What Car? says...
With the revolutionary zeal historically associated with France, the Peugeot 508 has evolved over the years from a staid four-door saloon into a sleek and low-slung five-door hatchback with a coupé look.
Peugeot calls the 508 a fastback – a term evoking associations with the dashing Jaguar E-Type and Ford Mustang of the Sixties.
Don't go thinking the 508 is all style and no substance though, because it has plenty of talents to bring the fight to rivals such as the Skoda Superb as well as premium alternatives including the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class.
To find out whether the regular Peugeot 508 is worthy of your consideration, read on. We’ll tell you all about its performance, interior, practicality and running cost, and rate it against other executive cars.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
In plug-in hybrid (PHEV) form, the Peugeot 508 combines a petrol engine with an electric motor, and offers an official electric-only range of up to 34 miles. That version is called the Plug-in Hybrid 225 and the range on offer puts it in close competition with the Skoda Superb iV.
When the 508 is running on electric power alone, acceleration from a standstill is brisk and motorway speeds are handled with ease. Just don’t expect Tesla-like acceleration from the single 108bhp electric motor. When the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine joins in, 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds, which isn’t quite as quick as a BMW 330e or Superb iV.
For pure petrol power, the 129bhp 1.2 Puretech 130 is the only option in the 508 range. We’ve yet to try it, but on paper it’s quite a bit slower than the PHEV so you’ll have to work it harder to get going.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is generally impressively smooth and responsive, but can be hesitant around town. That failing isn’t helped by the start/stop system, which is overly intrusive in operation.
In the Plug-in Hybrid 225, the auto box gets flustered if you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration – it can dither around trying to decide on a gear. It's otherwise quiet and smooth, especially in electric mode, but the transition when the petrol engine kicks in isn’t as slick as you’ll experience in the BMW 330e or the Superb iV.
After that, the PHEV behaves like the other Puretech petrol engines: smooth enough in normal use but rather coarse at the top of the rev range.
At the top of the line-up, there’s a high-performance PSE Plug-in Hybrid4 360 with a whopping 355bhp, a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds and an electric range of 34 miles. So far we’ve only driven this model in the 508 SW estate version.
Adaptive suspension is optional on GT models and standard on the range-topping PSE model, and is linked to four driving modes: Eco, Sport, Comfort and Normal. Comfort and Normal tend to introduce a floating sensation over the crest of bumps at speed, especially in the PHEV. Sport increases the steering weight and stiffens the dampers, but the differences are small.
Regardless of the setting, the 508 fidgets over road imperfections at all speeds, and the Superb is far more forgiving on poor road surfaces. Cars without the adaptive suspension are set a little on the firm side and fidget noticeably, too.
The up side of the 508's firm set-up is that it resists body lean well in corners, in addition to gripping the road like a limpet. Its steering responds quickly enough, although it can’t match the precision of the BMW 3 Series. You end up sawing at the wheel quite a bit and it’s less enjoyable to drive than these rivals as a result.
Strengths Plug-in hybrids are quiet in electric mode; decent handling
Weaknesses Firm ride; limited engine choice
The interior layout, fit and finish
The 508 employs Peugeot’s trademark i-Cockpit layout, with conventional analogue dials replaced by a 12.3in customisable digital display that’s viewed over the top of – rather than through – an unusually small steering wheel.
Unfortunately, while that works well in the Peugeot 3008 and the Peugeot 5008, in the lower-slung 508 it can be difficult to see the dials unless you have the steering wheel set lower than feels natural, or if you have a long torso. In short, it’s a set-up that won’t work for everyone so try before you buy.
The front seats offer a wide range of adjustment, and in top-spec GT Premium trim you can set them up electronically. Entry-level Allure gets manual seat adjustment but still comes with electrically adjustable lumbar support.
All 508s have a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment display, but the system itself can be a little slow to respond to touch inputs. There are shortcut keys to make operating it on the move slightly easier, although these ‘piano keys’ (as Peugeot calls them) protrude from the centre console at a 90-degree angle, so it’s tricky to see their labels when driving.
Fit and finish are generally impressive. The dashboard and surrounding areas make good use of soft-touch materials and eye-catching trim inserts, while GT models are set apart by stitched leather surfaces. The cheaper-feeling plastics used on the doors let the side down a bit, though.
