Car reviews - Peugeot - 508 - Allure sedan
Classy cabin and exterior styling, value for money, smooth and quiet diesel engine, overall feeling of quality, handling abilities
Room for improvement
Firm ride, not as dynamically sharp as some, few interior quibbles, transmission not the slickest-shifting
16 Mar 2012
BEFORE we begin our review of the Peugeot 508 HDi Allure sedan, let’s get one thing straight – while industry statistician VFACTS classifies the 508 as a member of the large segment alongside the likes of the Commodore and Falcon, it really isn’t.
Rather, this car is really pitted against premium mid-size players like the Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Mondeo Zetec and Titanium, or even highly specified Japanese and Korean competition like the Honda Accord Euro Luxury and Kia Optima Platinum.
But if first impressions of a car count for anything, Peugeot is onto a winner.
To our eyes, the 508’s sophisticated design works from almost any angle, from the sweeping side flanks, tres chic Alfa Romeo-inspired alloy wheels, uncluttered rear-end and the bold grille design that is infinitely more refined than that of its 407 predecessor.
While not as flamboyant as the C5 from fellow French marque Citroen, the 508 exudes an understated and mature Euro charm.
Everything that is right with the exterior is carried over to the interior, which is light-years ahead of the plasticky button-fest from the old 407, replaced by an upmarket and well-ordered cabin with an overall perception of solidity.
As you would expect, soft-touch surfaces abound on all the main contact areas, simultaneously helping NVH levels and contributing to the calm overall ambience.
Our test car came mercifully free of optional extras, meaning no satellite-navigation screen or head-up display on the windscreen, but even in this unaltered state the Allure offers a generous level of standard specification.
The features list, which includes soft leather trim, four-zone climate-control, every type of audio connectivity under the sun, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors and auto folding side mirrors, stacks up well against similarly-priced competition.
We also enjoyed the sound ergonomics, which are as well-considered as any German or Japanese rival. The audio system is simple to operate while the ventilation dials and gear lever are within easy reach and feel pleasant to the touch.
Same goes for the chunky leather-bound, flat bottomed steering wheel with its logical audio, cruise, phone and trip computer controls, and the well-positioned paddle shifters (left to down change, right to shift up). Importantly, the Bluetooth audio system (matched to eight very clear and powerful speakers) is also a doddle to operate.
Niggly issues like the exposed wires under the coin slots by the gear lever, the naff folding cup-holders and the small glovebox let the side down a bit, but none of these things can really be called a deal-breaker.
The glossy, piano-black plastic trim adorning the transmission tunnel and parts of the fascia looked great on our brand-spanking new test car, although a few years worth of scratches may change our minds down the line.
The front leather seats with electric lumbar adjustment are accommodating - I emerged from a long country drive feeling as refreshed as when I departed – although your 194cm correspondent felt a little pressed for knee room even with the wheel at its highest setting.
The rear pews are also a lovely place to chew up the miles, with air-conditioning controls, classy soft-glow map lights on both sides of the car, rear/side sunblinds and legroom to match anything this side of the limousine-like Skoda Superb. Head room is fine for anyone up to about 180cm or 6ft in the old language.
At 497 litres (or 1533 with the rear seats folded down) boot space is decent but falls shy of the Passat sedan, let alone the cavernous Mondeo hatch.
Our week of driving involved a fairly representative mix of conditions, including a long commute of highways and back roads, as well as a share of inner-city stop/start driving.
On our country cruise the big Pug simply ate up the miles. The beefy turbo-diesel engine leaked scarcely a skerrick of noise into the well-insulated cabin and is to our mind more muted than most.
The 120kW/340Nm 2.0-litre engine’s peak torque arrives at a low point in the rev band (2000rpm), meaning it pulls without fuss and offers plenty of oomph even with a full load of four passengers and a boot overflowing with camping gear.
As expected, we couldn’t come close to achieving the claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 5.7 litres 100km, instead averaging 7.4L/100km over around 400km of diverse driving with and without loads. Still, not too bad for a car not far shy off Commodore size.
The six-speed automatic is an able companion on relaxed cruises, while around town it proved smooth and decisive, offering none of the jerkiness of the Volkswagen DSG semi-automatic.
It cannot match the dynamism or sheer quick-shifting capability of either the VW unit or Ford’s Powershift dual-clutch in more aggressive driving though, with shifts feeling sluggish by comparison.
The paddles, while pleasant to operate, don’t offer the kind of lightning-fast gear changes we’ve come to expect from the aforementioned dual-clutch setups, so we just left it in D mode most of the time.
This was a bit of a shame, because the 508 has surprisingly well-calibrated handling abilities, staying flat and composed on twisty stripes of tarmac and providing plenty of communication and road feel through the wheel.
The downside of these sharp road manners is the ride, which was on the firm side even with the standard 17-inch wheels. It’s not awful, but it does detract from the cosseting nature of the interior.
On optional 18s or – gasp! – 19s, the 508 would have chiropractors rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
Big French cars of the past have carried the reputation of being able to float over the harshest of bumps with a characteristic cold aloofness, but the 508 is no member of this fold.
When it comes to striking the balance between dynamic poise and comfortable ride, the Ford Mondeo still sets the bar, despite entering its fifth year of life.
As a large French car, we suspect the 508 will continue to appeal to those buyers who crave a bit of outsider edge and conspicuousness.
The difference with the 508 compared to its 407 predecessor, or even a modern French contemporary like the C5, is that it doesn’t need French quirk or oddball charm as an ace-up-the-sleeve.
The 508 Allure stands up just fine on its merits against the very cream of the premium mid-size class, and we’d recommend a test drive in a heartbeat.
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