Peugeot 508 GT

PEUGEOT has become best-known for its smaller cars – the 207 and 308, for example – with some SUVs as an aside. But the larger end of its portfolio has long been uninspiring.

Remember the 407? does anyone want to? What then of its successor, the bigger 508?

VALUE at $52,990 the topline GT has no shortage of gear – quad-zone filtered climate control, sunblinds for the rear and rear-side windows, parking sensors front and rear, hill-start assist, an electric parking brake, reach and rake adjustable steering, alarm, folding and heated exterior mirrors, and auto-dipping rear-view mirror.

The GT also gets the little head-up display screen with colour output, keyless entry and go, cruise control with speed limiter function, satellite navigation, a top-quality eight-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, controlled via the slightly busy leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 18-inch alloys, not all of it standard.

Leather seats with position memory are a $2500 extra. Satnav with head-up display is $1500, or $2300 with audio system upgrade – that’s pretty cheeky in a $50K plus car, even one as well loaded as this.

TECHNOLOGY top of the list is the high-pressure common-rail direct injection turbo diesel engine, which shrinks to 2.2 litres (the outgoing V6 is 2.7 litres) but gains 10Nm and improves fuel consumption to 5.7L/100km, a 33 per cent reduction. The GT rides on a double-wishbone front-end (instead of the MacPherson strut for the rest of the range).

DESIGN this is a big car – it’s 92mm longer in the wheelbase than its predecessor. when it comes to looks, for some it’s a like, for others a "yikes".

Certainly striking, the 508 sedan has a sculpted shoulder line that extends through the snout, which carries the new-look family styling. The rear is squared-off and almost abrupt by comparison, with tail-lights in LED form to stand out.

Its cabin is more conventional, with more than enough room for four adults – at 190cm-plus, I was able to sit behind my own driving position. Seats are comfortable if not overly endowed with lateral support. there are heaters for the fronts and the driver gets a massage function.

The audio has USB and Bluetooth connectivity, although when running an iPhone’s music player (on a USB cable or via Bluetooth) the delay from dash button to track change often means two or three are skipped.

The telephone side suffers none of these issues and is easy enough to use through the car’s infotainment system.

The satnav is clear and relatively easy to use, as was the centre trip computer display – unlike many cars with such screens, the Pug has a speed readout, which was a handy adjunct to the head-up display screen that flips into place on start-up.

The boot is not that deep but useful at 497 litres and the 508 makes do with a space-saver. to open the boot, you’ve got to press the "0" in 508. Slightly risque, very French.

Something the bulk of French cars do well is the rear child locks, a simple button that does door locks and windows, leaving the driver in control – too many window lock buttons remove all control and keep the driver’s switches out of play.

SAFETY The 508 earns a Euro NCAP crash rating of five stars and has an array of active and passive measures. These are augmented by pre-tensioners on the front seat belts and load-limiters on the fronts and outer rears. there are faster reacting LED tail-lights, automatic adaptive bi-xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers, front and rear fog lights, tyre pressure sensors and daytime running lights.

DRIVING The first challenge is negotiating the busy centre stack – it’s got plenty of gear and the top-spec GT’s myriad buttons and menus aren’t always the easiest to decipher.

The GT-only front end gives it a willing nose for corners and the body is well-controlled. Anyone looking for more compliant ride quality will have to forgo the sportier front-end, as well as losing out on the frugal diesel, which claims a combined figure of 5.7L/100km and averages single-digit returns in real-world driving.

The pay-off for the gruntier engine is in-gear acceleration on part-throttle – peak torque of 450Nm is a solid chunk from a little powerplant. The six-speed auto works well enough with the engine, although the gated shift is not as easy to use as some.

VERDICT some will love the looks, others will be pleased there’s an alternative to the Germans who dominate the compact prestige market. The 508 GT could have been more engaging but the Gallic lion has something to roar about. It’s well-equipped, a welcome and positive step back into the market for Peugeot and it’s worthy of genuine consideration. at a glancePeugeot 508 GT 2.2L HDi sedanRating: 3.5 StarsPrice: $52,990Warranty: 3 years/ 100,00kmResale: 45 per centService Interval: 12 months/ 20,000kmEconomy: 5.7L/100km; 150g/km CO2, tank 72 litresSafety Equipment: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, stability and traction controlCrash rating: 5-starEngine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 150kW/450NmTransmission: 6-speed auto, front-wheel driveBody: 4-door, 5-seatDimensions: 4792mm (L); 1853mm (W); 1456mm (H); 2817mm (WB)Weight: 1540kgTyre Size: 235/ 45R18, space-saver spareWe love: Mid-range torque from frugal engine, audio system, comfort and steeringWe Loathe: Grumpy gated shift, rear headroom, busy centre stack———-Others you may like:Ford Mondeo Titanium turbo diesel hatchRating: 4 StarsPrice: $46,990+Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl turbo diesel, 120kW/340NmTrans: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel driveBody: 5-door hatchThirst: 6.2L/100km, 165g/km CO2’One of the best all-rounders for ride and handling’Volkswagen Passat 125TDI sedanRating: 3.5 StarsEngine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl turbo diesel, 125kW/350NmTrans: 6-speed twin-clutch automated manual, front-wheel driveBody: 4-door sedanThirst: 5.7L/100km, 151g/km CO2’Doesn’t have heaps of cutting-edge style but it is comfortable and frugal’Mazda6 Diesel SportsRating: 3.5 StarsEngine: 2.2-litre, 4-cyl turbo diesel, 132kW/ 400NmTrans: 6-speed manual, front wheel driveBody: 5-door hatchThirst: 5.9L/100km, 154g/km CO2’400Nm keep gearbox use to a minimum. Good road manners too’