Peugeot probably isn’t the first name you think of when considering a sporty compact executive sedan – I’m guessing the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are what’ll come to mind first, and even if your tastes are a bit alternative, you’ll probably still just be thinking of a Jaguar XE or Volvo S60.
A worthwhile entrant into this space isn’t unprecedented from Peugeot, though – just think back to the iconic 405 Mi16, and it’s cred in this area is certified. I’d say it’s fairly clear that’s a car Peugeot was looking back to when making the 508 GT Fastback, as the vibes here are all the same – even if the lineage here is one that links back more to the famously indestructible 504.
Here in Australia, the 508 sports a highly-specified three-variant lineup for the 2022 model year, with this GT Fastback the cheapest entrant at a starting price of $57,490. For $2000 more, you can have it as a Sportswagon, while a new plug-in hybrid version of the Fastback is also imminent, with that priced from a rather dear $76,990.
Regardless of which you go for, what your money gets you is just as good as – if not better than – what the majority of rivals will offer for the same spend. From a style perspective alone, it draws an ace, with its four-door coupé body looking incredibly slick against the usual three-box sedans it’s up against.
Inside, it’s equally as swish, with its deeply sculpted bucket seats, angular dashboard, and faux-carbon finishes giving it a true sporting character. Combine that with things like its standard Nappa leather upholstery, aluminium speaker grilles, and floating centre console, and it feels very sophisticated as well – enough so to feel like a serious competitor against the competition I mention before.
Of course, it still has its quirks, which you’d expect from a Peugeot. The octagonal steering wheel, the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that you view above it, the sharply-angled 10.0-inch central infotainment display, the piano key-like buttons, the odd shifter design… all of it looks quite bewildering at first, but as you slide into the deeply-bolstered driver’s seat, it all makes sense in a peculiar way. It feels like a driver’s car, which is really what matters most.
It’s one not short of luxuries, though, chief among which is the massage function both front seats have, which combined with a bit of heat will certainly get you feeling incredibly relaxed. Fortunately, the 508 is sporting Level 2 semi-autonomous driving capability, so it can take the job of driving into its own hands for the most part, leaving you to really enjoy that massage while it lasts.
The 10-speaker Focal audio system sounds absolutely mint, and the clarity of its instrument and infotainment displays is crystal clear as well, showing that all-around, it absolutely nails it when it comes to technology. Perhaps wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is the only thing it’s missing, but it does at least have wired compatibility and also a wireless phone charger for if you’re happy sticking to regular Bluetooth.
Admittedly, being a ‘Fastback’ design, rear headroom isn’t quite as good as it is in traditional sedan rivals, but it could be far worse than it actually is. Factor in the good amount of rear legroom and decently sized boot with a big opening thanks to having a hatch, and despite being a smaller car overall than some rivals, it’s been designed thoughtfully to maximise what space there is to work with.
Consider, though, that being a little bit smaller means the 508 is light, tipping the scales at just 1395kg when most rivals weigh around, if not more than a tonne and a half. Combine this light weight with a punchy engine – a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 165kW at 5500rpm and 300Nm at 2750rpm – and it’s ticking all the right boxes in what should be a very fun package.
Don’t think the fact it’s front-wheel drive and has a torque converter auto fool you into thinking it’s not the real deal either – there’s next-to-no torque steer or understeer, and the eight-speed Aisin ‘box shifts pretty briskly and intuitively, bringing the best out of that smooth but punchy little turbo engine under the bonnet.
The official 0-100km/h claim may only be 8.1 seconds, but its performance on paper belies its performance on tarmac. Its lack of displacement may strip it of some top-end grunt, but through the mid-range it feels incredibly eager when you stand on the throttle.
What’s most impressive when it comes to the drive, however, is the handling, as this has one of the most impressive front-wheel drive chassis out there right now. Throw it into Sport mode and you can feel the suspension stiffen to eliminate almost all body roll, and the steering tightens as well from single-finger light around town to a solid degree of weightiness.
The front-end grip is what’s most impressive above all else, though. Rolling on Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, it is super glue sticky through the corners, feeling laterally stable and holding its line with true confidence. There’s none of the lift-off oversteer you can often expect from longer-wheelbase front-wheel drive cars as well, meaning its pointed neutrality is right on the money for a sporty saloon in this class.
It’s that which puts it head and shoulders above the offerings from mainstream brands like the torque steer-prone Hyundai Sonata N Line and Mazda6 Turbo, and comes as close as a front-drive offering ever really could to the class’ best chassis, such as the rear-drive Jag XE and Genesis G70.
Obviously, this doesn’t change the fact it’s one of the least well known options in the class, having sold just 163 units in Australia this year so far, but that’s still more than the Jag and Genesis, along with the Volvo S60, so it’s at least not least popular in the class, but it’s certainly not even close to challenging the German establishment. Its Asian-made rivals both outsell it as well.
That’s almost a shame, given just how good this thing is, but then there’s certainly some ‘if you know, you know’ hipster appeal to underdogs like this. Certainly, I’d like to see far more of these lining our roads, though – if only to raise the average attractiveness of city traffic at rush hour.
2021 Peugeot 508 GT Fastback List Price: $57,490 | As Tested: $61,040
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Ride & Handling - 8.5/108.5/10
- Tech & Features - 9/109/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 8/108/10
Pros: Immense front-end grip, eager and frugal turbocharged engine, bursting with luxury features, gorgeous styling
Cons: Some traditional sedan rivals will offer more rear headroom, sunroof and pearlescent paint are very pricey options
In a nutshell: The 2022 Peugeot 508 is unlikely to ever be a top-selling contender in this class – which, admittedly, is declining in sales totals regardless – but it’s not the least popular option out there either. It’s brilliant to drive, well-appointed, and looks absolutely gorgeous as well, though, so it’s absolutely a solid contender regardless.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Jarvis Peugeot in conjunction with Inchcape Australia for two days with a full tank of fuel.