8 November 2012 by Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: 508 Saloon Hybrid4 HDi
Fuel: Diesel-electric hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 78.5mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10
The Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 has emissions of just 95g/km CO2, together with official combined economy of 78.5mpg – impressive figures for a large family saloon that also has four-wheel drive capability.
• Very low official emission and high fuel economy figures
• Large, spacious car with four-wheel drive and zero emission driving modes
• Driving experience not helped by the automated manual transmission
Peugeot has already introduced diesel-hybrid technology in the form of the 3008 and 508 RXH; now the powertrain is available in the 508 saloon. The theory behind the car is that the diesel engine provides good economy on long journeys, and the hybrid system provides good economy during shorter urban driving.
Design & Engineering
The 508 looks good, perhaps even more so from the rear than the front, and especially with the alloys fitted to our test car. The interior is also well designed and feels upmarket. Although cup holders pop out from the dashboard, there is no storage space for items such as mobile phones.
The hybrid system that Peugeot uses retains the standard 2-litre diesel engine at the front, powering the front wheels, with the electric motor ‘bolted on’ to the rear axle, driving the rear wheels, and the hybrid battery under the boot – meaning that the boot isn’t as deep as it is on the standard 508 saloon.
The total power output of the 508 HYbrid4 is 163 bhp from the diesel engine and 37 bhp from the electric motor, producing a combined total of 200 bhp. The diesel engine also generates 225 lb ft/300 Nm torque and the electric motor generates 150 lb ft/200 Nm.
There are four driving modes: Auto, Sport, ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle), and 4WD. Four-wheel drive can be selected even if the battery is depleted, thanks to a ‘reversible-alternator’.
Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 Driving Experience
Travelling at a constant speed, the 508 HYbrid4 is a pleasant enough place to be. The challenge is when acceleration is needed. The total system output of the Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 is a very reasonable 200bhp – along with good levels of torque from the diesel/electric powertrain combination – but it doesn’t feel like 200bhp when it’s delivered, mainly thanks to the 6-speed EGC (Electronic Gearbox Control) automated manual transmission, which has slow reactions, but also the car’s substantial weight of 1815 Kg can’t help with its responsiveness.
We’ve driven all the rest of the Peugeot and Citroen hybrid range extensively already, and we’re well aware of the issues with the transmission, so we made a particular effort with the 508 to see which was the best way to drive it out of the various options available. The conclusion is that it’s preferable to have the car in Sport mode, and using the steering-wheel mounted paddles to drive the car in manual. That way you can choose the gear yourself and the car is most responsive. Selecting Sport mode without changing gear manually means that the car holds gears for longer and spends more time hunting around for the right gear, resulting in the car becoming very revvy. However the reality is that most people are just likely to leave the car in Auto.
The automated manual transmission is available in non-hybrid Peugeots, when the pause between gear changes is even more painful; at least in the hybrid models the electric motor helps to fill the gap in the gear change with torque, improving things slightly.
Aside from the gearbox, the steering doesn’t have a huge amount of feel, and although the ride is acceptable under normal conditions, the secondary ride isn’t particularly well damped over poor road surfaces. Handling is perhaps as you would expect from what is basically a large front-wheel drive saloon – if you’re seeking a car with ultimate handling then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Overall the 508 saloon felt less refined than 508 RXH estate, and we’re not sure why there should be such a difference.
Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 Economy and Emissions
The 508 HYbrid4 has an official combined fuel economy figure of 78.5mpg. This is very impressive for a large saloon that also has the capability of four-wheel drive. However our experience with all Peugeot (and Citroen) diesel-hybrids is that it seems virtually impossible to achieve anything close to this in real-life driving. During our week with the 508 we averaged 45.5mpg. This is a long way short of 78.5mpg, but this doesn’t surprise us at all.
As we have previously reported with the other Peugeot and Citroen models, the hybrid system adds weight, but the battery capacity isn’t sufficient to provide much zero-emission driving; so the economy suffers due to the weight of the system, and the intended electric-only driving ability isn’t sufficient to offset the extra weight of the vehicle. So, as with many modern hybrids, the 508 HYbrid4 is designed to do very well in the official NEDC economy test, but its real-life economy falls well short of this figure.
There were very few instances where the 508 could be driven on electric-power only, and even when at standstill at traffic lights the car was often running on its diesel engine, even if the instruments showed that there was charge in the battery. This is a situation when the hybrid’s Stop & Start technology should be guaranteed to prevent tailpipe emissions.
Price, Equipment and Model Range
It may be difficult to achieve the official economy figures in real-life, but at least company car drivers can still benefit from a low benefit in kind rate of just 13% thanks to the 508’s low 95g/km CO2 emissions. The 508 is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge as well as from road tax. However such financial benefits are somewhat offset by the car’s high purchase price of £31,450.
In addition, our test car had a number of options fitted: metallic paint (£495); head up display (£300); parking assistance (£255); lighting pack (£715); and leather trim (£615). These options totalled £2380, taking the total price of the car to £33,830 – which is a substantial amount for a Peugeot 508 saloon.
Trim levels in the 508 range comprise of Access, SR, Active, Allure (equivalent to the Hybrid4 spec), and GT. The range starts at £18,450 for the 1.6 VTi Access. The 508 is available with a variety of petrol and diesel engines.
The Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 looks good, inside and out, it’s spacious, it offers the potential of 78.5mpg, along with 95g/km CO2 emissions, and it has a zero-emissions driving mode, as well as four-wheel drive. If you describe the car as a “manual four-wheel drive diesel-hybrid with sport mode and near-80mpg economy” it sounds impressive.
On the downside, in real-life use, the weight of the hybrid system seems to offset the economy benefits that it is supposed to deliver, and the car’s automated manual transmission doesn’t do any favours for the driving experience.
The Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 is also expensive to buy. However it does have a low benefit in kind tax rating, so it’s likely to appeal to company car buyers. A BMW 320d EfficientDynamics is cheaper, and it’s likely to be more economical in real-life driving. Buyers wanting a four-wheel drive hybrid are more likely to go for the 508 RXH (which would be our choice between Peugeot’s two 508 Hybrid4 offerings). So although the Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 does have some genuine positive points, it’s likely to be a relatively rare sight on our roads. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
Car Facts and Figures
Peugeot 508 HYbrid4 data
Fuel economy extra urban: 76.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 80.7 mpg
Test economy: 45.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 95 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0 a year
Weight: 1815 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 13%
Insurance group: 31E
Power: 163 (diesel) 37 (electric) system 200 bhp
Max speed: 130 mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
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