Peugeot 508 1.6 HDi Active

Clean diesel saloon makes more sense with manual gearbox

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

We’ve already established that the high-quality 508 brings Peugeot closer than ever to the premium brands. But this 112bhp 1.6 HDi offers even more: economy nearly as high as the cleanest e-HDi model’s, without the annoyance of the jerky automated manual box. It’s not fast, but it is smooth, comfortable and refined, which plays to the 508’s strengths. Add a sub-£20,000 price, and this is the pick of the range.

It’s the most premium Peugeot ever, but can the 508 set a new standard for emissions, too? The only model to disappoint us so far has been the greenest – the 109g/km e-HDi – due to its jerky auto box. Yet if you want strong economy and low running costs, there is another way.

The 112bhp 1.6 HDi gets the same engine as the e-HDi, but has a five-speed manual. It also does without stop-start. The result is that economy falls to 60mpg and CO2 emissions rise to 124g/km – that’s 4.2mpg and 15g/km worse than the e-HDi. Yet the HDi 
is so much better to drive, buyers are likely to see beyond this difference.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Peugeot 508

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Although the box could do with a sixth ratio to improve refinement at motorway speeds, it’s light and precise to use. The engine, as with the rest of the package, is smooth and quiet. Just don’t expect any great pace.

With maximum torque of 240Nm at 1,500rpm, the car is happy to cruise around at low revs. But when a burst of speed is required, you can get caught outside the narrow powerband, and need to change gear often to keep the turbo on boost.

The top-spec GT has double-wishbone suspension, while lesser models such as our mid-range Active make do with a more simple MacPherson strut front set-up. Still, for most driving conditions, the difference is small. The steering is light, but the nose turns in quickly, and pleasingly there’s no pitch or roll.

Although by no means sporty, the 508 does feel more nimble than the 407 and 607 it replaces – a by-product of it being around 35kg lighter than the former. The ride is supple, too, while road noise is well suppressed: an ideal combination for the car’s target market. It’s not as sharp to drive as a Vauxhall Insignia or Ford Mondeo, but you sense that was Peugeot’s plan all along.

With the 508, the brand wants to emphasise its new-found premium status – and the model certainly closes the gap to the big German players in this class, such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. As the cheapest diesel 3 Series is nearly £5,000 more than our car, the quality on offer inside the Peugeot is superb.

Kit is generous, too, but we’d recommend adding the £1,215 communications pack – which includes sat-nav, a head-up display and a Bluetooth connection – to bring things into line with more expensive rivals.

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