What's the used Peugeot 508 hatchback like?
The first Peugeot 508 was a reasonable enough car, but its cautious styling did a good job of hiding from the world at large the general competence of the oily bits underneath, so for this second-generation version the French firm deliberately injected a healthy dose of style into the design mix. It certainly worked, for this 508 is a good-looking car in the five-door coupe style of the Audi A5 Sportback and the Volkswagen Arteon.
However, to succeed in the ultra-competitive executive car class you need to be more than just a pretty face, and the 508 - while never destined to be a huge seller in the UK - needs to match its rivals in terms of comfort and refinement, as well as being a pleasure to drive. To that end, it offers a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox standard on all but the entry-level 1.5-litre diesel; this gets a six-speed manual, although the auto ’box is still an option. A plug-in hybrid version of the 508, which combines a petrol engine with an electric motor, was added to the line-up in 2019.
On the road the 508 is a bit of a mixed bag. The 1.5-litre 130 diesel is smooth and refined but feels a little underpowered. There’s also a 161bhp version of the 2.0 BlueHDi diesel engine and a 174bhp unit that has plenty of oomph and, like the 1.5, is reasonably refined. On the petrol side, the 179bhp 1.6 Puretech is smooth, responsive and a more spirited performer than the diesels, with the only disappointment being that it doesn't pull quite so well from low revs.
The 221bhp 1.5 petrol brings a noticeable amount of extra shove and is the quickest option in the line-up, albeit the most costly to run.
In corners, there’s plenty of grip, and the handling is safe and predictable, if largely uninspiring. The steering is actually slightly lower geared than other modern Peugeot models, but it has enough response and tenacity to instill confidence during faster cornering. There’s little in the way of body lean, which also helps with placing the car accurately, although the pay-off for this is a slightly firm ride that, although pleasant enough most of the time, can be a bit fidgety.
The 508 features Peugeot’s i-Cockpit layout, where a small steering wheel sits below your eyeline to the instrument panel, and analogue dials are replaced by a 12.3in customisable digital display. While the set-up works well for taller drivers who push the seat well back, it leaves shorter drivers unable to see all of the instrument pod. The seats are pseudo-sporty in style and the driving position is adjusted electrically in Allure-spec cars and above. However, the seat is set quite high, even on its lowest setting. Fit and finish are generally impressive, with the dashboard and surrounding areas featuring plenty of soft-touch materials and neat inserts, while top-spec GT models making good use of high-quality stitched leather. Only some cheaper-feeling plastic on the doors let the side down a bit.
Rearward visibility is quite restricted due to the car's extravagant exterior lines, so you'll be glad that reversing sensors and a rear-view camera are standard from Allure trim. Up front there’s good space for a tall driver and front passenger, despite the 508's sleek, coupé-like roofline. However, the news isn't as good in the rear. Yes, there’s just enough space for a six-footer to fold their legs in behind a lanky driver, but head room is severely limited. At least the 508 is a hatchback, rather than a saloon-style body, which gives it a large boot opening that helps with loading. In addition, you can fold the rear seats down in a 60/40 configuration by pulling toggles positioned just behind the headrests, although the seats don’t lie completely flat. Unfortunately, the size of the boot is a little down on one or two of its main rivals in this class.