The torquey engine and short-throw shift let it flow along the road in an impressive way: the only drawback seems to be a little more wind noise at 60-70 than we'd have expected – and we'll have to test other 508s to be sure that's endemic to the model. In any case, tyre and mechanical noises are well suppressed.

Should I buy one?

In sum, on challenging UK roads, the Peugeot comes across as a true game-changer, with driving characteristics as good as its new looks. It'll be fascinating to see how long it takes the (overwhelmingly business) buyers to perceive and react to the changes.

Peugeot 508 2.0 HDI 140 Allure

Price: £23,100; Top speed: 130 mph; 0-62 mph: 9.8 sec; Economy: 58.9 mpg (combined); CO2: 125 g/km; Kerb weight: 1681 kg; Engine type: 4cyl, turbodiesel; Installation: transverse, front; Power: 140bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 240lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed manual

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13 April 2011

>It's no exaggeration to say that every family-sized Peugeot of the past 20 years has been a failure in this country...

Autocar, that's a wild exaggeration.

The 504, 405 and 406 were a long line of very successful family cars. When introduced, the 406 was the best car in its class, even being compared to models from Mercedes and BMW. Maybe it hung around too long, but it was hard to beat for elegance, refinement and ride quality.

Admittedly all that stopped when they introduced the hideous and useless 407. But before then, Peugeot's family saloons were up with the best.

13 April 2011

[quote Autocar]The 406 was honest but dowdy[/quote]


406 was an excellent car. The PSA Diesels were streets ahead of anything other manufacturers had to offer in the mid 1990s and the handling and ride package was second to none. Was the tool of choice for company car drivers for a good two or three years till we were conned by the very impressive interior (particularly the damped grab handles) of the dynamically inferior Passat B5 which appeared late96/early97.

[quote Autocar]The 407[/quote]

A duffer.

13 April 2011

I am also going to stand up for the 406. Probably the best car in the real world i have owned, if not the most exciting.

I looked at a 407 after, and walked away, so i will let you have that one.

I am very interested in the 508, so its nice to know that its generally being received positively.

I have seen a weight of 1400 kg quoted for the 1.6 petrol. is it true this deisel weighs over 200kg extra? That cant help the handling, suggesting the petrol might be better still. As i am not a company car driver thats the one that interests me, although i hope over time they offer us more than 156bhp

13 April 2011

As a previous owner of a 405 and a 406, I concur with the other posters here. They were both very good cars, (though the 405 proved a bit unreliable for a part of its life with me). Both cars were regarded as class leaders for at least a part of their lifecycle Anne sold very well.

So, I really don't get what Steve Cropley, who is a very experienced motoring journalist and should know better, is going on about there. Unless of course, he is talking about the previous Peugeot saloons not making much of an impact on the premium sector, as 508 might be trying to do. But then again the 405 & 406 weren't meant to be competitors to the likes of 3 series or the C class.

13 April 2011

The looks may have improved slightly, but in my opinion its still the ugliest car in the class, even against the Mondeo.

13 April 2011

I sat in one yesterday in the PSA head offices (was there for a business appointment), where one was on prominent display.

I can honestly say this is a very colour-sensitive car, but in the metal it looks excellent, AND the interior is really nice. Comfy seats and a well executed dash.

If the price is right, I might consider one for my next CoCar, event though until recently I was swearing not to have a modern Peugeot, cause everything after the 406 was hideous and a pig to drive.

13 April 2011

Had a good poke around one in Ford Germany recently. Still not sure about the rear-end of the 4dr, but the interior is v.impressive...pretty much best in class i'd say. Wagon looks sweet too. A bit expensive for me, but i can see it doing well.

13 April 2011

The 406 was not a failure at all, they sold lots of them over here, they were often called best in class to drive as well and they looked great. My dad currently has an S-reg 406 TD and it has been fantastic, very reliable, comfortable and has one of the best diesel engines from its time. His car has done over 257,000 miles, he does around 2000-3000 miles a month and it doesn't miss a beat. Sadly he is getting rid of it next month, but he might buy another 406, this has been one of the best cars he has ever owned.

This 508 looks great, it finally looks like Peugeot is going back to making good looking cars again, and hopefully real drivers cars. It looks better inside and out then the new Mondeo in my opinion, although not quite as nice as the Insignia, it will be interesting to see how well it sells.

13 April 2011

I'll concur with the many of the other posters in disagreeing with the rather wild '20 year failure' of all Peugeot saloons statement is wide of the mark. 405, good. 406, good. 605, bad. 407, bad.

There are some clunkers, and Peugeot recent history is not good, but some were among the very best. Disappointing reporting.

I like the 508 though, the rear does look a little saggy but interior, engines and dynamics look strong.

13 April 2011

I'm going to disagree with Autocar and everyone else too! I think the 405, 406 AND 407 were all pretty good.


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