New Peugeot 508 HYbrid PHEV prototype review

There’s a new plug-in hybrid version of the Peugeot 508 on the way, and we’ve driven a prototype model…

Meet the Peugeot 508 HYbrid; not just the first plug-in hybrid version of Peugeot’s sleek executive hatchback, but the first time we’ve tried this powertrain, which will become commonplace in the larger models offered by Peugeot and its sister companies Citroen, DS and Vauxhall.

With an 11.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor giving this front-wheel drive car an electric range of 25-30 miles (yet to be officially confirmed), the 508 PHEV will charge in seven hours from a domestic socket, while a 7kW charger will do the same in around two hours.

There’s no rapid charging or CCS connection, so two hours is the fastest charge you’ll get regardless of whether you plug into a faster Type 2 AC charger – which you can do courtesy of the Type 2 cable you get in addition to a standard three-pin domestic cable.

Chief rivals include the BMW 330e and Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, or even the Mitsubishi Outlander or MINI Countryman PHEV if you’re not averse to an SUV.

That relatively short electric driving range is a bit of a blow to the 508 HYbrid, given that plenty of rivals offer electric running for more than 30 miles, but we’re reserving final judgement until official figures are confirmed and real-world range is tested.

We drove prototype models in France and found that the 177bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and 48bhp electric motor, which both drive the front wheels, interact neatly to give quiet and punchy progress.

There’s no distracting vibration or hesitancy as the default Hybrid mode shuffles from battery to petrol, and while brake response is inconsistent enough to require a little time before it feels familiar, that’s par for the course in just about every PHEV on sale.

The brake regeneration system in the 508 HYbrid can be turned on or off easily with a nudge of the gearlever, and when activated it slows the car smoothly and predictably as you lift off the throttle.

You have to work at it a bit to find the fun in the 508 HYbrid, and the 1.6-litre petrol engine suddenly gets thrashy when the occasionally clunky eight-speed automatic leaves it hanging in a low ratio (the gearbox is one of a few aspects on the prototype cars that engineers are yet to finalise).

ZEV mode – or pure electric mode to the rest of us – is impressively hushed, with minimal transmission whine or tyre noise. The 508 also steers tidily with body control taut enough to actually warrant the occasional stint in Sport mode.

Even so, between the hearty slug of acceleration and the keen way the Peugeot tucks into corners, there is something to Peugeot’s claims that this is “unboring” electrification. We’ll refrain from judging Peugeot on its grammar…

On top of all that, the Peugeot 508 HYbrid has an interior that looks and feels about as good as it gets short of the premium brand offerings, has great infotainment via the big touchscreen, and even practicality is virtually uncompromised by the addition of plug-in hybrid technology.

Passenger space is unchanged from the standard 508, meaning loads of legroom in the back, if a bit less headroom than some rivals. The big boot, too, loses only 30 litres over the ‘normal’ 508 models, bringing it to 457 litres for the hatchback, and that space is actually sacrificed to dedicated underfloor cable storage. More of a blessing than a sacrifice, then.

You also get an app that will allow you to set the car to warm up or cool down ready for your expected departure time, among other features. On top of all that, let’s not forget the looks. Those unmistakable LED fangs look simultaneously suave and aggressive, and only complement the rest of the 508’s slick styling – one of its most compelling aspects, no doubt.

The critical point for the Peugeot 508 HYbrid, which will be offered in three trim levels, will be pricing. That has yet to be confirmed ahead of the car’s launch in the autumn. Provided the real-world electric range and pricing prove acceptable, the 508 HYbrid is a car that'll appeal to both the head and the heart.