Has Europe’s family car market gone full circle? How long will it be, given the premium-brand-centric, SUV-mad phase in which we find ourselves, before a well-designed, mid-sized, mid-market saloon starts to look like the smart, desirable option again?
The arrival of cars such as the Volkswagen Arteon and Kia Stinger suggests the idea might have appeared a while ago in one or two of the industry’s product-planning crystal balls – and it’s now becoming manifest.
This week’s road test subject is a case in point. The second-generation Peugeot 508 comes from a European brand with plenty of pedigree for fine-handling, mid-sized, midmarket saloons. The 405 and 406 delivered alternative French design appeal and critically acclaimed dynamics, while the earlier and larger 504 and 505 were often given ‘world-class’ billing among saloons of a similar price.
When the covers came off the 508 at Geneva this year, it became evident that the conservative design of its predecessor wasn’t being repeated. Like many rivals, Peugeot has seen the way the wind has blown for modern saloon design and has stirred a welcome dose of eye-catching, curvaceous style into the 508’s recipe. And having always offered three-box saloons with conventional boots, it has acknowledged modern preferences in another way by switching to a hatchback bodystyle.