Peugeot 508 review
Some rhinoplasty sharpens the Peugeot 508's looks, but has it kept up with the competition?
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe

Published on July 23, 2015

Good: better looking, high quality, terrific value, spacious

Not so good: not as sharp to drive as it should be

Is it just me or is the humble family saloon now having something of a renaissance? For years, this sector has seemed moribund, its sales poached by SUVs, crossovers and premium brands, but this year thus far we've seen new or updated examples of the Toyota Avensis, Mazda6, Opel Insignia and Volkswagen Passat. Plus there was last year's long-overdue launch of the new Ford Mondeo and the really rather brilliant new Skoda Superb goes on sale any day now. Critical griping aside, all of these cars are uniformly excellent and if you're picking a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 over any of them then you really are just paying extra for a badge. Doubtless the sales figures will eventually prove me wrong, but I reckon there might just be an oncoming backlash against posh German saloons, and that buyers may soon cotton on to the fact that family four doors offer some of the best and best value motoring in the business.

Into all of this wades the Peugeot 508, a car that was launched into the teeth of recession in 2011, and which consequently didn't get much in the way of publicity or sales. Peugeot itself, as was well publicised at the time, went through its own annus horribilis several times over before sales and income started to pick up again, so perhaps we shouldn't expect too many changes for a car that will (a) probably not sell in vast numbers and (b) is entering a class that many buyers are abandoning.

And that's exactly what we get. The changes to the 508 really are pretty minimal. Peugeot hasn't even yet seen fit to equip it with a line-up of Euro 6 regulation engines - the 2.0-litre HDi diesel is essentially unchanged.

The styling is at least different. The new, blunter nose with its inset grille looks to these eyes rather more appealing than the outgoing 508's, while inside there is a boost in cabin quality and the addition of a seven-inch touchscreen satnav and infotainment screen that is nice, but is rather obviously designed for cars that require less of a stretch to get your fingertips onto it. Crikey, if Peugeot wants this car to compete not just with its plethora of recently updated opposition, but also with the likes of BMW and Audi, it's really not seemingly put the effort in.

You know what though? The 508 is one of those cars that does work its way under your skin a little. It's a touch underwhelming at first, and it's worth pointing out that for anyone who remembers the deft handling and driver enjoyment of the old 405 (yes, that's my hand up), you're not going to find anything similar here. The 508 is fine to drive, and never really puts a foot wrong, but its steering is too light and too detached, and its ride quality lacks the supple flexibility of its forebear.

It does have a rather lovely cabin on its side though. Yes, it's still very clearly a 2011 vintage interior, rather than the more modern insides of such as the Passat or Mazda6, but it's a pleasant place in which to pass a passage. The big seats are squishy and comfy (and wrapped in leather on this Allure test car) while there's plenty of leg-stretch space in the back. And a big boot, which proved rather useful when a run to a certain Swedish furniture store was needed.

It's also quiet and refined. That 2.0-litre HDi engine may be old and may fall foul of emissions regulations (and that lack of Euro 6 compliance may prove an issue in years to come if city centre diesel bans start to come into effect), but it's smooth and mostly silent, pulls strongly and seems to do 53mpg no matter how you drive it.

It's also really very good value for money. A sum of €31k seems like a lot and to these ears still seems like €5k too much to spend on a car like this, but you do get a lot for your cash. Satnav, split-zone climate control, the aforementioned leather, cruise control and speed limiter, Bluetooth, electric seats, parking sensors that tell you if a space is big enough before you start trying to park (something all Parisian drivers will studiously ignore...), electronic parking brake and keyless entry and ignition. Should I go on? It's worth noting that a comparable Avensis charges you more money and only gives you a weedy 1.6 diesel.

I wish that the 508 was able to show a bit more character, or that it had the kind of engaging handling balance and brilliance of Peugeots of old. Or that it felt as modern and crisp as Peugeot's own 308 hatchback. It doesn't, which is perhaps unsurprising as, as noted, this is a car on which Peugeot was unable and likely unwilling to expend too much resource. That doesn't make it a bad car by any means though. In fact, in some ways it's very, very good indeed, but it lacks the sort of star quality that it needs to stand out in such a rejuvenated class.


Ford Mondeo: lacks the brilliant chassis (and some of the build quality) of previous models, but handsome, still decent to drive and desirable.

Mazda6: gorgeous to look at, a cabin to beat the Germans and a beautifully balanced chassis.

Skoda Superb: we need to drive it on Irish roads yet but the new Superb could be good enough to sweep all before it in this class.