Peugeot 508 VS Volkswagen Passat
- Design oozes style
- High-tech, well equipped
- Refined fun behind the wheel
- Touchscreen air-con controls
- Rear seats clumsy to get into
- Steering wheel can block instruments
- Executive styling
- High quality cabin
- Extensive safety equipment
- More expensive than competitors
- Engine is just okay
- Dual-clutch auto jerkiness
Peugeot has gone from strength to strength in Europe off the back of a branding and design renaissance.
The brand now fields a competitive range of SUVs as well as a new generation of tech and design-focused cars.
In Australia, you'd be forgiven for not knowing any of this, with French cars still well and truly in the niche basket. And with Aussie consumers increasingly shunning cars like the 508 in favour of SUVs, the liftback and wagon combo has the odds stacked against it.
So, if you're not already a French car die hard (they very much still exist) – should you be stepping out of your comfort zone and into Peugeot's latest and greatest offering? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The once-ubiquitous family sedan segment championed by the home-grown Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore is, in 2020, a shadow of its former self.
Dwindling sales in the face of the growing popularity of SUVs has forced nameplates like the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty and Insignia-based Holden Commodore to be discontinued in Australia, leaving just a few models to compete against the dominant Toyota Camry.
Does Volkswagen do enough with the Passat 140TSI Business sedan to warrant a look over a more popular rival or SUV? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The 508 draws you in with its stunning design, but under the surface there's a well-equipped and practical car.
While it might not be destined for mass popularity in Australia, it's still a compelling semi-premium option that should have you asking yourself: "Do I really need an SUV?"
The VW Passat 140TSI Business sedan might not be the last word in styling, performance or dynamics, but it offers a tech-laden interior wrapped in a smart package.
Those after a dependable, easy-to-drive commuter with room to spare for the family and luggage can do a lot worse than VW's Passat.
Sure, the competition might offer attention grabbing features like a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain or fashion-model-like styling, but the Passat is so perfectly adequate at everything it does, it really is greater than the sum of its parts.
Let's lead with this Pug's strongest suit. No matter whether you choose the liftback or the wagon, you're getting a seriously stunning car. There are a lot of elements comprising the front and rear fascias, yet somehow it's not overly busy.
The downward swoop of the bonnet and the angular rear, with a subtle flicked up wing on the liftback, give this car a curvy but muscular aesthetic, and there are more than enough 'wow' items, like the DRLs which streak down from the front light clusters and rear fittings, which reference this car's classy 407 ancestor.
Meanwhile, the more you look at the wagon, particularly from the rear, the more elements begin to stand out. Either car has a sleek silhouette when spotted from the side.
There's no doubt it has a rich visual presence – one which is befitting of Peugeot's new push to be seen as a more premium offering in Australia. It's also easy to draw comparisons to recent design leaders like Volvo's S60 and V60 twins, and Mazda's new 3 and 6.
Inside is just as bold, with Peugeot's iCockpit interior theme providing a fresh take on a tired formula.
The theme consists of a steering wheel that 'floats' low and flat in the dash, with the instrument cluster perched atop. There's also a raised console and super-wide 10-inch touchscreen adorning the centre of an otherwise minimalist looking interior.
Annoyingly, the dual-zone climate control is operated via the touchscreen, which is clumsy and annoying to look at when you should be keeping your eyes on the road. Give us an old-fashioned set of dials next time, it's just so much easier.
The design is comprised of mostly tasteful leather finish, gloss black panelwork and soft-touch plastics. The pictures somehow don't do it justice, although personally I think it could do with a little less chrome.
Maybe we should really be thanking SUVs for a resurgence in great-looking passenger cars for every niche.
Volkswagen's Passat has always tilted towards a more conservative design, and the current sixth-generation version is no different.
From the front, the Passat wears the same corporate identity as seen on most other Volkswagen models with an emphasis on the horizonal grille that incorporates the headlights, the latter featuring a segmented design akin to luxury cars from Germany.
The lower bumper also wears a chrome strip that ties together the LED fog lights to give the Passat a wide-but-not-aggressive stance.
In profile, the Passat's standard three-box design is as innocuous as they come, though the grey-coloured 18-inch 'Dartford' alloy wheels adds a bit of visual flair.
