First drive: Peugeot 508 RXH
Key features: Diesel-electric powertrain, 4×4, big tax advantages.
Our view: In February we at CarandVanNews tested Peugeot’s 3008 Hybrid4, the French brand claiming a first in combining an electric motor and a diesel, as opposed to petrol, engine. We commented that after years of motor show appearances this hybrid seemed to have taken a long time to reach the road.
Well now it’s finally launched the technology, Peugeot is not hanging about, and the second model to make use of what the brand calls its ‘Hybrid4’ technology is the fleet-pitched 508 large car.
The 508, which launched last year in saloon and later estate body styles, has already shifted 112,500 in Europe, 65 per cent of them to business users. But there’s good reason to suspect that many fleet buyers might have hung on for this new version, the RXH, quite simply because of the difference both they and their fleet manager will feel in the pocket.
Compare the 508 RXH to a typical economic fleet car, Volkswagen’s Passat Bluemotion. Okay the Peugeot costs around £6,000 more than the VW. But it offers 200bhp, 68mpg quoted combined cycle fuel economy and 107g/km in emissions, compared to the VW’s 170bhp, 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km.
What all this means is that the 508 RXH boasts a 12 per cent benefit in kind rate, the VW 20 per cent. A Peugeot driver paying 40 per cent tax will face a monthly BIK bill of £135, the VW driver will be hit with £184..
National Insurance contribution? £557 Peugeot, £762 VW. Any why is the fleet manager smiling? Because he can write off the entire £33 grand cost of the Peugeot in the first year, compared to just £5,523 of the VW’s £27,615 cost…
And it gets better, because the Peugeot has something the VW doesn’t. The diesel drives the front wheels, the electric motor the rears, so at the flick of a switch you can have four-wheel-drive (hence ‘Hybrid4’) and set off across a muddy field – as we did at the press launch on a very wet day at a racing stables.
So this makes the Peugeot comparable to ‘soft-roader’ cars such as Audi’s A4 Allroad. This is only around £2,500 cheaper to buy than the RXH, and a Peugeot owner will get more than £1,300 of that back in the first year in BIK tax alone. The Audi requires £475 more in NI, and that’s before you consider fuel savings, road tax disc… What’s not to like?
But does the car itself live up to the billing? Apart from a higher ground clearance and such add-ons as wing extensions to reflect its mud-plugger ability, all the 508 RXH differences are under the skin, and in terms of practicality, fit and finish and general quality, we can refer you to our test of the stock 508;
Basically, the RXH is every bit as good as its traditional sister.
On the road we could almost send you back to the archives again, to our test of the 3008 Hybrid4, as the mechanics are exactly the same – 2-litre diesel matched to 27kW electric motor.
The same four-mode control dial is present, with sadly the same less than distinctive selection between modes. Auto is the mode the car spends most of its time in. ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) is fully-electric mode, which the car can run in at up to 40mph with a fully – charged battery (automatically charged by the powertrain when not under load) .
The other two are 4×4, as already mentioned, and Sport – in which the electric motor finds an extra 10 horses and the mapping is changed for more instant response.
It’s not that instant though because the ‘seamless’ gear changes are not very, especially in auto, with a noticeable delay especially in going up gears. You almost feel the car is saying; “Are you sure you want to do that?” Thankfully you can do the shifts yourself, which is better – a bit, but the Peugeot cannot disguise the issues that come from effectively converting a manual gearbox to auto operation.
But, a regular driver of this hybrid will get used to these traits. They will, because they will be thinking of the big potential cash savings on offer. This car takes all the attributes that have already made the 508 such a success, and adds a hugely significant extra, even more relevant in these times when we are all feeling the pinch financially. It should prove a big hit…
Model tested: Peugeot 508 RXH
On sale: May 2012
Engine: 1997cc diesel/20kW electric motor
Power (bhp): 163/27 (37*)
Torque (lb/ft): 225/150
0-62mph (sec): 9.5
Top speed (mph): 132
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 68.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 107
Key rivals: Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo XC70, VW Passat Bluemotion
Test date: April 2012
(* = in sport mode)
Words by: Andrew Charman