A new mid-size sedan by Peugeot? It is safe to assume that this bit of news leaves the v-bulgaria community somewhat cold. Sure, the French have built some “hot hatches”, notably the 205 GTI, and some still remember the handsome 406 Coupé. But Peugeot is best known for sensible, affordable sedans. Why should we even look at the new 508?

Have a look at it and decide for yourself: The 508 has morphed from a bread-and-butter sedan into one of the few four-door coupes on the market – sized bigger than the Mercedes-Benz CLA but smaller than the CLS or the Volkswagen Arteon. From the low, aggressive front with LED “fangs” to the sloping roofline and the wide taillights, this is one of the fastest-looking four-doors this year. And it’s not just the styling elements. The proportions are right, too.

Open the frameless doors, and you encounter a cockpit executed in a hyper-futuristic design language, with “piano keys” on the center console and a small, thick and somewhat angular steering wheel positioned so low you need to view the digital cluster above. The top-level GT model is available with pretty awesome”gray oak” wood.

Incidentally, the electronic instrumentation used in the top models also offers a setting that displays the speedometer and tachometer in the form of a rolling drum – a nice flashback of French automotive history. But there is room for improvement: Since Peugeot competes in the cost-conscious volume segment, some of the materials are merely adequate. I also wasn’t very impressed with the built-in navigation system that tried to send me off the path more than once.

But what matters more are the powertrains. During the launch in Monte Carlo, I skipped the “fleet engines” and focused on both top-level engines: A 2.0-liter, 180-horsepower turbodiesel and a 1.6-liter, 225-horsepower petrol engine. Both are mated to an eight-speed, torque-converter-style automatic transmission. Depite its lower power rating, the diesel delivers more torque – a whopping 400 Nm. 0-100 kph takes 8.3 seconds, top speed is 235 kph. It it quick, quiet and responsive.

The top gasoline engine, rated at 300 Nm maximum torque, can do 0-100 kph in 7.3 seconds and reach a lofty 250 kph. But it sounds a bit more strained than the diesel, and its fuel consumption means you won’t get quite as far. Next year, Peugeot will launch a plug-in hybrid. Judging from my experience with this type of powerplant, my advice is clear: Don’t wait for it.

Surprisingly, the selectable drive modes have no effect on the engine sound. But the different settings for the electronically controlled chassis are clearly noticeable. Depending on your driving style, it is easy to find a good compromise between comfort and sportiness. The compact and flattened steering wheel supports the impression of go-kart-like handling.

In addition to the 508 sedan, there will be an equally sporty and elegant station wagon this autumn. If you, or anyone in your family, happens to be shopping for a sensible car in the EUR 30-50K range, I’d say the surprisingly cool and sporty Peugeot 508 is worth looking at. I did, and I liked it.

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