From £25,000
French firm boosts 508 with plug-in electric power, to create the Peugeot 508 Hybrid. We try an early development version

What is it?

I know the Peugeot 508 Hybrid is just a derivative, but there’s quite a lot to get through here.

First, though, the basics. The 508 is Peugeot’s D-segment/large family sized hatchback and estate car, and it’s a rather good one, in a slightly old-fashioned decent-to-look-at-and-nice-to-drive way. 

Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato said at its launch that he wasn’t going to beg people to buy one, that the days of heavy discounting were over, and that he was comfortable with the D-segment’s position in Europe being weaker and slower selling than it was before we all wanted SUVs

That, though, was before Peugeot’s Chinese sales dived from 400,000 a year to 140,000 a year. So we’ll see how that goes. But I’ve little doubt that the 508 seemed like the product of a company, after well over a decade of making pretty snoozy cars, that was starting to regain its mojo.

The hybrid, then, is the next logical extension of the 508 range, as Peugeot heads towards having an electrified variant of every model it sells by 2025

Like sister company Citroën, Peugeot’s small cars will get a full EV option and its bigger ones will have a plug-in EV option; because they tend to be driven longer distances and, Peugeot thinks, buyers will want the flexibility of an engine. This, obviously, is one of the latter.

So, available towards the end of the year or perhaps the start of 2020, the 508 Hybrid gets a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine making 178bhp, augmented by a 108bhp electric motor. Because they don’t both make peak power at the same time, the system’s total is 222bhp, with a torque figure currently unspecified.

Together they drive the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A similar system, but with an additional motor on the back axle, will give Peugeot’s larger SUVs four-wheel drive; as it will, too, for the 350bhp or so of the surprisingly appealing (to me, anyway) prospect of a Peugeot Sport 508 variant.

With an 11.8kWh battery pack, the 508 Hybrid is said to be capable of 30 miles of EV running on a single charge, while battery positioning has some effect on interior space. The boot is 30 litres smaller, while the fuel tank is down to 43 litres. But the idea is that having a hybrid 508 – or any electrified Peugeot – doesn’t bring too much compromise. It’s a choice of powertrain choice, not philosophy.

What's it like?

So you sit in the 508 Hybrid and it feels like any other Peugeot 508. Just that the engine probably doesn’t fire when you push the start button, and there are two range gauges on the instrument binnacle, which you can probably see if you site the diddy steering wheel low, but might slightly obscure if you try to retain a ‘normal’ driving position – because that’s how i-Cockpit goes. So far, so Peugeot.

Among the various screens, which again remain too dictated by touchscreen rather than real buttons, you can see what power is going to and from where. And via a drive mode button you can slink the Hybrid between full EV mode, where it’ll stay unless it runs out of juice or you overcome a hefty step on the throttle pedal; hybrid mode, where it’ll gradually run down the EV range; or Sport mode, which does the same but with more power. 

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It’s possible to hold a level of EV charge in case, say, you’re heading towards a city centre that requires pure EV running. It’s even possible, although Peugeot won’t like to shout about it too much because it’s not how you’re meant to operate a PHEV (although rather a lot do get used without being plugged in), to charge the battery when driving normally, so that you can still switch to EV once you get to a no-combustion zone. 

Peugeot reckons owners will mostly charge overnight or at a destination, and because a 7kWh wall-box will charge it in under two hours anyway, the 508 can’t be charged by rapid chargers.

You’ll be able to tell legislators/onlookers at said city that you’re driving in full EV mode by dint of a blue light under the rear view mirror, which will tell them.

At least, you will when the car’s finished. Peugeot is still deciding exactly what colour to make it, because the EU are deciding what colour a light signifying autonomous use will be, too. 

Should I buy one?

These cars are still development ones, and although the mechanical specification is fixed, calibration isn’t. So we tried one whose engine/motor switch was a touch jerky, and one later iteration in which it was very good. The motor provides extra oomph without having to work the engine, while it’s as smooth as any EV in full electric mode.

Like several EVs/PHEVs there are regenerative-braking options – a light coast, or a heavier brake on lift off. With some cars you have to dive into a menu. Here, intelligently, you just pull the gearlever to D to swap. There’s creep at step-off in any mode, too.

Our drive was very short on a pretty ordinary test track, but the steering, handling and ride seemed largely untroubled by an inevitable weight increase. More to come, then, but the 508’s character seems intact: a choice of powertrain, not philosophy, remember.

Peugeot 508 PHEV specification

Where Mortefontain, France Price £38000 (est, GT Fastback) On sale Winter 2019 Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol, plus electric motor Power 222bhp (178bhp engine, 108bhp motor) Torque tbc Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1770kg Top speed 130mph (est) 0-62mph 7.5sec (est) Fuel economy 128mpg CO2 43g/km (est)

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Citytiger 21 February 2019

Why is it

That every manufacturer bar one needs you to sacrifice either boot space, fuel tank capacity, or 7 seat options of SUV's, when they decide to bring out electrified or hybrid versions of vehicles, even if the said vehicle is brand new, and supposedly on a brand new platform. 

irishboy4 21 February 2019

Nice change

At last a decent choice instaed of joining the German Car Brigade, we are able to stand out from the crowd. Well done PSA.


Citytiger 21 February 2019

irishboy4 wrote:

irishboy4 wrote:

At last a decent choice instaed of joining the German Car Brigade, we are able to stand out from the crowd. Well done PSA.


The PSA choice isstill in prototype stage, Volvo (not German) have them on sale now, with more to follow. 

artill 21 February 2019

A top the range 508 is £37k

A top the range 508 is £37k today. The Estate will be more. Add in batteries (not cheap) and electric motors, and have probably the most expensive Peugeot in history. This may be the future, but the future looks like its going to be VERY expensive

michael knight 3 May 2019

artill wrote:

artill wrote:

A top the range 508 is £37k today. The Estate will be more. Add in batteries (not cheap) and electric motors, and have probably the most expensive Peugeot in history. This may be the future, but the future looks like its going to be VERY expensive

Or about the same price as a loaded 320d.