Peugeot 508 2.2 HDi GT 2011 Review

The Peugeot 508 is an excellent touring car. Let’s give praise where praise is fully due: I would happily drive from Auckland to Wellington in this car, and I’m the impatient type who usually flies.

New Zealand gets three different models of the 508: a two-litre turbodiesel sedan, a two-litre turbodiesel stationwagon, and the version you’re reading about now, which is the 2.2-litre GT turbodiesel sedan. They start at $54,990 and end up at $65,990. So is this 508 worth it?

If you’re after a largish touring sedan with good fuel economy, plenty of accoutrements, smooth handling and the power to get past when you need it, the 508 stacks up. It even won a trophy in Germany in 2010 putting it above 18 other cars in its class.

But in my opinion, that does not make it perfect because, in typical Gallic style, the French have taken an awesome car and made it ‘quirky’. It starts with the choice of kit. The driver’s seat massages you. It’s nice (apart from the unusual noise it makes which isn’t really drowned out by the radio). This is useful on long journeys, but what’s even more useful is sat nav, and that’s noticeably absent. There’s not even a place to put it, which means you need one of those aftermarket ones which starts making the interior of your car look like a window display at Dick Smith.

Secondly, I quite like a head-up display which projects the speed onto the windscreen, and the 508’s HUD works well. Except what I really want is a place to put my water bottle, and some storage in the front (the glovebox and central binnacle each have room for one croissant only, and there are only two tiny compartments to put a phone or other junk).

Thirdly, the instrument layout is absolutely perfect, but why do we still have the early 2000s LCD in the dash? It’s not quite clear what’s going to appear on that screen as opposed to the really good screen that’s part of the instrument cluster, and what’s really needed is a reversing camera, or at least some kind of visual representation of reversing because you can’t see much out of the rear window.

Finally, the design. Look at the front – it’s beautiful; a hint of Maserati. It’s understated, sleek. Look at the side – expertly crafted with a prominent shoulder line running the line of the window right to the tailgate. But the back looks unfinished, bulbous, slightly large and out of proportion.. Fortunately, though, this means that you get a good sized boot.

We’ve covered off my gripes, and they might seem minor to you, but the Peugeot 508 has some very stiff competition, even in the bells and whistles department, with cars like the Ford Mondeo Titanium (which is much cheaper). But what it does better than the Mondeo is cruising. The 508 is excellent to drive. It progresses smoothly (and relatively quietly for a diesel); forward motion is provided by a 150kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel that produces 450Nm of torque. This feeds through a six-speed gearbox which almost always is in the right gear for the conditions, unlike some automatics, but is slightly sluggish off the line. However, there’s a sports mode if you need more instant movement, and for it to chop down earlier and change up later.

Handling is very good – not sports car-like, but very good nonetheless. This is helped by 18-inch wheels.

There are plenty of buttons to control all aspects of the audio equipment, the speed limiter/cruise control, trip computer, various options for hands-free phones, and automated high beam.

Safety features abound on the latest Peugeots and it has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating for adult and child safety, and it scored 97% for safety assistance. There are six airbags, whiplash-protecting headrests, and directional b-xenon headlamps.

The passengers are spoiled in the 508. Rear passengers have blinds for the side windows and the rear window. They also have their own air conditioning and directional reading lights. The front passenger can set a completely different air conditioning setting to the driver.

Why would you buy the Peugeot 508? If you want a sleek, comfortable car that’s a notch up the ladder from a Mondeo and arguably smoother than a Volkswagen Passat, this is going to tick the boxes, especially if you have kids to transport. It’s going to impress your colleagues.

You’d also buy it if you like driving long distances and you want a frugal touring car. The tank is good for at least 750km on a long journey. We averaged around 6.3l/100km on a mixture of round town and longer journeys. We saw figures in the low 4l/100km range on the motorway, which is excellent for a car this size.

Who will buy it?

You’d buy it if:

  • you like French quirkiness, or feel sorry for them that they lost the rugby
  • driving gives you a bad back
  • you do a lot of kilometers driving one or two children around, but hate SUVs
  • you’re a bit older and want something that handles well without rattling your fillings
  • you can get a company car and you want something different that’s a talking point, but looks the part on a mid-exec level.

Pros

Lots of interesting features

Very smooth ride

Plenty of power, but it’s still economical

Cons

Wrong choice of kit spoils what could have been a really amazing car

Rearward visibility is not fantastic

Price: from $54,990.

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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