Peugeot’s new 508 injects a plenty of life into the big sedan segment with its head-turning style and excellent driving manners
Photos: Jay Tee and Ben Chia
Mention ‘French car’ to the average car buyer, and you’ll probably get a random collection of descriptions. The positive ones might include terms such as ‘stylish’ and ‘comfortable’, while slightly more unsavoury ones might pertain to matters of reliability (often appended to expletives, fairly or unfairly).
Something that’s often overlooked though is that the French are actually very capable of producing brilliant driving cars. After all, this is the country that has brought us iconic hot hatches such as the Peugeot 205 GTI, and modern day classics like the Renault Megane RS and Alpine A110. So clearly, the French know a thing or two about making a good car.
You can detect a bit of that essence in the new Peugeot 508. Well, ‘new’ in the sense that it has just arrived here, although the car has been on sale in Europe for the better part of three years now. Nevertheless, despite the belated arrival, the 508 still looks box-fresh, thanks to its sharp avant-garde styling that looks like no other sedan on the roads.
The 508’s low roofline gives it a look that comes across as almost coupe-like, and the car’s boot opening is actually a hatch (hence Fastback). It’s a trick that mimics the Skoda Superb, but the 508’s sleek lines makes it probably more akin to something like the no-longer-sold-here Volkswagen Arteon. It’s complemented by neat details such as the fang-like LED daytime running lights up front, and the slim-look taillights that perform a fancy show when you unlock the car.
The interior is a little less dramatic, and is surprisingly rather more functional than stylish. The small, low-set steering wheel that is now a Peugeot hallmark feels somewhat better executed here on the 508 than on the brand’s other models, and it feels a tad easier to operate, with minimal obstruction of the instruments.
As well, the 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is located within reach in the centre of the dashboard, instead of placed high up, and it comes across as more intuitive to use, especially with the screen angled towards the driver.
The 508 is quite well-stocked on spec too, with standard features including wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, and even massage seats for the front occupants.
On the safety front, the 508 comes with forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control, although the latter function proved to be a bit tedious to operate due to the awkward positioning of the control stalk.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to blunt the car’s drivability much. The 508’s 1.6-litre engine, with 181hp and 250Nm of torque, is characterful and sweet, and the turbo four-pot motor performs with plenty of verve and liveliness. The eight-speed gearbox works extremely well with this motor too, often allowing one to pull to the redline with minimal intrusion, adding to the sensation of sportiness.
In the corners, the 508 is sharp as a tack, with its quick steering making the car supremely easy to manoeuvre. There’s also hardly any body roll to speak of, and the 508’s handling probably ranks quite highly for sportiness among its sedan peers. And it balances that out with a ride quality that is more than acceptable for even our roughest of roads, smoothing out most major bumps effortlessly and without fuss.
It’s not something you typically expect in the big sedan segment, which tend to lean more towards comfort and luxury. But it does give the 508 a unique appeal to help it stand out among its peers.
At S$157,888 including COE, the 508’s closest rivals are the Teutonic duo of the Volkswagen Passat and Skoda Superb. But it also has to contend with the traditional Japanese contenders like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which sit either side of its price point. Still, none of the above offers the same sort of delightful French driving manners of the Peugeot, and the 508 has arguably proven worthy of more than a few positive superlatives of its own.
Peugeot 508 1.6 Fastback
|Engine||1,598cc, inline four, turbocharged|
|Power||181hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1650rpm|
|VES Banding||B / S$0|
|Price||S$157,888 with COE|
|Verdict:||Peugeot’s big sedan contender is good-looking and a brilliant drive, and offers plenty of excitement for the keen driver|