PEUGEOT 508 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Mid-size sedan
Price: $37,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.7 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.3 l/100km
Now a new variant has joined the range. The diesel-powered 508 Active e-HDi sits one rung above the entry-level 508 Active 1.6 petrol. Its party piece, besides the elegant style common to the new 508 family, is its miserly thirst.
The e-HDi’s fuel-efficient turbodiesel engine and start-stop system promises superb economy. Unfortunately, while it delivers at the bowser, we found that the e-HDi system has driveability flaws that perhaps outweigh its advantages.
Quality: As the entry point to the 508 family, the Active grade models get part-leather upholstery and less-ornate trimmings than the rest of the range.
It has a less-premium feel as a result, but material and trim quality is high. Where some Peugeot interiors in the past have been awkward ergonomically, the 508’s cabin stands out for fit, finish, design and layout.
Comfort: Legroom front and back is good and there’s ample reach adjustment to the steering wheel. It’s easy to get comfortable in the 508’s driver’s seat.
The lever used to recline the manually-adjusted front seats is poorly placed, but the range of adjustment for seat height, rake and slide is generous.
Back seat space is very comfortable for two adults, and the retractable sun blinds in each rear door and in the parcel shelf will help keep ‘back-seaters’ cool in hot weather.
Equipment: Cruise control, speed limiter, trip-computer, Bluetooth phone integration, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control and 17-inch alloys are standard features on the 508 Active e-HDi.
The audio system features eight speakers and a USB input for music players, and is controlled by steering wheel-mounted buttons.
Storage: 548 litres of flat, open space is available in the 508’s boot. It can be expanded to 1581 litres by dropping the 60/40 split-fold rear seats.
There’s plenty of in-cabin storage, but the usable glovebox space only spans about half the width of the glovebox lid - a curious waste of space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Here’s where the 508 e-HDi starts to lose its lustre. The numbers from its 1.6 litre turbodiesel inline four are nothing special - 82kW and 270Nm - but it’s the transmission and start-stop system that make the 508 e-HDi’s engine a pain to live with.
The start-stop system is slow to restart the engine, so keeping an eye on the traffic light cycle is a must if you don’t want to hold up those behind you. Start-stop can be disabled, but switching it off negates the fuel economy benefits.
The sole transmission on offer in the 508 e-HDi, a single-clutch automated manual called EGC in Peugeot parlance, is far more annoying however than the start stop system.
Taking off from standstill is a slow affair, gear-changes are accompanied by a protracted pause, and the clutch engagement is abrupt and jerky on upchanges.
You can smooth out gearchanges a little by easing off the accelerator in anticipation of each shift, but doesn’t such intervention defeat the purpose of having an automatic transmission?
Thankfully the e-HDi is the only variant in the 508 family that’s burdened with the EGC gearbox.
It’s a shame the driveline is so unlikeable; the engine it’s bolted to is actually quite good. The torque and power numbers are low, but there’s abundant torque at low rpm and fuel economy at cruising speed hovers between 3.7 and 4.5 l/100km.
Refinement: The eHDi’s jerky, snatchy clutch engagement might be fine in a work van, but it’s unforgiveable in a European mid-size family sedan. That aside, the 508 has good noise suppression and you can scarcely tell it’s a diesel from inside the cabin.
Suspension: The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension has a good balance between ride comfort and cornering stability, weighted slightly more towards the former.
The 17-inch alloys are fitted with Michelin Primacy tyres, which, thanks to their taller sidewalls (relative to the up-spec 508 GT), are more comfortable over broken tarmac and sharp bumps.
The steering wheel is light, and the low-ratio rack necessitates a lot of turns to go from lock to lock - a slight annoyance in tight quarters.
Braking: The brake pedal is soft and needs be pushed a fair distance before the brakes really start to bite. Braking performance is good once you adjust to the long pedal stroke though.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: ABS, brake assist, EBD, cornering brake control, stability control and traction control are standard. The 508’s airbag suite consists of dual front, dual front side and full-length curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service costs: Under the Peugeot Assured Service plan, scheduled services for all 508 variants are capped at $330 per year for the first three years/60,000km. Service intervals are set for every 12 months/20,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Passat 125TDI ($43,990) - The Passat 125TDI’s six-speed DSG transmission is the polar opposite of the 508 e-HDi’s box, with lightning-fast gearshifts and smooth performance.
It’s more highly-featured and markedly more powerful than the Peugeot, but it also wears a much higher pricetag. (see Passat reviews)
Renault Latitude dCi ($36,990) - The Latitude is sharp value; its 2.0 litre turbodiesel produces 45kW and 110Nm more than the 508 e-HDI. Sat-nav, heated seats and a proximity key are standard on the Latitude too.
If you’re after a sub-$40k French car, the Renault Latitude dCi’s value-for-money equation is hard to beat. (see Latitude reviews)
Ford Mondeo LX TDCi hatch ($35,490) - Ford’s Mondeo handles well and is well-suited to Australian roads. Its strong 120kW and 340Nm 2.0 litre turbodiesel is paired with an excellent twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
It’s interior isn’t anywhere near as plush as the 508’s though, and in LX trim it feels very bare-bones compared to the Peugeot. (see Mondeo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Peugeot 508 e-HDi is a nice car that’s let down by the inadequacies of its quirky transmission and snoozy start-stop system.
It’s certainly fuel efficient - and that’s its primary objective - and we’d have more praise for the e-HDi were it not for the jerky gear changes and slow-reacting stop-start.
As it stands though, it’s difficult to recommend the e-HDi when the rest of the 508 range is so much better - if a little more expensive.