Peugeot's 508 1.6 BlueHDi offers a long list of frills

The new Peugeot 508 1.6 BlueHDi offers a long list of frills without a premium price tag

France is known for its fashion, food and fine wines. However, the country does not have a strong record of making big cars. In Europe, that expertise lies solidly in the hands of the Germans.

The Peugeot 508 1.6 BlueHDi narrows the gap somewhat.

The car is the latest facelift of the 508 sedan that was launched in 2011. The external styling tweaks are relatively minor - a redesigned grille, headlights and front bumper.

The major updates lie underneath the bonnet.

The Pug gets a new 1,560cc turbocharged Euro 6-compliant diesel power plant that churns out 120bhp and 300Nm of torque, putting the car in COE Category A. Its 102g/km carbon emission figure also qualifies it for a rebate of up to $15,000.

The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters sourced from Japanese transmission firm Aisin.

  • SPECS/PEUGEOT 508 1.6 BlueHDi

    Price: $125,900 with COE

    Engine: 1,560cc 16-valve inline-4 turbodiesel

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 120bhp at 3,500rpm

    Torque: 300Nm at 1,750rpm

    0-100kmh: 12.1 seconds

    Top speed: 210kmh

    Fuel consumption: 3.9 litres/100km

    Agent: AutoFrance

The cabin has a distinctly plush and modern feel, with a well laid-out dashboard that is almost German-like.

Rear passengers will cheer the legroom afforded by the car's generous wheelbase (2,817mm), which is longer than the Toyota Camry's (2,775mm) and Volkswagen Passat's (2,791mm), both of which are Cat B COE cars with correspondingly bigger price tags.

If the Pug's generous passenger space and lower price are not enough to sway buyers, its exceptional equipment level should.

Besides now-common features such as keyless entry and engine ignition, and a seven-inch touchscreen entertainment system with Bluetooth and satellite navigation, the car has a long list of frills that are seldom found in Cat A COE cars.

These include motors to adjust the driver and front passenger's seats, a blind spot warning, tyre- pressure monitoring, rear window blinds, rear air-conditioning controls for passengers to set the temperature for themselves, front and rear parking sensors that work with a rear-view camera, and even heated front seats which are unnecessary here.

The insulation of the cabin is above average. The heavy doors close with a solid thud and the cocooned cabin shuts out the diesel clank to a faint whisper.

While the Pug pampers passengers with space and creature comforts, it does not reward spirited driving.

The car is easy to drive, but hardly a hoot to pilot. The steering is a tad too heavily weighted, but it gets the job done in a clinical, fuss-free manner.

Its downsized diesel engine feels laboured when powering the 1.4-tonne car. And while power delivery is linear, throttle response is sedate. The car takes a leisurely 12.1 seconds to reach 100kmh from standstill.

Over a three-day 177km test drive, the barely run-in Pug returns a fuel consumption of 7.6 litres/100km, almost double the official 3.9 litres/100km mark.

The car is not without the obligatory quirks (it would not be a true-blue French car otherwise).

The front cupholders are brackets that pop out from the dashboard - the type that I always avoid using for fear of damaging the centre console with spillage.

There is a dismal lack of storage space within the driver's reach - the small recess behind the gear shift lever has space for only the key fob and the storage box below the centre armrest barely holds two spectacle cases.

And there are just too many buttons. There are 14 buttons on the steering wheel for speaker volume, telephone and cruise control.

If that is not dizzying enough, opening a small compartment below the steering wheel reveals hidden buttons to deactivate traction control and stop-start system, and another to adjust the headlight level.

Mastering all the controls will take some effort.

Overall, the Pug is a lot of car for the money. It is a plush, practical and stylish family car without a premium price tag, making it a compelling and sensible choice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Plush Pug'. Print Edition | Subscribe