Peugeot 508 Hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||33 miles||166-235mpg||27-38g/km|
It looks like 2020 will be the year of the plug-in hybrid. With strict EU regulations on the average CO2 emissions of cars manufacturers sell coming into force, petrol-electric (and diesel-electric) drivetrains are becoming common, particularly in larger cars such as SUVs and the big saloons and estates common on company-car fleets.
The Peugeot 508 is a perfect example of this. On sale in the UK since 2018 with conventional petrol or diesel power, the Volkswagen Passat, Vauxhall Insignia and Skoda Superb rival was designed from the outset to run with a plug-in hybrid powertrain and 2020 sees this electrified version added to the range.
Plug-in hybrids like this are intended to go even further than diesel engines in offering the ultra-low CO2 emissions that translate to very low company-car tax bills for end users. On that front, the 508 Hybrid gets off to a good start, emitting as little as 27g/km in the five-door 'Fastback' form reviewed here. That compares to 28g/km for the Passat GTE and Superb iV and 32g/km for the BMW 330e – another key rival.
Add that to a claimed 33-mile range on purely electric power and you get a BiK rate of just 10% for the 508 Hybrid in the 2020/21 financial year, going up to 11 and 12% in 2021/22 and 2022/23 respectively. So it gets the numbers right to make financial sense for its target customers. But what's it like in the metal?
The short answer is: very stylish and attractive. Nearly all modern Peugeots, from the 208 hatchback to the 3008 SUV, cut a dash on the road, but the 508 is particularly svelte and shapely and guaranteed to turn heads. That does mean it's not quite as spacious inside as those rivals mentioned above, but at least there's no difference in boot capacity between the hybrid and purely combustion-engined variants; the figure is 487 litres in either case.
Like other 508s, the Hybrid is enjoyable to drive, and there isn't strong sense of it being a lot heavier or less agile than its purely petrol and diesel-engined counterparts. It cruises comfortably, grips well in corners and overall inspires plenty of confidence on the road. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine and electric motor together make a maximum of 222bhp – the same as the range-topping petrol 508 – but it does have to shift an extra 300kg of battery and electrical systems, so on-paper performance figures are a shade less impressive.
The interior looks as good as exterior, with all manner of high-tech displays and classy 'piano-key' buttons to keep you informed as to what the hybrid drivetrain is doing and operate its various driving modes. Like almost every other plug-in hybrid, these include a pure-electric mode, a 'full power' mode that gives you everything the engine and electric motor can muster and a charge preservation mode that allows you to hold on to battery charge to be deployed later on in your journey – such as when you arrive in an urban area after a long motorway run.
There are a number of driving modes to select, and in 'Sport' the full power of the car is unleashed, allowing for a 5.9-second 0-62mph time. The eight-speed automatic gearbox isn't the smoothest-shifting transmission we've encountered, but this 3008 can still take off like a hot hatchback when you put your foot down. There's a good deal of vibration and noise when you do so, but fortunately the engine is much quieter when driven more sedately.
You're likely to spend much more of your time in 'Electric' or 'Hybrid' mode. In the former, Peugeot says you should be able to keep going for 36 miles on power from the car's 13.2kWh battery alone without waking the engine. Doing this, the 3008 is extremely smooth, quiet and relaxing to drive – a sensation enhanced by good ride quality, even on large 19-inch alloy wheels.
In 'Hybrid' mode, the 3008 behaves more like a Toyota or Honda 'full hybrid', deciding itself whether to use electric or petrol power, or mix the two, in order to make progress as efficiently as possible. You can also hold on to battery charge until you want or need to use it – when you enter an urban area, for example. And the fact that there are two electric motors means you get proper four-wheel drive, too – although it doesn't quite turn the clearly road-biased 3008 into a Land Rover Defender rival.
In order to even get close to that headline fuel-economy figure, you need to charge up the 3008 regularly – most likely from a home wallbox that can be installed when you buy the car. Doing so takes less than two hours, which makes it easy to fit in and around a busy lifestyle. A smartphone app allows you to set charging times to take advantage of cheaper overnight electricity, while the heating or air-conditioning can be pre-set to have the car at a certain temperature for you when you leave
From early 2020, Peugeot is offering buyers of its electrified cars six months' free subscription to the Polar Plus network. With a Polar Plus subscription, the majority of public points on the Polar network are free to use, with other charging on a per kWh basis starting at 12p per kWh.
On the road, we found the 508's hybrid setup worked well, although it's slightly less smooth than some rivals on the transition from petrol to electric power and vice versa, and can sometimes be a bit hesitant when you ask for a sudden surge of power.
Turning to specification, you can't have the 508's plug-in hybrid drivetrain with the most basic Active trim level, which pushes the starting price up a bit. That leaves Allure and GT, and the former has most of the kit most people will demand, such as 17-inch alloys, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, sat nav, a reversing camera and a full suite of active safety technology.
The GT specification breaks the £40,000 list-price barrier, making annual road tax (VED) more expensive, and doesn't really add anything we'd describe as essential, so it's not really worth a private buyer (or a company fleet manager) paying the extra cash for.
Private buyers should also bear in mind that, however competent the 508 might be, the Peugeot badge's relative lack of cachet compared to 'premium' rivals means its larger cars are never going to match the residual values of a BMW, Mercedes or Audi, so any running-costs savings you make could be wiped out when you go to sell or trade in the car in a couple of years' time.
That makes us somewhat hesitant to recommend the 508 Hybrid if you're spending your own money, but if it turns up on your company-car list, it's deserving of serious consideration alongside rivals like the Passat and Superb plug-ins.