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508 goes the extra mile(s)


RATING 86/100



Normally I wouldn't bat an eye, but for some reason I became almost obsessive with how many more kilometres were left in the tank.

I got sucked into it because I was churning out far more kilometres than normal. However, the on-board computer kept telling me I had plenty of fuel left. I didn't doubt it because the old needle wasn't rattling to empty with much haste.

This latest obsession overtook me in the course of driving two versions of this new family car, the 508, from Peugeot. I put up a fair few kilometres in both for one reason or another. Now, I must confess I got a little 'green' with the driving, so I went slower than I might normally.

Also, a lot of it was at motorway cruising speed so the engines were not being pushed too hard.

But even allowing for that I think you will find the figures quite impressive.

First up was the 2-litre (and really well specced) diesel. I covered 1106.9km in it and the little computer thingie on the dash told me I'd get another 195 if I kept driving as I had been. I left it back at that stage.

The second one I had was a 1.6-litre diesel and again the kilometres just rolled by. We're talking around 1,300km in both instances here on (two separate, obviously) 72-litre tanks of diesel here. I've not come across that sort of consistent consumption before.

I double- and treble-checked my figures. They are correct. Now, I'll admit if I had been grinding out city driving or doing quick, hard bursts the numbers might be a bit different. I think they are hugely relevant, however, because this car is directly targeted at two distinct groups -- families and those who do a lot of driving in the course of their business. And maybe the odd downsizer from an executive motor.

In both cases, the frugality will be warmly welcomed by intending buyers.

As one who is normally cynical about fuel consumption figures, I will do a rough estimate for you. Essentially, both cars were capable of doing 1,300km on a 72-litre tank of diesel. That, in old parlance, is a steady 50mpg-plus. For a car of this size, and considering motorway speed limits are in the main 120km/h, that is remarkable.

And the 508 is a big car. Much bigger and more imposing than the 407 it replaces.

It now has the interior room of the old 607 executive. And it is distinguished by two visual dramatics: a 'stepped' front bonnet (reminiscent of the Volvo S80) and a tame, trying-to-be-executive tail end. In between you have sweeping hint-of-coupe flowing lines and indisputable nods towards 'upmarketry'.

The cabin is a big, comfortable spot with a lot of rear-seat room (the 407 was criticised for its lack of space) and in fairness they didn't skimp on the equipment.

On that basis, families are well looked after. But what about the driver, the one who is on the road behind the wheel on business for hours and hours every day?

Here's where I think this car has moved up a notable notch. In fairness nearly all Peugeots have a characteristic in common -- good handling, road holding and well-judged suppleness. The 508 is more subtle than most in that it is comfortable without being too sharp in the handling.

I still think the Ford Mondeo holds that fort but there are areas where this combination feels as good, especially over bobbly roads. I enjoyed my drives in these two and so did my passengers. For once we had little need of the boot, which is big and roomy but a little shallow.

Criticisms? Of course. I'm not mad about the 'ledged' bonnet and maybe the steering felt a tad woolly betimes.

One item is particularly noteworthy: it has a full-sized spare wheel.

Shock. So many cars don't these days. I think they should, and customers are being short-changed with excuses for substitutes.

Peugeot has had its critics over the years. I've been one. They've made huge strides with this, effectively taking it into serious battle in various ways with the Mondeo (handling/ride), Toyota Avensis (smoothness) and even rattling the Volkswagen Passat's cage (executive feel). I still think in terms of pure value the Skoda Superb outstrips them all, but that is another day's work.

Sadly, the 508 is a car that has lost a lot this year by arriving so late -- just as the market was diminishing. A couple of months earlier and I've no doubt we'd see a lot more of them on the road.

It will get a good shot at your money next year but Peugeot must be aware, as is everyone in this cut-throat market segment, that freshness is everything and fickle purchasers flock to the next best thing with little thought for what was the star of yesterday. In fairness, this deserves a serious test drive this year or next.


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