2019 Peugeot 508 Fastback review - mainstream executive disrupts the premium status quo
A declining market it may be, but the new 508 is good (if not thrilling) to drive, attractive and comfortable
Large Peugeots have had a rocky history. Sharky rear-drive 505s and high-revving 405 Mi16s are fondly remembered, but the catfish-like 407 is better forgotten and if you can remember what the previous-generation 508 looked like you’re a better person than we are.
Things are looking up with the latest Peugeot 508 though. Not only is a high-performance variant in the works, as previewed by the Peugeot Sport Engineered concept at the 2019 Geneva motor show, but the regular, everyday 508 is perhaps the brand’s most serious effort at a conventional executive car since the 406 of the late 1990s.
Cars like this are a hard sell in 2019, but Peugeot has pulled out all the stops of late, so if the 508 will succeed at all, now is the time. Sharply-styled, technologically-advanced and based on the same lightweight platform as the agile 308, the 508 certainly looks good in the metal and on paper.
It drives well too, while not quite coming close to dynamic benchmarks in the class like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and BMW 3-series - though it fights back on comfort, and the unique cockpit design will likely win fans, but might be at risk of deterring others. The 508 is one of Peugeot’s best large cars yet, if not (yet) a machine to deliver real thrills.
Peugeot 508 in detail
Engine, transmission and technical details - A selection of four-cylinder petrols and diesels inside relatively light and stiff hatchback and estate body styles.
Performance and 0-60 time - Peugeot doesn’t yet field a full high-performance model, but the petrol and diesel GTs have competitive performance.
Ride and handling - Direct, grippy and agile, if not truly entertaining. Ride quality is good even on larger wheel options, and refinement is impressive.
MPG and running costs - All 508s are frugal, and should be capable of matching their WLTP economy figures.
Interior and tech - A riot of design and technology, and while some will baulk at the continued i-Cockpit idea, standards of build, comfort and tech are all high.
Design - Among the most handsome cars in its class, to our eyes, and stands out in a class where many others are losing their way.
Prices, specs and rivals
The Peugeot 508 range spans from the £25,245 1.5 BlueHDi Active to the £37,444 First Edition with the 2.0 HDi engine and automatic transmission, with estate versions £3500 more than their Fastback counterparts.
Standard equipment is comprehensive regardless of model line - even entry-level Active trims get autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist, as well as climate control, rear parking sensors, navigation, smartphone compatibility (including CarPlay and Android Auto), auto headlights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The next step up Allure trim (from £26,545) includes the i-Cockpit digital gauge cluster, keyless entry and a selection of other equipment, while GT Line (£28,295 minimum) gives you a choice of interior trim finishes, increases the wheel size to 18in, gives you a sportier front grille and introduces full LED headlights.
GT goes a step further with 19-inch alloys, active suspension, a fairly impressive Focal audio system (great for podcasts, we found) and the most powerful pair of engines - priced at £36,420 for the petrol and £36,645 for the diesel. First Editions get some seriously fancy Alcantara and leather seats and standard night vision, but are otherwise similar to the standard GT spec.
As cars like this occupy an ever smaller slice of the market, Peugeot is among several manufacturers to aim its sights upmarket with the latest 508. So this isn’t just a competitor for Mondeos and Insignias, but also the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class, as well as Jaguar XEs, Lexus ISs and Alfa Romeo Giulias.
We’re huge fans of the Giulia in particular at evo - its driving dynamics are among the best in the class, and its profile has been raised considerably by the hot Quadrifoglio version, against which Peugeot doesn’t yet field a competitor. You can’t go too far wrong with any of the premium models in this class, but Peugeot has to be commended as the new 508 really doesn’t feel too far from the premium benchmarks.