There is no escaping the fact that currently SUVs of one shape or size dominate the market, so how encouraging to drive a new saloon car that will take on the SUVs head to head.
I am referring to the new Peugeot 508 which I drove recently in the South of France. With this newcomer the French carmaker has come up with a cocktail aimed to delight the heart of the driver, style and performance all contained with a coupe-like styling; what else would you expect from this part of Europe. Amidst the glamour and glitz that is Monaco the newcomer did attract attention and on one occasion while driving through a mountain village far away from the shiny Med, a group stood on the foot path and cheered. This is something I have encountered in Italy when driving one of their own products.
One can reflect on Peugeot models of old and I can see echoes of the 504 Coupe in the new saloon; it is this styling that I am confident will prove strong for the new contender, really it is radical and it is this sort of design and overall package that can take sales away from the SUV. We must not forget that Peugeot is extremely successful with their 3008 and 5008, SUVs which really stand out from the pack.
It is evident that Peugeot used the German brands as a benchmark in the creation of the new 508, yes and I can see it offering a challenge to even the premium brands from their neighbour.
Sales are set to commence in November and the newcomer is set to become the flagship model for the brand and deservedly so. I have driven and enjoyed many Peugeots down the years-this is the best to date. So what sets it apart from many rivals in the D segment which continues to struggle, it has all the qualities of a saloon but wrapped in a most attractive body. I have observed in the past couple of years that the French carmakers are coming back strong to the market; again I mention 3008 and the 5008 SUVs, styled to look good and different from the mainstream. At the forthcoming Paris Motor Show the 508 SW will make an entrance, again very stylish with that added practicality that such a vehicle can deliver. The SW may or may not be sold in Ireland. The inspiration as is often the way came from an earlier concept car and with technology that inspiration came from the DS7 Crossback. Good news for Irish customers throughout the whole of Ireland, engine choice petrol and diesel; great to witness that Peugeot still has faith in the diesel engine and it was a 180bhp version which I sampled in the South of France and not only did it deliver sporty performance accompanied by low noise levels and with a very efficient automatic transmission motoring was truly a joy.
On entering the new 508 I immediately focused on the premium instrument panel and the very latest version of the i-Cockpit. This first appeared in 2012 and has proved extremely popular with such models as the 3008 and 5008. All of the controls fall easily to hand and full marks for the fitment of the large ten inch screen. One feature which I have come to cherish with recent Peugeot models is the compact steering wheel surrounded by a variety of controls, not just as many as found on a Formula One car; however all designed to deliver that reassuring quality of drive. Peugeot did provide a challenge with the test drive route from the traffic horrors of Monaco and Nice to roads like rally stages high above the Med coastline. This enabled me to enjoy the handling of the new 508, in fact very much like a sports car but with that addition of quality and the ride was superb. No doubt the more powerful petrol version with 225bhp will even enhance that sports-like drive. In a dash to get a return flight from Nice Airport I missed getting behind the wheel of the latter, another time perhaps.
There is little doubt that the new 508 will prove extremely popular in its home market, and then will follow Spain and the UK and China is a very important market. I trust in the coming days weeks I will be able to spend more time with this exciting new Peugeot and to deliver a much more comprehensive test drive, this is truly a taster of what is to follow.