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Published 23 February 2012 12:48, Updated 24 February 2012 09:24
Peugeot’s little lion is starting to get some bite back.
Not long ago, Peugeot produced the sharply styled RCZ with its buttock shaped bubble roof to capture a slice of the sports car market and now it has gone back to basics with an all new medium-sized car, the 508.
The RCZ has proved a success and Peugeot is hoping the 508 will do as well.
The family sedan will be a serious option for China’s rapidly expanding middle class. With a joint venture in China with Dongfeng Motor Corp, Peugeot has steadily increased sales there from 7200 in 1996 to 376,000 in 2010.
Like the RCZ, the new car’s biggest attraction is its price. The base model 1.6 litre turbo petrol version costs just $36,990 plus on-roads and it ranges up to $52,990 for the GT 2.2l HDi diesel that I drove.
Another reason it will be so popular is that Peugeot has been smart and loaded it with a great big splodge of luxury inclusions.
The GT has nappa leather seats, head-up display, active headlights with automatic dipping, rain sensing wipers, four-zone climate control, massage seat for the driver, seat heating, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, navigation, proximity key, parking space assistant etc.
In short, you get a lot for not a lot.
It means it will attract people on a beer budget who have a taste for champagne.
While the RCZ pushes the design boundaries, the 508 tones it all down again to an unremarkable, conservative look. Gone is the gaping, open-mouthed whale shark grille and in its place is a more equine nose. The rear is nicely classy.
It’s no secret that Peugeot has had build quality problems in the past but with this car the French manufacturer forced component suppliers to lift their game and did a 2 million kilometre road test before it was released.
Underneath the bonnet, the four-cylinder 2.2l diesel is willing and suits someone who is happy with something that is never going to threaten Einstein’s theory that nothing is faster than light.
It produces 150kW of power at 3500rpm and 450Nm of torque at 2000rpm and it gets from 0-100km/h in a sedate 8.2 seconds.
Because of its fuel consumption (combined) of 5.7l/100km it’s comforting to look at the dashboard and see you don’t have to fill up for 900km or so.
The new turbo technology is a boon for this car as it punts along very nicely with little urging and its fuel consumption combined with its power and torque match it with a range of more expensive luxury units.
Inside, it feels like a well-built car, the sense of luxury enhanced by the in-dash screen and the beautifully neat array of instruments. All the information is there where you need it in a simple layout so you don’t have to hunt around for what you need.
The leather seats are widely adjustable and comfortable with excellent stitching and the doors and other surfaces are trimmed in leather look vinyl, so it feels like a far more expensive car than it is.
On the road, the steering is positive and allows the driver good feel and when it comes time to park, it lightens up enough to make it feel like you’re slotting a compact car into a spot instead of a family saloon.
The six-speed gearbox is smooth and untroubling and has steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for extra control.
If you are getting the idea that I was impressed with this car, you’d be right. Too often all the good stuff is on the list of extras that rip a hole in your bank account.
It’s heartening to see luxury features filtering down to the family end of the market.