There are likely many reasons why the mid-sized sedan market has been sinking for some time now. Sure, we can point fingers at the SUV, but beyond that, they're just a little bit boring, no? De-badge the top contenders under $60k and you will end up with the snooziest line-up in motoring. Enter: le lion Français.
Peugeot, one of the world's oldest carmakers, hasn't played by everyone else's rules for a long time. Their 5008 SUV, unlike any other 7-seater, starts below $40k AND actually looks good.
There's the two-tone paint jobs and innovative interiors seen on the 3008 SUV and 308 GTI hatch – the latter of which holds its own against its well-known rivals with sartorial panache.
Add to that the brand's iconic small, flat-bottomed steering wheel that despite being the coriander of car interior details, Peugeot refuses to ditch. After all, doesn't polarisation define a work of art?
Go all in
It's no étonnement that the French went all in when launching the all-new 508 GT Fastback sedan and sportswagon (starting at $53,990 and $55,990 respectively).
Aiming to marry function, futurism, emotion and performance with affordability, the 508 presents a compelling package. It looks beautiful and appeals to a certain niche of design-lovers while forgoing the option list headaches that come with purchasing a luxury vehicle. This is especially true here in Australia where both GT variants only have two options: paint and/or a sunroof.
Both variants share a 1.6L, 4-cylinder engine producing 165kW/300Nm with an Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission, a class-leading particulate filter (to deal with Australia's notoriously dirty fuel) and a claimed fuel consumption of 6.3L/100km (which was pretty much on-par with our test vehicle, driven around Sydney).
There are four drive modes (sport, comfort, normal and eco) that slightly adjusts the suspension, which leans towards performance rather than pillowiness, but isn't uncomfortable. The 508's planted and nimble handling is a delight. As its sprightliness, jumping 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds (7.4 in the wagon) – so those moving from a hatch or something sportier may be pleasantly surprised.
Having taken out multiple design awards internationally, the 508 is truly carried by its looks.
The low-slung, unique exterior has some trickery up its sleeve too: the badge on the front is a nod to the past (in particular, the 1969 Peugeot 504), the frameless doors don't sacrifice headroom for athleticism, the three-dimensional taillights can sense light and will glow accordingly and the LED-running lights on the front aggressively approach like a lion's fang in the dark.
As a party trick, the 508 performs a rave of light when the car is locked and unlocked that is even more impressive than the smug dance Audis do these days, believe it or not.
Beauty on the inside
The interior sets a new benchmark for Peugeot, and again, takes aim at its more-exxy Ingolstadt-bred competitor.
Peugeot's piano-key buttons of the past are updated with an innovative and customisable 12.3-inch i-Cockpit digital instrument cluster and HD touchscreen, angled to the driver in a subtle way that says 'this is your car'.
Other standard elements to write home about? Supremely comfortable Nappa leather seats with massage function (front only), wireless phone charging and smartphone mirroring.
The digital space
The cherry on top is what other manufacturers oft charge through the nostrils for: tech.
Peugeot has thrown-in its most advanced safety and driver assistance systems for nix. This includes semi-autonomous systems like advanced highway positioning assist and automatic emergency braking (AEB) up to 140km/h, auto-detect high-beams, driver drowsiness detection, a wide-angle 360-degree camera, pedestrian and cyclist detection technology and more.
The 508 has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP rating and has six airbags, including side-curtain airbags for all occupants. And like all Peugeot models, expect to be handed a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance and capped-price servicing.
Hitting a sweet spot
With Australia's appetite for SUVs in-mind, the sportswagon is the sweet spot, with slightly more room in the second row (particularly headroom) and cargo space appropriate for all-five bodies that can be sat in the car.
Actually, with 530L of space in the boot (seats up), it's on-par with the incredibly popular Toyota Kluger and is just less than the Audi Q5. Of course, this wagon looks and handles better than any SUV in its price bracket, even if you throw a few K more in the kitty.
While we're starting to see several carrots being waved to tempt buyers out of SUVs and back into sedans and wagons, like the new BMW 3-series, Tesla Model 3 and Volvo S90 and V90; here, Peugeot makes a solid argument for the move.