What are you driving?
This is the plug-in hybrid version of the Peugeot 508, and it's actually the lesser of two hybrids. You see, in the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 SUV, you can have a beefier hybrid than this - one with an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, while the 1.6 turbo petrol engine drives the fronts, and delivers a combined 300hp. This 508, badged Hybrid2, gets the same 1.6 turbo engine, but a smaller electric motor, and it drives the front wheels only.
Please save your pity, though, as it won't have escaped the notice of true car nuts that this supposedly planet-saving plug-in has the same combined power output as a 1990s Ford Escort Cosworth - 225hp may not be 300hp, but equally it's nothing to be sniffed at.
On the outside, the 508 hasn't changed a bit (bar some neat Hybrid badges on the rear pillar) and it's as attractive inside as it's ever been. Practicality hasn't suffered much, either. At 487 litres, the boot is slightly smaller than that of the standard version, but not by an awful lot.
Name its best bits
Well, for a kick-off, the 508 is still a truly striking looking car. Two years on from its launch, it remains one of the best-looking vehicles of any sort that you'll see on the road, and certainly one of the best-looking in its segment. Medium-sized saloons may be dying out, under the ceaseless onslaught of the SUV, but the 508 just serves to suggest that those SUV buyers must be either suffering from temporary blindness or at the very least a total lack of taste. Low and sleek, and set off rather perfectly by the paint (which, in true Father Ted fashion, looks black at first but actually turns out to be very, very, very, very, very dark blue) the words that swim inexorably to mind every time you look at the 508 are 'handsome bugger.'
That's true of the cabin, too. As ever, it behoves me to admit that not everyone likes the current Peugeot 'i-Cockpit' layout with its small, hexagonal wheel that essentially sits in your lap, and its high-set digital instruments. It equally behoves me to mention that I rather like it, and after a while spent with it you start to wonder quite why all car cabins can't be as distinctive and interesting as this. The digital dials look classy, and are adjustable through different layouts, while the overall quality is excellent (albeit with a few touches of cheapness here and there). Best of all are this GT-Line model's deeply-bolstered, hugely comfortable sports seats.
It's a long drop down into the 508's low-slung cabin, but it's actually surprisingly roomy in there, with no complaints from my increasingly lanky offspring on a long journey.
The hybrid system is also impressive. That 1.6-litre petrol engine seems to have been lurking around the PSA Group cupboard for half of forever, but it still works well and chimes in with a healthy punch when you need it. Fully charge up the 11.8kWh battery and Peugeot's 54km electric-only range claim feels just about do-able (although 40-45km is a safer bet if you're mixing some dual-carriageway work into that). Once you've run the battery flat, the 508 puts in a solid performance when running as a conventional hybrid. We saw a best of 5.6 litres per 100km fuel consumption on one journey, and an overall average of 6.5 litres per 100km when running as a hybrid, which is about the same as we extracted last year from a (non-plug-in, similarly priced) Toyota Camry, so that's not too shabby.
All of that is channelled through a very smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox, and the only criticism you can level at it is that, when accelerating on a gentle throttle, the change-over point from electric to combined petrol power is sometimes a little clunky, and triggers a slight hesitation in the car's power delivery.
Anything that bugs you?
I just wish that the 508 was as good to drive as it is to look at. It's not far off, but falls a little - frustratingly - short. The steering is just too light for proper engagement, and the extra weight of the hybrid powertrain (it tips the scales at 1,700kg) means that the 508's ride quality has deteriorated too. It's actually quite engaging on a fast, sweeping series of corners, as long as the road is smooth enough, but we feel it could be better.
That goes ditto for the central touchscreen, which - with its line-up of 'piano key' shortcut buttons beneath - still looks great, but which has a frustratingly fiddly menu layout and inconsistent responses.
Oh, and a note on charging. First off, to make full and proper use of the 508's hybrid system you need a driveway, or some other form of off-street parking where you can plug it in overnight to charge. There is an optional 7.4kW on-board charging system, but without that the 508 just charges way too slowly for public charging points to be of much use.
And why have you given it this rating?
The whole concept of a plug-in hybrid is a sensible one, as we go through the transition to fully-electric motoring, and the 508 Hybrid2 underlines that. Yes, it could be sharper to drive, and you need to account for the limitations of the charging infrastructure, but this is a well-priced hybrid, that looks great, drives well enough and makes you feel cool just for sitting in it.
What do the rest of the team think?
The 508 remains a stunning looking car, completely unique on the road, and the interior is interesting, too - if not to all shapes and sizes. Now, whether this Hybrid 2 model is a car worth considering, I'm not so sure. It seems to me that it's trying to be two things at once and hence it's compromised. On one side, the plug-in hybrid aspect of it should be perfectly suited to urban driving, so long as the owner plugs it in often to charge it up, or can charge it up at home overnight and perhaps at work during the day if their commute is longer than 40km. That will only suit some people, obviously, as with all plug-in hybrids. But this car is expensive. Even the cheaper Allure version is over €37,000 after grants, which places it above the diesel and petrol alternatives, and for what? Sure, it is the most powerful model in the line-up, but if you're buying a plug-in hybrid with saving the planet in mind, do you also want the fastest car in the range? I think not. And while it is undoubtedly quick to drive, it's not an engaging and sporty car. I reckon a much lower price, even if that means less performance, would change this car from expensive curio to genuine contender.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor