EVEN a giant chrome lion which loomed over the Peugeot stand at the Geneva Motor Show in 2018 could not detract from the handsome saloon car making its debut just a few yards away.
Puffing its metaphorical chest out like Simba the lion cub trying to look every bit the King-to-be beside his father, Mufasa, in Disney’s The Lion King, the new 508 looked like it had a point to prove.
Suffice to say, it did. Not just in the sense that it was aiming to impose itself on a segment that’s fallen massively out of favour amid the rise of the SUVs, but also one where it could be argued that Peugeot has failed to impose itself since the halcyon days of the 405 and 406.
Fast-forward eight months and I finally got my week at the wheel and the 508 looks just as good as I remembered.
Heavily cowled front light clusters and jutting bonnet give the front end an imposing dose of aggression, while short overhangs and a stubby boot contribute to a taut, powerful profile.
A black band across the centre of the boot evokes memories of the old Peugeot 405 and 505 and accentuates the width of the car to add further purpose at the rear, along with a pair of wide-set twin exhausts and 19-inch alloys fitted to the range-topping, 225PS 1.6- litre GT specification car tested here.
That premium look comes with a premium price, however.
Prices for the 508 range start at £25,039 for the entry-level “Active” trim car — some £4,500 more than the cheapest Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia — and tops out at £37,439 for the luxurious Launch Edition.
As tested here, the 508 comes in at £36,014, with the addition of night vision with pedestrian detection (£1,300), a panoramic sunroof (£870), ultimate red paint (£725) and a 360-degree camera system with automated parking (£600) taking the total to a rather eye-watering £39,509.
The styling of the 508 delivers a sense that it could rival premium German rivals.
The interior reaffirms that, with Peugeot’s icockpit layout, which places the instrument binnacle high on the dashboard above a small steering wheel, once again looking great to my eyes.
Satin-effect aluminium toggle switches sit beneath a 10-inch touchscreen sat-nav infotainment system at the heart of the dash, meanwhile, as an arcing gear selector adds another sculptural element.
Stylish and not short on material quality the cabin may be, but the 508’s infotainment system was a genuine source of frustration.
On my first trip I waited 30 minutes for the sat-nav to utter a word of instruction, time I spent looking for a menu that would allow me to switch audible instruction on.
Eventually the system started talking — having seemingly been toying with me through its silence — though I had still failed to locate the hoped-for “settings” menu.
From that point on the instructions came fairly thick and fast but, as I couldn’t locate the controls, it would interrupt radio bulletins and podcasts at unwanted times.
Though I was able to connect my phone to the Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink-enabled system and use most of its functions, elements of the infotainment system’s controls remained a mystery throughout my test.
During my time with the car I was never able to input a post code and the one hotel I searched for under the “points of interest” tab was never given as an option…despite being just 1.5 miles away at the time.
The subtle inscriptions on top of those stylish satin-effect shortcut toggle switches, meanwhile, were so subtle that I had difficulty identifying them in daylight.
Driving the 508 reveals that the basics of a chassis which feels lively and adjustable like the best Peugeots of old undoubtedly lies at its core. By the seat of your pants you can feel it tack into a corner keenly and its weight shift upon a command from brake or throttle.
Overly light and sensitive steering combined with a lack of feel through that tiny steering wheel does mask some of the feed of information from the road to the driver, though, and while Peugeot’s 225PS engine should deliver plenty of urge — as 7.3-second acceleration to 62mph and a 155mph top speed claims attest — it lacks muscle at motorway speeds.
With the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine hovering at around 1,700rpm in eighth-gear the available power feels thin and breathy, a down-shift or two required to deliver a surge of momentum. The bonus is a highly-respectable 49.6mpg combined fuel economy and 131g/km CO2 emissions.
On a demanding B-road the 508 can be great fun.
Keep the engine above around 2,200rpm and it delivers engaging pace, that direct steering also coming into its own to make the car feel lively and alert.
Many potential customers looking in this segment will be after something that can deliver lazy, composed performance on the motorway and stress-free access to the raft of on-board technology to enjoy on those long business drives.
Here, the 508 struggles to deliver quite as well as it might.
While Peugeot’s latest saloon might not be “king of the prairie”, it delivers originality and style in spades, though.
Get used to its quirks and it will have you stand out from the German saloon crowd more effectively than a four-metre tall chrome Lion at a motor show.