PEUGEOT is about to find out how loud its lion can roar. The new 508 has designs on the company car’s premier division and there is a 60mpg low tax diesel engine to sweeten the pill.
For whatever reason 508’s predecessor the 407 could not find the sweet spot in the fleet market.
That’s history. Enter 508 - the return of the famous Five. Remember the 505? Good car, but 508 is in a different league. It has a stylish, almost majestic body line and a classy cabin with quality materials all round. The dashboard layout is easy on the eye (it’s not a mass of buttons like Vauxhall Insignia) with lots of metallic highlights to lift its status.
There is a good level of kit even at entry level but it gets more tasty moving up the range with keyless entry, individual climate control for four people, automatic parking brake and hill assist, directional headlights with automatic dipping, full length glass roof and a head up display for the driver which can incorporate the sat-nav directions in colour.
There is a five model line up with a choice of two 1.6 litre petrol engines offering 120 or 156hp and 1.6 and 2-litre diesels with a 112, 140, 163 and 200hp options.
The engine the fleet managers will be talking about is the e-HDi 112hp diesel which has emissions of just 116g/km. Some might wonder whether a 1.6 litre will carry such a big car. It can, and is the way forward as Volkswagen has proved with its fine 1.6 diesel.
The Pug has 270Nm of torque which is enough pick up for anything other than white-knuckle overtaking and is pretty refined so there is no problem with intrusive cabin noise.
But there is a cautionary note for the company car driver. Check out the semi-automatic gearbox because I found it changed too quickly and compromised performance.You can get round it by hitting the sport button and using the paddle change, but that is not the way to get the best mpg.
And there is a sting in the tale by opting for the five-speed manual gearbox. It pumps out 124g/km which pushes the car over the magic 120g/km limit and means a bigger company car tax bill. Sticking with the e-HDi has potential for economy unheard of in cars of this size until a year ago. The Pug isn’t even top of the tree but you can’t argue with a combined figure of 62.7mpg.
Apart from everything that is good about 508 a big surprise was the ride. What has happened to Peugeot’s class leading super supple ride of old? I drove three versions and while a firmer ride goes with the GT, the two other models were decidedly jittery and had that hard Germanic feel.
And Peugeot will not be bothering with the option of changing suspension settings electronically because it is too expensive. Prices range from £18,150 to £28,750 for the 200hp leather clad GT. The e-HDi starts at £19,050 and UK bosses are pretty pleased with 1,000 orders for 508 before it hit the showrooms.
In their sights will be Vauxhall’s big selling Insignia which sold a third more than Mondeo last year even though it does not have a tax friendly low emissions engine, and Passat, not a major player in this company but still the benchmark for the sector.
Peugeot will be confident the classy 508 can mix it with the best. It looks a premium car and has a smarter, more luxurious cabin than Passat although they would love to have the VW’s resale value. Customers might be disappointed with the harder riding Pug but that is the price you pay for razor sharp handling.