Charlie Flindt, having been impressed by its SUV, finds himself back in another curious Peugeot. So how will the company’s foray into the ‘fastback’ segment fare?
Charlie Flindt predicted something practical yet uninspiring from Peugeot’s foray into the ‘fastback’ segment. He is delighted to discover that the Peugeot 508 GT is very smart and has plenty of oomph – everything you would hope for from traditional Peugeot.
Read our review of the Peugeot 3008 GT – neither estate nor hot-hatch, it’s a rather clever crossover.
PEUGEOT 508 GT
After enjoying the wackiness of the Peugeot 3008 SUV a few months ago, I thought we’d be back on familiar three-box saloon territory with the new 508. I thought we’d have something worthy and practical, but thoroughly uninspiring.
Well, in common with most of my predictions, I called that one wrong. Not content with its foray into the SUV market, Peugeot is now having a bash at the five-door ‘fastback’ segment – the one that is beginning to fill up with some interesting machines, such as the A5, the VW Arteon and Kia’s rare but remarkable Stinger. It’s also the segment hotly tipped to take over from SUVs in the future, when the latter become unfashionable.
The outside is very smart indeed. Gone is any boxiness – the 508 is a fabulous, sleekly sloping beast with steeply raked screens front and back. The rear end has a lot of Mustang about it and the bling-free styling makes you feel sorry for the man who invested his savings in the chrome trim factory.
There’s a price to pay for all that sleekness and sloping; interior room is a bit limited. The front is good but the back is definitely tight, and while the boot is long and easily accessed via the hatchback opening it seems terribly shallow – shallow enough for me to just check in the specs that the 508 was indeed front-wheel drive – there seemed enough room under that floor for drive axles.
And then, of course, there’s the dashboard, or i-Cockpit as Peugeot calls it. It’s a fancy name (so fancy we’re supposed to put an r in a circle after it) for the latest in hi-tech displays and controls: lots of ‘piano key’ buttons and flat-screen dials. The USP is the binnacle containing your vital driving info, which is a bit like a squashed cardboard box and is viewed over the top of, not through, the steering wheel. It’s not the first time we’ve come across it but in the unorthodox 3008 we tested recently, it looked more at home. In the more classically styled 508, it looks awkward.
There’s also the small problem of the steering wheel. In order to stick to the ‘over-the-wheel dashboard’ formula in a relatively low-slung car, the steering wheel has had to be kept small and to have its top and bottom clipped. And somehow this has played havoc with the feel of the steering – it’s too light and imprecise. The wheel never sits happily in the hands.
And that’s a huge shame, because the 508, in all other dynamic departments, is a delight. There’s lots of oomph, great road holding and a suspension that does a fantastic job of rendering the bumps and holes of today’s roads all but unnoticed – even in ‘sport’ mode. Now that’s traditional Peugeot.
If I were a grand fromage at Peugeot, I’d bin the i-Cockpit in the otherwise lovely 508 and put in a classic, simple design, clearly visible through a proper-sized steering wheel. I’d install grown-up controls in the centre console and a simple gear selector instead of a Dan Dare grip. Far more practical but somehow still inspiring.
PEUGEOT 508 GT PT225
♦ Engine: 1,598cc petrol
♦ Power: 224hp
♦ Max speed: 155mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.3 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 39.8mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-20): 34
♦ Price: £36,019