The rear of the Passat is punctuated by wraparound tail-lights and prominent badging, while the lower bumper hides the exhaust outlet from view.
If we had to describe the styling of the Passat in a word, it would be inoffensive, and the single-grade Business moniker is likely a pointer to the target demographic.
If wearing a suit or smart business attire is part of your day-to-day wardrobe, then think of the Passat as an extension of the same corporate look.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with that aesthetic, the Passat – much like an off-the-shelf suit – doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd and can look quite bland amongst the sea of competitors.
To emphasise the point even further, six exterior colours are available though only one (Aquamarine metallic) is not a variation on white, black or grey.
Inside, the Passat looks much like any other modern-day Volkswagen, with controls that are ergonomic and easy to use.
We appreciate the physical volume knob on the multimedia system, while the large touchscreen also shifts the cabin closer to premium than economy.
No matter which bodystyle you pick, the 508 is a practical unit, although there are a few areas where the design takes priority.
We'll start with the luggage area, where both cars are at their best. The Sportback offers 487-litres of storage, which is up there with the biggest hatchbacks and most mid-size SUVs, whereas the wagon offers almost 50 extra litres (530L), which is more space than most people will realistically need.
Up in the second-row space is decent, with an inch or two of airspace for my knees behind my own (182cm tall) driving position. There's room above my head once I'm seated - despite the slopey roofline - but getting in and out is a scramble, with the C-pillar jutting down where the door joins the body.
You'll fit three adults across, with a bit of a squeeze, and there are ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer two seats.
The rear seats also get access to a set of air vents, two USB power outlets and netting on the back of the front seats. There are cupholders in the doors, but they're so tight they'll only really hold an espresso cup.
Up front, the door issue is the same – it won't hold a 500ml bottle due to the complex door cards – but there are two large cupholders in the centre.
Storage for the front occupants is far better than it is in this car's 308 hatch sibling, with the posh raised centre console also offering a long trench for phones and wallets, as well as a deep centre-console box and a storage area underneath, which also hosts the front USB outlets. There's a decently sized glovebox on the passenger side.
Room for front occupants is also good, as the seats are set low in the body, but knee room is limited due to the wide console and overly thick door cards.
The iCockpit design is perfectly suited to someone my size, but if you're particularly short you won't be able to see over the dash elements, and if you're particularly tall it will get uncomfortable quickly, with the wheel blocking elements or simply sitting too low. Seriously, just ask our resident giraffe-person, Richard Berry.
Measuring 4775mm long, 1835mm wide, 1457mm tall and with a 2791mm wheelbase, the Passat is certainly large enough to easily accommodate four adults and plenty of luggage.
In the front row, storage solutions are available at every turn.
Two cupholders sit between the front passengers, good for a morning cup of coffee on the way to work, while the door pockets will easily accommodate a medium-sized water bottle.
The glove box is also cooled, though what practical function this serves is still unclear (are you really going to put a drink bottle in there?), while a roof console, driver's side dashboard cubby and storage pockets behind the front seats can accommodate all manner of paraphernalia.
The front passengers also have an armrest with storage box, while the rear occupants are treated to a fold-down armrest with cupholders.
The rear seats offer enough head-, leg- and shoulder-room for our 183cm (6.0ft) frame, but the middle seat is a bit of a squeeze.
As evidenced by our photos, a large and medium suit can fit side-by-side in the Passat's boot, leaving room in the side storage pockets for smaller items that may roll around once underway.
The sedan's 60/40 split rear seats can also fold from latches in the boot to boost storage capacity to 1152L, though the wagon (with its 650L/1780L boot capacity) is still the choice for those who value practicality.
Cargo restraining hooks are available, as are shopping bag hooks (always a win) and a 12-volt socket.
Price and features
An impressive specification is completely standard, including a 10-inch multimedia toucschreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, built-in navigation and DAB+ digital radio, a 12.3-inch digital dash cluster, modestly sized 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED front and rear lighting, adaptive dampers, which respond to the car's five driving modes, and a thorough active-safety suite, which includes adaptive cruise control.
The black fully leather interior trim is included, as well as heated and powered front seats.
The only two items that reside on the options list are a sunroof ($2500) and premium paints (either metallic at $590 or pearlescent at $1050).
