Peugeot revives fortunes with head-turning 508 sedan
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't like the look of the new Peugeot 508.
The four-door fastback immediately impresses with its coupe-like silhouette and sporty stance.
The inside story is the same. It's a cabin that mixes simple lines with quality materials and sharp, modern graphics.
Unfortunately, thanks to our obsession with SUVs, the 508 will need all of its seductive powers to carve out a decent niche for itself in the Australian market.
The mid-size sedan market is dying a slow death. Well credentialed, attractive mid-size sedans such as the Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo are struggling to find buyers.
Due in the second half of next year, the new 508 will be available as a wagon and hatchback, potentially with a choice of two four-cylinder turbos.
The range hasn't been finalised - Peugeot is yet to decide whether to import two models or go with one GT model with all the fruit. If two models, pricing will range from $45,000 to $55,000. A single, well equipped GT would likely start north of $50,000.
Peugeot Australia managing director Ben Farlow says the sleek new model is the latest step in a complete reinvention of the product line-up in recent years.
"Over the past five years, Peugeot has completely reinvented its product range and the new 508 will challenge segment norms, while delivering a vehicle that is not just enjoyable to drive but great to look at," he says.
The new 508 is certainly a different beast from its predecessor. Built on completely new underpinnings, it bucks recent trends by shrinking in size. Shorter and lower to the ground, it is up to 70kg lighter and more fuel efficient.
Top of the range models will be powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo putting out 169kW, while the standard model will be good for 135kW. Both are matched to a new eight-speed conventional automatic.
Peugeot hasn't confirmed local details yet but the 508 has an impressive arsenal of safety technology at its disposal.
Apart from standard autonomous emergency braking that detects cyclists and pedestrians at up to 140km/h, it has night vision for detecting pedestrians and animals in poor light, lane-keeping with steering assistance, adaptive high-beam, speed limit and road sign recognition and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop and take off again.
The hidden tech is complemented by a cabin layout that is simple but sophisticated. The digital readout in front of the driver can be configured to display a variety of information, from vehicle speed and fuel consumption to satnav directions.
The centre touchscreen has piano-key style buttons underneath for selecting the main menus and there is a wireless charging pad for smartphones. The cabin surfaces ooze quality - the top of the line GT has leather seats and real woodgrain inserts on the dash, doors and centre console.
Rear passengers get air vents but are left shortchanged when it comes to knee, foot and headroom. Style has won over substance in the back pews and taller passengers will find it claustrophobic and difficult to get in and out.
Rear vision for the driver is also a concern, with big blind spots over the shoulder thanks to the sloping roof and thick rear pillars.
ON THE ROAD
The small diameter steering wheel, with flat top and bottom, signals early in the piece that the 508 is focused on sporty driving.
On the GT line model we drove, a sports button alters the steering feel, throttle response and gearshift patterns for more urgent progress. On the more expensive GT, matched to the more powerful engine, the suspension also adjusts.
The eight-speed auto does a great job of keeping the turbo in its sweet spot but can get overexcited when you kick down to overtake another car. The transmission holds on to the lower gear and you find yourself waiting for the revs to drop back to a more civilised level. It works well when you're driving enthusiastically on a winding road but is a bit disconcerting on the freeway.
The rest of the driving experience is excellent. The suspension is firm but comfortable enough for the most part, the steering is precise with plenty of feedback and the car feels agile and planted when asked to change direction in a hurry.
In the GT we preferred the "normal" drive mode over sport as it coped better with corrugations and had better steering feel.
In a sea of anodyne offerings, the 508 is a welcome change of pace. Practicality is compromised for the sleek silhouette but the classy cabin and movie-star looks make it well worth consideration.
PEUGEOT 508 GT
PRICE $50,000-$55,000 (est)
SAFETY Not tested. AEB, night vision, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 169kW/300Nm
THIRST 6.5L/100km (est)