Rearward visibility is a little restricted due to the 508's slinky exterior lines, so you'll be glad that front and rear parking sensors are standard on all models. A rear-view camera is also included, and on GT trim it gives a full 360-degree view.
Thick front pillars and small side windows conspire to make forward and side visibility a little awkward as well, especially when you're approaching roundabouts and T-junctions.
Strengths Decent fit and finish; wireless smartphone mirroring as standard
Weaknesses Driving position won’t work for everyone; infotainment system not the sharpest
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Despite the Peugeot 508's sleek, coupé-like roofline, there’s decent space for a tall driver and front passenger. The news isn't quite as good for those in the back seats.
There’s just enough space for a six-footer to fold their legs in behind an average-height driver, but head room is so limited that it's best thought of as a child and short adult-only zone, unless passengers are prepared to travel with their heads cocked. Head room is even more restricted with the optional panoramic sunroof.
Similarly, the boot is on the small side by the standards of the executive car class. There's room for just seven carry-on cases, compared with the eight that you'll get in a VW Arteon and the 10 that a Skoda Superb can swallow.
However, the 508 wins a few practicality points back with its hatchback (rather than saloon-style) body. Its tailgate opens up high, making it comparatively easy to load bulky items. You can also fold the 60/40 split rear seats down by pulling the toggles that are positioned just behind the headrests.
It's a shame, though, that the folded seats don’t lie completely flat. The ski hatch is very handy; not only does it allow long, slim items to extend through the seatback between the two outside seats, but it also allows easy access from the rear seats into the boot itself.
And if you’re wondering whether there’s any practical compromise going from a non-hybrid 508 to a PHEV one – there isn’t. The only change is the fact you can’t have a spare wheel. That’s a shame, but partly offset by the fact that you get a handy underfloor storage for the charging cables in exchange.
Strengths Ski-hatch is standard; good space up front
Weaknesses Boot not the biggest; rear-seat headroom limited
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Peugeot 508 has a starting price that puts it in Skoda Superb territory, but with top-end models positioned closer to the BMW 3 Series and the VW Arteon, so it's certainly not a bargain.
However, it does undercut the car Peugeot probably had in its sights at the development stage – the Audi A5 Sportback, with its similar coupé-like styling.
The range-topping PSE Plug-in Hybrid4 360, meanwhile, is astonishingly expensive and very difficult to recommend considering it costs a lot more than plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the 3 Series, which are significantly better.
High PCP costs don't help the 508's case, but the lower-powered PHEV version can make sense as a company car. Low emissions help it to cost around half as much in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax as an equivalent petrol or diesel rival, despite its rather high list price.
It’s worth knowing that in order to charge a PHEV 508’s battery at full speed from a 7kW wall box charger you’ll need to pay extra. If you do, it’ll get a full charge in two hours, otherwise it will take three hours and 25 minutes. From a domestic three-pin plug it will take more than seven hours to go from flat to full.
The 1.2-litre Puretech 130 petrol should be decently frugal, while the PHEV could be cheap to run if you do the majority of your journeys on pure electric power alone. If you do long journeys often, or don’t keep the battery topped up, then the MPG figure is likely to drop to the low 30s.
In terms of overall equipment, there are only two trims to choose from, and entry-level Allure model strikes the best balance between luxuries and affordability.
There’s a long list of standard safety equipment, with lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and a driver attention monitor all fitted across the range. Indeed, Euro NCAP awarded it five stars out of five – although this was back in 2018, and the tests have become more stringent since then. Two Isofix child-seat points are fitted to the outer rear seats.
In our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, Peugeot finished down in 21st out of 32 car makers in the manufacturers table, which is above Audi but still a slightly disappointing finish.
The 508's three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is slightly above average for the class, though, with many manufacturers imposing a 60,000-mile limit. Still, others offer cover that lasts for much longer. The battery in PHEV versions is covered by an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty, which also guarantees it to keep at least 70% of its capacity during that time.
Strengths Cheaper than premium alternatives; well equipped
Weaknesses 7kW charger not standard on plug-in hybrid; range-topping PSE model extremely expensive
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|RRP price range||£34,170 - £53,975|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||158.5 - 58.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,186 / £2,231|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,372 / £4,461|