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Peugeot 508 GT PT 225 EAT8 Auto

Seeing the Renault Talisman in Europe tends to fill me with envy, and I have long yearned for it to come to the UK as an antidote to the 'crossover' epidemic. While the Talisman remains out of reach, I feel the Peugeot 508 may well be a worthy substitute.

While it's still technically a hatchback, Peugeot’s slinky new generation of the 508 cuts the shape of a sedan quite nicely. It has proven to be a real head turner, and in quite a literal sense. A chav cycled past me whilst parked and careened his head around to shout: “That is the baddest Peugeot I have ever seen.” I quickly lost count of the number of double takes from other motorists, and my other half’s initial reaction was: “Ooh la la.”

It certainly doesn’t look like a Peugeot, and is not far off the e-LEGEND concept we saw at the Geneva Motor Show last year. It looks fantastic, and is a refreshing change of aesthetic to that of the German manufacturers. This might be one of the best looking cars in this bracket—squint and it could be an Alfa Giulia.

It doesn’t feel typically Peugeot either, although for anyone familiar with modern models such as the 308, 3008 and 5008, the level of quality will come as no surprise. The combination of a low ride height and seating position, angled dash and tiny steering wheel all make the 508 feel quite sporty, if not premium. Shoulder hugging seat bolsters, quilted leather and thick metal switchgear also make that lion badge look slightly out of place.

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but Peugeot’s i-Cockpit is a UX masterpiece. It is clear, responsive and makes the mundane pretty—little animations pop up when you cycle through driver modes, for example. The touchscreen is wide and tilted toward the driver slightly, and the infotainment system connected seamlessly with my iPhone via Apple CarPlay. I feel this is worth highlighting as other systems can struggle. Peugeot’s built-in navigation system is also excellent in its own right, and I even shunned Google Maps after a while.

As part of a full surround sound system, a lowly speaker has been plonked at the top of the dashboard. It looks out of place, but is clearly designed with purpose, so I’ll forgive it. The gear selector rests on what could be mistaken for a sculpted section of black granite. The sunroof is also a breath of fresh air (sorry)—like adding a skylight into a dull kitchen. It is large enough to provide the feel of a drop top, without the ‘look at me’ statement of a convertible. Top marks all round— it’s just a lovely place to spend time.

Front seat passengers will purr at the ‘cat paw’ massage setting. Turn on the heated seats and oh boy. There are other small joys, such as the strips of mood lighting that line the door cards and foot wells (although admittedly, others thought they look tacky). The windows also retract slightly for protection when shutting the door. It’s the little things.

But whilst wide and pretty, the cabin is rather cramped vertically. I found that raking roofline was able to compress my spinal column slightly when going over bumps, and I’m not a particularly big bloke. Rear legroom, I’m told, is ‘fine’. Boot space is ample for a weekend excursion, a large weekly shop or to collect a couple of hefty bedside tables it turns out.

As with many new Peugeots, that digital display allows the driver to cycle through a range of driving modes. I kept it in ‘normal’, occasionally going for Sport and Comfort. There is also an Eco mode, which may prove useful: fuel economy was not great with an average of 35mpg for the week. Our model was equipped with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which may make that figure seem a tad low, but with that unit pumping out 225bhp through an automatic gearbox, it seems about right.

The spec sheet advises the 508 will hit 155mph, and I don’t doubt it. In top spec, it is certainly a fast car on paper, but it just doesn’t feel that quick. The Subaru BRZ suffers from a similar problem, for example. There is no remarkable surge of torque or noticeable ‘power band’ in the mid-range, but will hit 60mph in just over seven seconds.

The 8-speed automatic makes for a comfortable drive. Changes are rapid and the ratio works well for cruising at 30, 50 and 70mph+ without engine roar, but it feels like the engine is being held back. In my opinion, torque converters only work well with a big naturally aspirated engine. The 508 in this spec is crying out for a stick shift.

That tiny steering wheel does make the car feel incredibly agile through the twisties, and helped when navigating the incredibly tight confines of Cardiff’s Capitol Shopping Centre. Wheel-mounted controls are kept to a minimum, which secures additional brownie points.

In this spec, the 508 has everything I would want from a new car, bar a manual transmission. A slick six-speed shifter would take the car from a four-star rating to a five, but it remains one of those cars that would be difficult to turn down after a test drive. At £39,509, our tester is not cheap—with special paint (£725), night vision pack (£1,300), park assist (£600), and a panoramic glass roof (£870) all adding nearly £3.5k in options. For me, the latter is a must-have.

Bravo Peugeot, this is a belter.