The lion’s share

What Car? - - Comparison - Pho­tog­ra­phy: John Brad­shaw

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

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