French cars dare to be different, representing the free-spirit of their mother country. And the new Peugeot 508 mid-sizer is no different. But once you look past the little difference there is a high quality machine that is often overlooked.
Here are five things you need to know.
1. There’s no skimping on gear
The 508 takes aim at popular German mid-size sedans, primarily the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. At $53,990 plus on-roads, it undercuts them by about $10K yet gets more equipment. Standard are front seats with heating, massage function and power adjustment, 360-degree camera, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control and active safety gear that includes blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking and speed sign recognition. Add the five-year warranty and it’s a tempting on-paper proposition.
2. It’s very French
The 508 comes from a French factory, there are (grippy) Michelin tyres, the 515W audio with 10 speakers is by French brand Focal … and there are quirks, too. The steering wheel is sports car small and you look over it rather than through it to view the digital instrument cluster. It may seem inconsequential but it takes some getting used to. If you dial up the analog-look tachometer in the customisable cluster, it spins in the opposite direction, the smaller numbers to the bottom right and the larger numbers anticlockwise from there. Voila.
3. Controls take familiarisation
The 10.0-inch touchscreen that’s part of the i-Cockpit is the nerve centre, responding to seven fixed buttons laid out like piano keys with upmarket metal finish. However, basic changes in the cabin can require multiple button presses. Want to adjust the ventilation? First, select the ventilation menu then change the fan. Similarly, darting between radio and music streaming via Apple CarPlay requires more menus and sub-menus. There are some shortcuts but chances are you’ll be pressing buttons more than you would in a Corolla. The USB ports and wireless charging pad are hidden beneath the centre console.
4. It’s more hatch than sedan
The 508’s hatchback configuration (marketed as Fastback) makes loading chunky items into the 487L cargo space easier. As in some sports cars, the side windows are frameless, the fruit of intensive design efforts that incorporate snazzy darkened tail-lights and distinctive LEDs up front. Plus, there’s a sporty silhouette with raked roof, which takes its toll on headroom for those in the rear.
5. There’s some Peugeot of old
Some of the quirkiness in the 508 seems forced. The way it drives does not. The suspension has clearly been tuned more for comfort, with suppleness that smothers bumps nicely. You can stiffen the adaptive dampers by selecting from five drive modes but in its softest setting it’s more relaxed and in character. The 1.6-litre engine musters a respectable 165kW/00Nm, the latter ensuring more of a big engine feel — but it’s far from sweet, with some buzziness as revs rise. The eight-speed auto is occasionally clumsy, from initial engagement or when shifting between ratios.
Originally published as Is this the world’s quirkiest car?