While all of those options, including the 508, are not budget buys, Peugeot makes no apologies for the fact that it's not going after the volume end of the market. It hopes the 508 will become the brand's "aspirational flagship."
Priced at $46,590, before on-road costs, the Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business sedan is on the pricier end of the mid-size sedan segment.
However, Volkswagen Australia has taken the kitchen sink approach to specification, and thrown everything it could at its mainstream mid-size sedan.
As standard, the Passat is fitted with a tri-zone climate control, LED exterior lighting, second-row air vents, automatic boot release, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, electronically adjustable and massaging driver's seat, heated front seats, multi-function steering wheel, cooled glove box, leather-appointed interior, and rear window blinds.
An 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen system, with wireless Apple CarPlay/wired Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, is also included.
While it is nice to see wireless Apple CarPlay come down to a 'mainstream' model instead of the usual upper-luxury suspects, we did notice the lack of digital radio in the Passat.
Instead, the Passat is fitted with a multi-function display nestled between the speedo and tacho, which works to convey driving data such as fuel consumption and speed warning, but feels much more budget than boujee in appearance.
It's also pleasing to see Volkswagen adopt a future-forward approach with three USB-C ports overall (two up front, one for the rear passengers), despite the current-generation Passat's underpinnings dating back to 2014.
A bevy of high-end safety equipment is also included at no extra charge, including adaptive cruise control and surround-view monitor (more information on safety down below).
The only option available to Passat buyers is the choice of premium paint, but the long list of standard equipment is tempered by the high price tag.
Engine & trans
Peugeot has made this department easy, too. There's just one drivetrain.
It's a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which punches above its weight on the power front with 165kW/300Nm. If you think about it, there were many V6 engines that wouldn't have produced that kind of power, even just a few years ago.
The engine drives the front wheels only via an also-new eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission. There's no all-wheel drive and no diesel as part of Peugeot's simplify-and-conquer strategy.
The engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends drive exclusively to the front wheels for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 7.1 seconds.
Volkswagen used to offer the Passat with lower-output engines, as well as a more potent Golf R-driveline-sharing 206TSI grade, but those versions have been discontinued in Australia.
The 508 is rated to consume an impressive-sounding 6.3L/100km on the combined cycle, although in my recent test of the 308 GT hatchback, which shares the same drivetrain, I scored 8.5L/100km.
While our countryside blast at the 508's launch event would be an unfair representation of this car's real-world fuel consumption, I'd be surprised if most people scored below 8.0L/100km, given this car's extra kerb weight over the 308 and the nature of its entertaining drive.
We should stop for a moment and appreciate that this engine is the first one on sale in Australia featuring a petrol particulate filter (PPF).
While other manufacturers (like Land Rover and Volkswagen) have been vocal about the fact that they cannot bring PPFs to Australia due to our lax (high-sulfur) fuel quality, Peugeot's "totally passive" system allows for higher sulfur contents, so 508 owners can rest assured they're driving around with reasonably low CO2 tailpipe emissions of 142g/km.
As a result, however, the 508 requires you to fill its 62-litre tank with a minimum 95RON mid-grade unleaded petrol.
Official documentation pegs the Passat 140TSI Business sedan's fuel consumption at 6.4 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
In our limited week of testing (just before Melbourne entered the second wave of lockdowns), we managed a figure of 9.7L/100km limited exclusively to inner-city driving.
Our figure is still slightly higher than the 8.3L/100km urban consumption rating though, which can be chalked up to our very short and slow speeds to the local shop and back as our average speed over 523km is just 27km/h.
The 508 matches up to its swoopy looks by being a whole lot of fun, but also surprisingly refined behind the wheel.
The 1.6 turbo isn't wildly powerful for something this size, but it's easily grunts enough, with peak torque easily lighting up the front wheels from a standstill. It's quiet, too, and the eight speed is silky-smooth in most driving modes
Speaking of which, special attention should be given to the driving modes. In many cars you'll get a 'sport' button, which, nine times out of 10, is basically useless. But not here in the 508, where each of its five distinct driving modes alters everything from engine response, transmission map and steering weight to the mode of the adaptive dampers.
Comfort is best for plodding around town or in traffic, with a smooth engine and transmission response to inputs and light steering, which makes it a cinch to move around.
