Vehicle Fitout
508 rings the changes for Peugeot
Peugeot has been in the transport industry for well over 100 years, starting asa  manufacturer of push bikes way back in 1830, progressing to automobiles in 1882 then, in a rather uniquely French quirk, back to two wheels and motorcycles in 1898.
For many years, post-World War 2, Peugeot was the leading provider of executive cars in France and other European countries, up until the 1970s when the French Government sought assistance from Peugeot to keep the ailing and virtually bankrupt Citroen alive. At this point the temptation to continue buying was too great and the newly-created group – PAG as it was known – also acquired Chrysler’s bankrupt European division.
Buying Chrysler Europe led to the enlarged Peugeot Citroen group running losses in the early 1980s and turning to small cars for salvation – enter the Peugeot 205GTi which almost single-handedly kept the group alive.
The late 1980s saw the large rear-drive 504 and subsequent 505 models dropped from the range, to be replaced by the front-drive 405 - and it is with the 405 that the ancestry of the 508 begins.
The 405 was an unreserved success, certainly in the UK where it broke the stranglehold of the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier on the “rep car” market.  Peugeot woke up to this quite quickly, bringing out the 406 as a successor in 1995 and running it all the way through to 2004 when the highly desirable 407 broke cover.
Nearly seven years have passed since the 407 took to the road, and a replacement was long overdue.
Peugeot meanwhile had re-entered the large car segment with the 607, achieving little or limited success. Faced with abandoning the executive car segment for the second time in a generation Peugeot has taken the bold step of finding a middle ground by dropping both 607 and 407 and introducing a replacement that covers both segments.
Welcome to New Zealand Peugeot 508.
You’re going to face a tough challenge to achieve the goals your maker set for you, especially in the current economic climate and the mid-size segment, where the battle for buyers is intensifying.
Add to that challenge the current change to low capacity, high output engines by your competitor European manufacturers and you can be in no doubt that your mettle will be tested.
How will 508 meet these challenges?
We spent six happy days driving the 508 Allure around town and into the countryside hoping to enjoy some “Quality Time” – the marketing line that Peugeot is using with the car – as well as some enjoyable driving time.
We managed both.
First impressions are vital in the motor industry and with just a few seconds to impress the 508 achieved its first goal; it looks impressive from any angle. Style and design are key factors to making a good impression, and the 508 did just that.
The rounded, sleek lines are pleasing to the eye, enhanced by Peugeot’s long overdue decision to reduce the size of the front air intake to more acceptable proportions than those found on the 407. Peugeot design also managed to lengthen the cabin to reduce the bonnet snout, again something overdue on its midsize car.
Open the doors to find a well-appointed interior – bearing in mind that the model we drove is the mid-range version – and those first impressions are favourable all round.
Peugeot has chosen to go with a light coloured roof lining that contrasts favourably with the black interior finish, although the partial leather finish is quite dark. Balance of the interior is a mix of plastics, chromed and otherwise, and some nicely detailed leather complete with visible stitching.
So far so good, unless you are a technophobe in which case take a deep breath, because even with the technology this could be the car for you. Peugeot NZ has chosen the entirely keyless option. Drop the RFID key into your pocket and let the technology do all the work, including locking and unlocking the doors via touch.
 “Touch” unlocking and locking of the doors is something comparatively new. Look closely at the 508 door handle and you’ll see two parallel horizontal “lines” looking for all the world like mini-sculptures. Touch them with light pressure and the car unlocks, the door mirrors swing out, and at night LED lights under those mirrors illuminate the door and ground, nice touch. All passengers and drivers of our sample 508 really appreciated the touch locking system, especially the ladies.
Push button start is the order of the day, an option that has become increasingly familiar on many a car these days.
Many years ago Lotus Formula One introduced a steering wheel that had buttons on it, phenomenally innovative for its time. Little did Colin Chapman know that within 30 years virtually every road car coming off the production lines has a steering wheel with buttons on it.
The 508 is no exception. Its steering wheel controls a range of actions, including cruise control, sound system, phone – Bluetooth is standard – and trip computer. The Allure 508 has fewer buttons and controls than the top-of-the-range GT, some even hidden in a pull down panel to the right of the steering column, so if you prefer less high-tech stuff then this is the car for you.
Looking around the 508 its quite clear that a great deal of thought has gone into creature comforts. The rear passengers get their own set of climate air controls to match the increased legroom, generous headroom and comfortable seats. Those in the back may also choose to use the window blinds on their doors and the one fitted to the rear window for increased privacy – especially useful for baby transport, one mother remarked.
A shade under $55,000 will get you this 508 Allure, another $11,000 buys the top of the range GT with all the bells and whistles.
Storage space on both models is almost identical, the door bins are large and generous; the centre arm rest bin is devoted to the driver hinged on the passenger side rather than the traditional rear. Open the glove box, and then close it as the space in there is dominated by the large vehicle handbook, making the title of glove box almost exactly that. The boot, despite being a touch shallow, also swallows a remarkable volume of baggage, golf clubs and shopping, handy in a company car environment.

