In her launch review of the Peugeot 508 range, Sue Baker described the 2.0 HDi 140 engine as offering "the optimum blend of performance and diesel economy". After a week in a 508 fitted with exactly this engine, I could hardly agree with her more.
The 2.0 HDi 140 gives this latest big Peugeot a top speed of 130mph and a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds. These figures are not, I would be the first to admit, startling, yet they are entirely sufficient. Not once - even during overtaking manoeuvres which, shall we say, demanded my full attention - did I wish the car had more power.
I didn't wish it would use less fuel, either, because I'm not sure how this would be possible. According to the trip computer (and my experience of these is that they're rarely stray more than a couple of percent into the fib zone) 55mpg was achievable without too much effort, 53mpg with no effort at all.
And it's not like I was dawdling. In fact, I'm not sure just how hard you would have to drive the car to drag the economy figure down into the 40s. Considering that this is not the super-economy, low-CO2 model in the 508 range (that's a less powerful diesel with start/stop), I must say that the 2.0 HDi 140's greenness is a big surprise.
It may in fact be the best thing about the car. I'm not entirely sure about the styling yet, and I'm actively disappointed by the amount of room in the rear; you can certainly get four fully-grown adults into a 508, but problems will start to arise if two or more of them are above six feet tall, and I don't think this should be an issue in a car of this size.
On country roads with plenty of corners the 508 handles pleasantly enough, though not as well as a Ford Mondeo or a FlexRide-equipped Vauxhall Insignia, and the ride quality includes only a tiny residue of the wallow which used to bedevil all large French saloons.
The test car also felt a bit jittery on less than ideal road surfaces, but that was because it was running on 18" alloy wheels with low-profile 45-section tyres. These rather unfortunate items come as standard with the Allure trim, which is the highest of the three available for the 2.0 HDi 140 - the cheaper SR and Active run on 16" and 17" wheels respectively.
The Allure specification includes a radio/CD/MP3 player with Bluetooth, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, half-leather trim, a keyless entry and starting system, a rear parking sensor (just an audible one - there's no camera), electric folding door mirrors and an electric parking brake with Hill Assist.
It's a reasonable list, and the only thing that worries me about it is the electric parking brake, since I've never fully trusted those. The Peugeot did not give me any reason to change this view, since on three occasions a warning light came on to tell me that the brake wasn't working any more (though it always was).
For a brief period the central locking system didn't seem to be working, and once the rear interior lights came on for no obvious reason and had to be switched off manually. None of this has made me any happier about French electrics than I was before.
Although the 508 is a saloon rather than a hatchback, you can still fold down the rear seats to increase the luggage capacity. In fact, the seats are sprung towards the down position, so they fold within about a billionth of a second of you pulling the appropriate lever. Less usefully, the boot aperture is narrow and has a high sill, so it may be difficult to get heavy or awkward objects in there. Assuming that this isn't a problem, there's around 500 litres of space in there, which compares well enough with the opposition.
Euro NCAP crash tested the 508 in May 2011 and awarded it five stars. It does seem to look after its occupants, but one thing to be aware of is that the pedestrian protection score wasn't great, and if the same test were done in 2012 (after the rating system has been revised) the 508 would lose a star for that reason.
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