The prime B-roads we were on around Canberra's countryside periphery, however, demanded the full-fat sports mode, which makes the steering heavy and instantly responsive and the engine far more aggressive. It will let you ride each gear all the way up to the red line and switching to manual gives impressively snappy responses, via the flappy paddle, wheel-mounted shifters.
I was taken aback to find that no matter which mode I chose, the suspension was excellent. It was softer in comfort but even in sport it wasn't as brutal as the 308 GT hatch, soaking up the larger bumps without shaking up the occupants in the process. This is partially due to the 508's reasonably sized 18-inch alloys.
The wheel itself feels great in your hands, with a small radius and slightly square shape making it easy to wrangle. My main complaint is directed at the the multimedia touchscreen, which is seated so deep in the dash it requires taking your eyes a bit too far off the road to adjust anything – including the climate controls.
With no all-wheel drive and modest power, the 508 is hardly a proper sportscar, but it is still a great balance of refinement and fun where it counts.
Well, the opposite is true of something like the sedately-styled Passat 140TSI Business sedan.
Don't be mistaken, though, as that is not meant as a form of criticism, and those looking to buy a Passat generally aren't looking for a canyon carving track attack weapon.
Instead, the Passat feels very neutral and easy to drive day-to-day.
With the punchy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine serving up the 320Nm of torque from a very low 1450rpm, the Passat feels responsive around town, while the smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) works smartly and seamlessly.
There can be some jerkiness from the DCT when slowing to a stop as the start/stop system likes to cut the engine early to save fuel, but that can be remedied by simply turning if off with the press of a button.
The 140kW available is also never really enough to overwhelm the front axle, and the Passat handles with predictability and precision.
The suspension set-up is also geared much more towards comfort and compliance than sportiness.
This mean the Passat is easily soaks up bumps and road imperfections instead of transmitting every jolt through the chassis to the driver.
While the Passat can feel a little numb to steer, the light steering is a plus at slow speeds around town, making U-turns and parallel parks easier.
Though VW offered a less powerful and more potent engine in the old Passat range, we're glad to see the brand stick with the sole 140TSI engine that hits the sweet spot of usable performance in real-world situations.
The 508 comes loaded as standard with an impressive suite of active safety items including auto emergency braking (AEB – works from 0 – 140km/h), lane-keep assist (LKAS) with lane-departure warning (LDW), blind-spot monitoring (BSM), traffic-sign recognition (TSR), and active cruise control, which also lets you set your exact position within the lane.
Thanks to the 508's AEB also detecting pedestrians and cyclists, it already carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The expected suite of features include six airbags, three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points as well as electronic stability and brake controls.
The Volkswagen Passat wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, though the current-generation model was first tested in October 2015.
At the time of testing, the Passat scored 14.89 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, while the side impact and pole examinations yielded the full 16 and two points respectively.
Overall, the Passat was awarded a score of 35.89 out of a possible 37, though ANCAP's testing criteria has since become much more stringent.
For starters a five-star car must include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard across the range, a technology that is now fitted to all Passats.
Other standard safety equipment includes Volkswagen's 'IQ Drive' safety suite, which bundles together a drive attention alert system, lane-keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, automated parallel parking, surround-view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
ISOFIX anchorage points are also available in the two outbound rear seats, while there are three top tether spots.
Peugeot currently offers a competitive five-year unlimited kilometre warranty promise, which includes five years of roadside assist.
The 508 only has to be serviced once every 12 months or 20,000km, which is nice, but that's where the good news ends. Service pricing is steeper than budget-brand peers, with a fixed-price program costing between $600 and $853 per visit. Over the length of the warranty it will cost you a total of $3507 or an average of $701.40 per year.
It's almost twice the price of some competitors, but Peugeot does promise that the service visits are all inclusive of expendable items like fluids and filters etc.
Like all new Volkswagen vehicles, the Passat 140TSI Business sedan comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with 12 months of roadside assistance.
Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The first, third and fifth service costs $389 each, with the two-year/30,000km and four-year/60,000km maintenance blowing out to $602 and $923 respectively.
So, the first five years of servicing will set you back $2692, though buyers can also opt for a three- or five-year car plan at the time of purchase for $1300 or $2300.
Each care plan includes scheduled servicing for that time period, saving up to $389 compared to paying for each individually.