Peugeot's new medium-large car - the 508 - has been launched in Australia. It's much more conservatively styled than other peugeots in the range, notably the 308. It has to be, in order to compete in the premium seats of the medium-large segment, where Teutonic conservatism rules.
The new Peugeot 508 kicks off at a mere $36,990 for the entry-level Active model (that's Mazda6 / Accord Euro territory). It steps up up to the extremely civilised and well-equipped Allure for $42,990 - which is the one most people would be happiest with. The model range tops out at $52,990 for the top-of-the-range GT. Wagon (or 'Touring') versions are just $3000 extra - complete with massive panoramic glass roof.
The new Peugeot 508 is a car both the Japanese entrants (Accord Euro, Mazda6) and the mid-range Europeans (Volkswagen Passat, Citroen C5 and Skoda Superb) need to worry about, in equal measure. It's a threat to C-Class Benz, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series as well - especially for intending buyers on a budget, thinking with their heads (or at least their accountant's heads) and not their hearts. It's clear the elite German brands carry more cachet - but the price premium is often prohibitive, especially in the entry models. The car has exceptional build quality, sensational interior comfort, terrific equipment levels and excellent dynamics. It's a prestige European product any way you look at it.
Criticisms? The steering probably isn't as communicative as you'd like on the Active and Allure models (the GT is better, thanks to a different front suspension setup). While you'll like the full-sized spare tyre in the Active and Allure, the GT is hobbled with a space saver. A standard reversing camera would be nice (it's an optional accessory, and people often don't tick the box on safety kit). Lastly, as mentioned, the new Peugeot 508 doesn't carry the same cred and cachet into valet parking as any one of the top three German brands - but it certainly will stack up against a Volkswagen or a Citroen. On the flipside, you might save $20 grand compared with a similarly specced Benz, BMW or Audi - and the new 508 is hardly a compromise by any objective criteria.
Capped price servicing means you'll pay just $330 per year or 20,000km for the first three service cycles (to 3yrs/60,000km) for added peace of mind.
On the road the 508 is quiet, composed and refined. Ride quality is excellent - even on typically second-rate Australian 'coarse chip' bitumen. It's also quiet, and the body rigidity is top-notch - there are no creaks, groans or shakes even when you encounter serious bumps together with high cornering loads, on choppy bitumen. Grip is excellent, too, and while there's a 'works burger' of safety equipment, the stability control and other electronic aids don't intrude on spirited driving. Crashworthiness is the maximum ENCAP five-star rating.
Shift quality from the six-speed auto is great, either if left in 'D' or driven manually via the shifter or behind-the-wheel paddles. Driving afficionados will appreciate the 'push forward to downshift' orientation of the transmission selector in manual mode - something the Japanese and South Koreans often get wrong.
It's pretty clear Peugeot has taken a significant step forward in build quality and construction with the new 508. And the sky-high Aussie dollar is really helping that price-point. If you're in the market for an upmarket European car and you'd like to save significantly over the price premium that Audi, Benz and BMW command, it's time to put the new Peugeot 508 on your shopping list. This is a car with enough cachet - and no shortage of underlying value. At the very least you need to test drive it, just for comparison.
Full report on the new Peugeot 508 to follow - stay tuned.