AA Driven Medium/Large Car of the Year winner: Peugeot 508, a French giant killer
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Few brands are currently trying quite as hard as Peugeot when it comes to producing cars that act to defy their past. And the new 508, not content to simply knock on the door of the German establishment, has beaten them to our AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year Medium/Large Car class award for 2019.
The 508 is a story of reinvention. Its exterior and interior design is unlike anything else on the market. Materials and build quality is excellent. And its bevy of standard features, including luxury trinkets like massaging seats, pillarless doors, and quilted leather seats, are juxtaposed by a truly competitive $55,990 starting price.
During Driven's opening road test of the 508 back in August, Chief Judge Liz Dobson said the 508 — particularly in wagon form — deserved to take a bite out of the country's SUV sales.
“SUVs have smashed wagon sales but there is still a need for them and the 508 proves you can find a stylish one; whereas the fastback will get you attention if you are shopping for a sedan,” she said. “Both vehicles have so many specifications, and handle so well it would be tragique if you didn’t.”
And, in the build-up to Car of the Year festivities, I took the opportunity to compare the 508 to the all-new BMW 3 Series — surprising myself with Peugeot as my preference. The BMW ended up as one of the other top-three contenders in class, joined by the rear-wheel drive Kia Stinger GT (a 2018 COTY finalist in its own right).
“If the question is 'which of these two cars is the better luxury car?', then it would be an almost inseparable contest. What's more important in that case; having something that handles well, or something that makes the driver feel like they're behind the wheel of something a little bit special? (With a $30,000 saving, no less). I'll leave that call to you,” the review mused.
“It could perhaps do with some more engine choice and maybe an even cheaper entry level model, just to further tap into that market of people wanting premium quality at mainstream prices. But as it stands, the 508 is more than a rival for the 3 Series. The fact that it's so close should be classified by Peugeot as a victory in its own right.”
Hopefully Peugeot can build on this momentum with cars like the upcoming 208. A French renaissance? Don't bet against it.