Fit and finish is pretty high, with more visual flair than you’ll find in a VW Group car, or a Ford or Vauxhall. There’s a touchscreen in the centre, with shortcut buttons on the dash below it. That’s sensible, but the need to stabilise your hand by resting a wrist or thumb somewhere while you use the screen means it’s a little less clever than it looks.
But the electronic gearlever, generous three turn between locks on the steering wheel and fine turning circle suggest an easygoing nature, as does the muted backbeat of the 2.0 diesel I drove first.
The ride is just as easygoing. There are modes (obvs) and, in Comfort, the 508 mooches along agreeably. It’s pretty well damped, with the occasional thud around town but equal to any of the competition, I reckon. The steering’s light and positive but with a consistency to its weight and response that means its lack of ultimate accuracy and involvement passes you by. It’s pretty pleasant. There was a time when Peugeots were consistently among the best cars in their class to drive; not just the GTi models that crusty old beardies like me swoon over but normal 306 estates with normal petrol engines. I have a feeling Peugeot would like to get back there.
On twistier roads, the 508 changes direction agreeably. Body control is good, roll is deftly controlled and it does what you ask it to with more involvement than, say, an Ingisnia or a VW Passat, but less than a Mondeo or rear-drive German car.
Switch the dampers to Sport and you hesitate: is it worse, is it better? To Peugeot’s credit, there’s little detriment to the ride, just tighter body control to go with heavier steering and a more responsive powertrain. Some company management would want the difference to be more marked. The 508 is better for it that it’s not.
The 1.6 petrol is more engaging, mind. It’s still short of being a car that I’d choose to sell on its dynamics, but it’s 1575kg rather than 1683kg, and that’s evident in an extra dose of agility. Away from town, the auto — smooth though it is — is frequently on the hunt for the right ratio in the petrol.
Decide to take control via the paddles and you realise why: below 2500rpm, the engine’s not overly interested, and it feels like there are a couple of flat spots if you accelerate through the range; that's maybe what happens when you want 221bhp from 1.6-litre units. It only emits 131g/km of CO2 on its drive cycle, but if our experience is anything to go by, don’t expect much more than 30mpg rather than the near-50mpg the combined cycle says.
The market is shifting away from diesel (it used to be 92% on fleet sales), but some of those who give it up — this isn’t just a Peugeot-related issue, clearly — are going to get a surprise.
The noise levels of both petrol and diesel are restrained, though, as is road and wind roar. This is a good motorway car; stable and comfortable, although lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, if you get 'em, are a bit jumpy.