Peugeot has transformed the 508 midsize sedan into a hatchback to add versatility and attract SUV and crossover buyers who have been abandoning the sedan-heavy segment. The new 508 is lower and wider than its predecessor, which Peugeot says gives it a more dynamic and muscular appearance. Frameless windows allowed designers to lower the roofline by 60mm.
PSA said its studies found that the hatchback design is particularly appealing to buyers in their 40s. Those buyers helped lift sales of hatchback-styled midsize cars 39 percent to 46,100 during the first five months of this year, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics. Leading midsize hatchbacks include the Skoda Superb, Ford Mondeo, Opel, Volkswagen Arteon and the new Kia Stinger.
Overall, the midsize segment was down 4 percent during the period to 226,400 units because of a 9 percent sales decline for station wagons to 135,800 and a 23 percent drop for sedans to 28,900.
Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato acknowledged that the segment is declining in Europe, but said it remained profitable, and that he expected the 508 would have a global appeal, including in China. “Having launched five SUVs in the last two years, we absolutely had to return to the D (midsize) sedan market, but we wanted to give it something different,” he said. At 4750mm long, Peugeot says the 508 is among the most compact in its segment, with dimensions similar to the premium Audi A5 Sportback. It is shorter, wider and lower than the previous generation 508, although the wheelbase is nearly the same length to preserve interior space.
The 508 has the latest version of Peugeot’s I-Cockpit, with a smaller steering wheel below the level of the gauges and an 8- or 10-inch touchscreen. New in the 508: piano-key style switches below the screen that control the radio, climate control and more. Peugeot says the feature is useful for women who keep their nails long.
Peugeot has included a range of driver aids, including a forward-facing night vision camera, adaptive cruise control with lane positioning, emergency braking that detects pedestrians and cyclists day or night at speeds up to 140 kph, automatic high-beam dimming, and blind-spot warning. Full parking assist is available. The hatchback opens and closes electronically for ease of access.
The 508 is built on PSA’s EMP2 platform, which underpins compact and midsize vehicles. PSA says the platform saves 70 kg over the previous generation and a new welding and adhesive technique results in additional stiffness and reduced cabin noise. A station wagon model will appear this autumn.
The 508 will be produced starting this year at Mulhouse, France, for the European market, and Wuhan, China, for Asian markets, although station wagon models will be made only at the Mulhouse plant. IHS Markit forecasts that about 95,000 508s will be produced in 2019, of which about 56,000 will be sedans.