Peugeot 508: Flexible and friendly

By Alastair Sloane

The sedan and SW salute the replica Spanish galleon, Andalucia. Photo / Supplied
The sedan and SW salute the replica Spanish galleon, Andalucia. Photo / Supplied

Peugeot has launched its new 508 sedan and wagon with two diesel engine choices and will follow up early next year with a petrol option.

The 1.6-litre petrol unit breaks new ground in New Zealand, in that it's the smallest capacity engine in the overall mid-range segment. But its acceptance in Europe has convinced Peugeot NZ divisional manager Simon Rose of its potential here.

"The engine and the range itself has passed the test very quickly in one of the toughest markets in the world," he said. "It will command attention from New Zealand buyers looking for all the space and comfort of a medium/large car without compromising on fuel efficiency and low emissions."

The 1.6-litre delivers 115kW and 240Nm of torque and comes with a CO2 emissions rating of 164g/km.

A brief drive through some demanding hilly country in Spain this year revealed a surprisingly flexible unit, helped somewhat by the six-speed Aisin automatic gearbox with a conventional torque converter.

The 2- and 2.2-litre diesel engines that complete the 508 range also use the Aisin unit. The 2-litre delivers 120kW at 3750rpm and 340Nm between 2000-3000rpm. The 2.2-litre unit dishes out 150kW at 3500rpm and a whopping 450Nm between 2000-2750rpm.

Peugeot claims town-and-around fuel use for both diesels of 5.7 litres/100km, or 50mpg, from the 75-litre fuel tank. Exhaust emissions are rated at around 150g/km. The 1.6-litre petrol engine consumes a claimed 6.4 litres/100km in town-and-around driving.

The 1.6-litre 508 will start in price at $46,990 when it arrives in the New Year. The 2-litre diesel sedan on sale now is $54,990, the station wagon $57,990. The 2.2-litre sedan and wagon are priced at $65,990 and $68,990 respectively and carry a GT badge.

"We haven't had a GT badge on a sedan or wagon for a very long time," says Rose. The GT sedan is here now, the wagon arrives early in 2012.

The 508 line-up replaces both the previous 407 and the bigger 607. Very few cars have been asked to straddle the ground previously occupied by mid-range offerings and a premium sedan.

The 508 offers more interior space than the 407, certainly for rear passengers. It is 10cm longer than the 407 but is up to 45kg lighter, thanks to lightweight components like the composite boot lid/tailgate.

The car's exterior is conservative compared with the 407 but aerodynamically cleaner. The interior is the best Peugeot has done for years, more upmarket with full leather trim on excellent seats and a slick centre console and dashboard assembly. The switchgear is more ergonomic than in recent models and obviously benefits from the carmaker's new emphasis on an efficient cabin layout. A heads-up display is part of the kit. One of the highlights of the SW is the vast panoramic glass roof that spills natural light throughout the cabin.

In a nutshell, the 508 brings back to life the ride/handling blend that characterised Peugeots for years, especially the 405 sedan of around 20 years ago.

It's a bigger car and isn't as edgy as the 405, but it nosed its way through mountain bends in Spain with fine body control, all the while remaining predictable, adjustable and with better balance than most front drive rivals.

The six-speed auto stumbled at times in search of a suitable ratio through the twisty bits but was at its best on motorway sections, where the marriage between 2-litre engine remained free from squabbles. The 508 cabin was also impressively quiet, no doubt helped by an acoustic windscreen as standard and dampers on the front axle to reduce engine vibration.

"This is an exciting time to be a part of the motor industry," said Rose, "as we enter a decade that will no doubt be heralded as an era of innovation and technology".

- NZ Herald

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