Peugeot is doing everything it can to ensure Australians see the 2020 Peugeot 508 as the large-sedan alternative we didn’t know we needed. And if any large sedan is poised to lure SUV-mad buyers back to the fold, it’s this one.
I reckon that the appeal argument could be made on style alone… Take a look at it. From any angle, the new 508 – in either Fastback or Sportswagon form – is a sleek and beautiful car.
Our launch drive took us onto the roads surrounding Canberra, and everywhere we went people commented on how attractive it is. Good start, then.
However, Peugeot knows that the appeal must extend beyond the styling – pricing, warranty and service are all key to ongoing appeal, and the boss of the brand in Australia told us at launch that a buyer’s journey with a brand actually starts after they buy the car. It’s an interesting theory, but it’s one that makes sense when you think about how long you own a new car for.
You can read our pricing and specification story for the full breakdown, but the pricing is solid – starting from $53,990 for the GT Fastback with a $2000 premium for the Sportswagon.
Interestingly, the company has chosen to offer only one trim grade – GT – and pack it with as much value as it could.
There’s a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty as well, and the same coverage for roadside assistance, so Peugeot is backing the quality and reliability of its new product as well. Always good news for potential buyers.
There’s also a five-year capped-price servicing scheme for buyers, too.
The 508 is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which generates 165kW at 5500rpm and 300Nm at 2750rpm.
It’s front-wheel drive, as is par for the course, and there’s a new Aisin eight-speed automatic, which we also sampled recently in the limited-edition 308 GT. It’s a fantastic, conventional automatic gearbox, but more on that in a minute.
The petrol particulate filter-equipped engine uses a claimed 6.3L/100km, and we saw around the 7.1L/100km mark after our extended run out on the open road. We didn’t do a lot of high-performance testing obviously at launch, so you should be able to replicate a figure close to that in the real world.
On that high-performance subject, Peugeot claims 0–100km/h in 8.1 seconds for the Fastback, while the Sportswagon is 0.1-second slower. It certainly doesn’t feel slow, the 508, and it gets up to speed quickly enough when you need to.
It’s not a factor most buyers will pay much attention to, so long as the 508 has enough punch around town to leave the lights without delay – and it certainly does that.
As I mentioned above, the list of standard equipment is impressive, and it’s an area where the 508 goes in hard against the competition. You get a suite of driver-assistance systems, including semi-autonomous driving assist, with adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
The adaptive cruise is excellent and worked faultlessly for us at launch.
There’s also beautiful Nappa leather upholstery with front-seat massage function, LED lights front and rear (complete system), a 12.3-inch digital driver gauge cluster, and a 10.0-inch infotainment screen with native satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In addition to the adaptive cruise control, we tested the in-built satellite navigation, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay at launch and they all worked faultlessly.
The infotainment screen is crisp and clear and responds quickly to touch commands, plus the standard audio system is excellent and shames some expensive, optional systems from other European manufacturers.
I think where the 508 shines brightest is inside the cabin. Yes, the exterior styling is beautiful, but the cabin is a truly premium execution in every way. It’s comfortable, airy, high quality, and tastefully finished.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the 508 sits beyond even where Peugeot thinks it sits – it’s definitely up at the higher end of the premium scale rather than in the middle. And you can sense that premium sensation most from inside the cabin.
The new i-Cockpit set-up actually works well with the now de rigueur small Peugeot steering wheel, and aids the premium perception of the cabin as a whole. Some people love the small wheel, some hate it. I didn’t mind it in the 308 GT, and I quite like the location of it in the 508 as well. It certainly didn’t obstruct vision of the gauges the way some of them have.
You won’t want super-tall occupants in the second row of the Fastback, despite the seats themselves being extremely comfortable. Both front and second-row seats are nicely sculpted and keep you in place without being too firm. You have a little more head room in the Sportswagon, so keep that in mind.
There’s plenty of luggage space, too – 487L in the boot of the Fastback, while the Wagon offers 612L. Fold the seats down and you get 1533L and 1817L respectively.
The exterior dimensions show that the Wagon is 30mm longer and has a 17mm-higher roof line. The turning circle is a relatively compact 10.8m.
Out on the open road, you might think a 1.6-litre engine would be working hard in a vehicle of this size, but that’s not the case. The 165kW and 300Nm on offer feel silky smooth, and we found the 508 would get up to highway speed, and maintain it, with ease.
In short, it’s as sharp and as fast as any buyer in this segment will need. If you switch into ‘Sport’ mode, it feels sharper again, but I spent most of the launch drive in ‘Eco’ and ‘Comfort’ driving modes.
The modes change the suspension settings, and to be honest, the ride quality you get on 18-inch rims is seriously impressive. On Australian country B-roads, the 508 showed itself to be composed and comfortable at all times, rarely unsettled and never harsh in the cabin. Despite the comfort, though, one thing is clear.
The 508 feels as sporty behind the wheel as it looks when you take it in while it’s stationary. And that’s key to the sporting perception for those buyers who value it. Whether you intend to drive it quickly or not, a car that looks this sporty needs to be able to deliver.
I’m not sure whether we will ever get Australians to start buying sedans and wagons again, as opposed to rushing blindly into the SUV fold. It could be too far gone, or maybe the tide will turn again at some point in the future.
But, as I wrote earlier in this review, if any sedan is poised to change the game, this one is up at the head of an impressive segment.
Let’s see what happens over the next few years, but I know what I’d be buying if I needed a family run-around. There isn’t an SUV anywhere near this pricepoint that rewards the way the 508 GT does – in either Fastback or Sportswagon form.