Peugeot want you to have quality time in this car, and so sound deadening is class leading, you can hardly hear the engine, and road noise is, to all intents and purpose, non-existent - even on our archaic chip-seal roads. Turn on the clear and crisp sound system and you can enjoy some very private quality time.
What you won’t appreciate is the pop-out cupholders, situated just above the sound system controls. Designed by the French for their love of espresso coffee, but useless for anything larger than a small flat white takeaway cup. If anything disappoints in the 508 it’s this.
But that’s a minor blip in what, over the six days, proved to be an enjoyable and remarkably well put-together car.
We looked for cheap plastic and failed to find it, equally we failed to detect wavy stitch lines on the seats and elsewhere. We looked hard for loose trim, missing screws and clips, but again were pleased not to be able to find these things.
Peugeot is one of the world’s leading makers of diesel engines, developing them for power, economy and environmental consideration. That philosophy is continued with the 508, the Allure coming with a 6-speed auto ‘box mated to the 120kW/340Nm 2.0HDi engine making cruising on motorways refined and comfortable.
When you want to have a bit of fun, the engine, paddle shift and gearbox all come along to play as well. The steering needs to be a wee bit tauter for faster work, the suspension copes with all the bumps and lumps it comes across and handles change of pitch and roll of the car quite well, making the ride smoother for those sitting on board. All up the 508 is no sports car, but it can move quickly and smoothly when you want it too, and that is no bad thing.
Buying a new car these days is time consuming, almost as much as buying a house. The days of dropping into the dealership and a quick half-hour drive around the block are gone. Nowadays there is a lot of technology to try out and even after six days with the 508 there were still little things we spotted on the drive to return the car, such as the little light ring on the gear stick, the pull-down drawer that reveals additional buttons and controls, and the complex but highly entertaining roof console that houses the LED interior lights and controls.
Lights, especially daytime running lights, have become a space the manufacturers can extract an advantage from and they are now more commonly seen, usually a strip of LED lights contained in or immediately below the headlights.
Peugeot has chosen a version of the xenon system where the headlights double as DRL, as well as being auto-dipping headlights, which to our surprise worked well. One aspect of the lights that caught us by surprise is the directional headlights. Turn the wheel and the lights point in the direction you are intending to travel. Initially we thought the system had those on/off fog lights, but no, the headlights actually point. Clever and a neat safety feature.
Frankly the 508 is a breath of fresh air against opposition that has progressively enlarged its cars while leaving the name the same. The 508 is designed to sit between the mid- and large-size segments, and on that basis there should be a fair few readers of this journal who will look long and hard at the 508 as a viable option against six and even eight-cylinder offerings.
Not with us yet, but coming from Europe later in the year, is the Aspire option, essentially an entry level version, with the same size body, comfort - cloth not leather - and fewer technological refinements. That said, with the size of the cabin and the boot space, the Aspire may well find favour in some fleets, particularly with Peugeot’s nippy and economical 1.6-litre turbo engine fitted to the same six-speed gearbox.
Could this be the car that revives the local Peugeot operation’s fortunes, taking it back to the halcyon days of annual sales exceeding four figures? Sime Darby and the Peugeot dealer network are quietly confident about this car, and, in our opinion, rightly so.

 

 

 

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