The lion’s share
REMEMBER WHEN BIG Peugeots looked good? Saloons such as the 504, 405 and 406 provided families with transport that was comfortable, practical and more stylish than Paris Fashion Week.
But Peugeot rather lost its way in the early 2000s. After the handsome 406, it gave us the 407. With a grille that looked like the village idiot’s gurn and an oddly proportioned profile, it was by no means a looker.
However, the French brand appears to have regained its design mojo with the second-generation 508. And this car has adopted not only a coupé profile but also a more practical hatchback boot.
To find out whether there’s substance to this rediscovered style, we’ve lined up the recently facelifted Mazda 6 and seriously spacious Skoda Superb as some competition.
DRIVING Performance, ride, handling, re nement
Given that this trio will be popular with company car drivers, we’ve picked super-sensible diesel models. But while the 6 and Superb both have 148bhp from their respective 2.2-litre and 2.0-litre engines, the 508 makes do with 129bhp from a 1.5-litre unit. All have six-speed manual gearboxes; the Superb’s and 6’s are light and have relatively short throws, while the 508’s is a bit notchier, with an awkwardly shaped knob.
Unsurprisingly, the 508’s power shortfall means it’s the slowest of the trio by some margin. The most telling measurement is the 30-70mph time – the speed range that covers, for instance, joining a motorway or overtaking a tractor. Here, the 508 takes nearly 2.5sec longer than the Superb and 6.
But while the Superb is fractionally faster than the 6 when you’re accelerating up through the gears and revving the engine hard, the 6 actually proves more muscular when you accelerate from mid revs in the higher gears.
Good performance is important, but an uncomfortable car can become really irritating on a long journey. While none of our trio is unpleasant, the 508 is firmest and fidgets the most over road imperfections, regardless of speed. Ride comfort has never been a strength of the 6, either, but recent changes to its suspension mean it now does a much better job of smoothing over rough roads – although it’s still firmer and less comfortable than the Superb.
Not all is calm in the Superb, though. It has the grumbliest engine of the trio, lets in plenty of road noise and generates the most wind noise, making it the loudest cruising companion at 30mph and only fractionally quieter than the 508 at 70mph. At all speeds, the 6’s smooth engine and well-insulated interior make it the quietest by some margin.
Should you find yourself on an entertaining stretch of country road, you’ll discover the Superb handles predictably, finds plenty of grip and has well-weighted, precise steering. Even so, its soft suspension means plenty of body lean during enthusiastic cornering and slightly loose vertical body control over undulations.
Can Peugeot regain prominence in the executive car market with the excitingly redesigned 508? The revised Mazda 6 and class-leading Skoda Superb are here to provide the answer
Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 150 SE L Executive List price £27,450 Target Price £24,924 Our favourite sub-£30k executive car is back to defend its crown. Will it nally be toppled?
Mazda 6 2.2 Skyactiv-d 150 SE-L Nav+List price £25,795 Target Price £25,540 Another year, another facelift for the 6. Can mechanical changes improve it this time?
Peugeot 508 1.5 Bluehdi 130 Allure List price £26,300 Target Price £26,300 It’s all change for the 508; it’s now a rakish fastback instead of a dowdy saloon.
BEST RIDE Soft springs make for a comfy high-speed ride but also plenty of lean through corners SKODA SUPERB
The 508 rides the least comfortably, yet this doesn’t translate into rewarding handling PEUGEOT 508
MAZDA 6 The 6 controls its body well over undulating country roads, but its ride is a little rm