2019 Peugeot 508 Fastback GT Review - Style and Substance?


Peugeot’s 508 is now a Fastback, the firm’s big car styled to impress. But does it favour the form above all else?

Words: Kyle Cassidy   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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It seems ‘sedan’ is a dirty word these days. No one desires a plain saloon any more and so designers fashion four-doors to be as sleek and stylish as practical constraints allow. The 508 Fastback is Peugeot’s new flagship big car, impressing the eyes with its coupe-like profile. But is there actual substance below its style?

The only model Peugeot will offer here is the range topping GT, priced at $55,990. They’ve piled on the frills, with just about everything available made standard. The options are few, save for metallic paint, full leather (rather than Alcantara), a glass roof and night vision. The 508’s a big front driver, based on Peugeot’s EMP2 platform, which also underpins the likes of the 308.

As is the way with modern automotive engineering, there are a few fixed points on the chassis and the rest they stretch and widen to fulfill the design brief. The 508 isn’t a huge machine at just over 4.6m long but is generous in the wheelbase, giving it both good visual proportions and interior space. And it’s sleek, a genuine head turner. We drove by a golf course in the 508 and all the greying males on the tees stopped to give it a longing gaze of appreciation. And that’s pretty much the target market for this type of car.

It uses PSA’s 1.6L turbopetrol, the only engine to be offered here, at least in the Fastback. Peugeot NZ may look to offer the wagon version with a diesel option later in the year. The petrol outlays 169kW, not bad for an engine light on cubes, and this is accompanied by 300Nm of torque, on in full from 2500rpm. It’s rated to click off 100 in 7.3sec, though we couldn’t quite coax it to its potential on the day.

Peugeot claims fuel use at 5.7L/100km on average. The long term figure for this car was reading in the nines, but after a retrip and a couple of hundred kays of motorway and urban travel we were clocking along at 7.6L/100km. So it’s not too bad for a large car. And it has light(ish) bones to thank, scaling up at just over 1500kg.

it’ll depend on your mood and the road travelled as to which mode you’ll dial up

While the exterior speaks for itself; the new-look front end with unique DRLs and the rear with its own classy light signatures, inside it carries on with Peugeot’s i-Cockpit arrangement. There’s a wide format touchscreen on the centre stack with a few ‘cat claw’ buttons below to help switch between screens.

Once familiar with the layout, this all works well. The firm’s squashed steering wheel sits below the plane of the digital instruments. This screen has various themes from old fashioned dials to a sat nav-centric display to one that takes a minimal approach, showing just a digital speedo and less distraction. The 508 comes preloaded with all of Peugeot’s active safety and driver aids. There is all-speed active cruise bringing things to a smooth stop in traffic, although it’s a little slow to pull away again after tapping the gas.

The lane keeping is now more proactive at centring you between the lines and while the wing mirrors are a little small, resulting in a slight blind spot, this is overseen by the monitoring system. Oddly, most of the buttons relating to these systems are hidden behind the wheel, although the cruise is easy enough to operate blind once you work out which buttons do what. Otherwise, the cabin is smart with well crafted linings and textures all combining nicely. And it’s put together soundly, nothing loose or squeaky.

They’ve sorted the storage too with usable cupholders and most spots are of a good size and lined. The seats are designed to impress from a visual sense but also manage to be comfortable with various massage functions and plenty of lumbar support. You should be able to find a suitable position on board, with reasonable adjustment at the wheel and chair. The GT has various drive modes affecting the usual suspects; steering, throttle and transmission, but also the suspension as adaptive dampers are present.

Peugeot’s big cars usually do the ride and handling thing masterfully and this does too. Well for the most part as the big 19s can detect the odd hard edge in the city, taking some gloss from the ultimate refinement.

The 1.6 has a good dollop of torque from the get-go and while it never feels wanting, it’s not quite effortless either. Sometimes it just requires a good serve from the right foot to get going meaningfully. The eight-speed auto is useful accompaniment. It’s not too hung up on economy, allowing the engine to work up to around 2500/3000rpm, where max torque is tapped, before upshifting around town.

And the engine’s strong considering the capacity with no great delay in its delivery. The stop/start is pretty keen however, but easily switched now with a button on the dash rather than it being buried in the submenus of the touchscreen. The 508’s turnaround dimensions and overall size make for a manageable car in the city. While the rearward vision is reduced with the fastback tailgate, the parking camera compensates, although the resolution could be better.

There’s a multitude of drive modes; we stuck to Comfort in town, but when venturing further afield, it’ll depend on your mood and the road travelled as to which mode you’ll dial up. Normal is more a GT setting, leaving a bit of sponge in the springs to better soak up the bumps. While there is some tyre noise present, its source gives the 508 some tenacity in corners when needed as Michelin Pilot Sports are pretty serious treads.

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Need to blow the cobwebs out? Hit the Sport mode and the suspenders firm, the steering benefitting from some heft too. Combined, this makes it easier to poke the 508’s front end into the bends. It’s a set-up that comes good with a bit of intent to proceedings and this is a decent athlete for a bigger car.

It turns well, and while it’d be nice to get a bit more sensation in the steering, it’s easy to direct the front about. And it holds on too; this is a French soldier that doesn’t surrender easily. With sound roll stabilisation, it’s rare you’ll require a helping hand from the ESP to keep things tidy. The gearbox responds accordingly, holding gears appropriately, but if you feel it’s not dropping the ratios quickly enough under brakes, you can take to the paddles. It gets along fine provided you use the rev band, the engine remaining strong to its 6000rpm upshifting point. And it’s not too rowdy either.

Overall, this fits the GT badging well, comfortable when it needs to be and engaging when you dial it up. Practically speaking, the sloping roof presents a compromise on entry. It looks good as you approach, but you’ll need to duck your head on the way in. When seated, headroom is limited for taller passengers but otherwise it’s sufficient with enough legroom, though a third person in the middle best be skinny. 

The boot is more than handy however. While there’s not a huge deal of height, it’s long and wide and there’s also split folding.

The market may not be huge for these sorts but if you’re someone not lusting after an SUV, best check this out. It’s well priced and spec’d to compete against the likes of the entry-level Stinger and top Mazda6 while it’s a more attainable Euro than the Arteon or Giulia.

The Stats

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Model Peugeot 508 Fastback GT  Price $55,990

Engine 1598cc, IL4, T/DI, 169kW/300Nm

Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive

Vitals 7.75sec 0-100km/h, 5.7L/100km, 131g/km, 1506kg

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