Peugeot 508

Peugeot’s second generation 508 is looking to shake-up the mid-market saloon sector, with a redesigned, curvier body, hatchback-style boot and a wealth of driver tech.

Technology includes Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, which offers a multi-function steering wheel and configurable 12.3” digital instrument panel. An optional extra (and standard on some versions) is a 10” HD touchscreen. This gives you all the information you need at the touch of a button. You can also charge your phone wirelessly from the central console, which saves having to fiddle about with finding a charging cable.

Comfort is another watchword with the new 508. On the GT trim, it comes with wraparound seats that can also be specified to include a multi-point massaging system, activated by eight pneumatic pockets, and front seat heating in the base and lower backrest.

The 508 sports an eight-speed EAT8 automatic gearbox that Peugeot says is as efficient as its manual box. Should you want to manually change gear, you can do so with paddle shifts mounted on the steering column. The EAT8 gearbox also automatically puts itself into park mode when you switch the ignition off – a small point but useful nonetheless since it’s one of those things that is all too easy to forget.

The night vision option is an interesting gadget that uses infra-red cameras to detect obstacles such as pedestrians or animals up ahead, with the image displayed on the instrument panel.


Mazda’s established family saloon has had a revamp, with revised sweeping bodywork giving it a sleek look.

Under the bonnet there have also been changes. For example, with fuel efficiency an increasing concern for drivers, the Mazda6’s new SKYACTIV-G 2.5 litre petrol engine introduces cylinder deactivation. Here, two of the engine’s four cylinders automatically shut down when in light-load driving situations, for example when cruising at a constant speed between 25-50mph, thus improving fuel economy.

In common with most saloons of this size, it is crammed with tech. For instance, Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety technology, includes Traffic Sign Recognition, which projects important road signs onto the windscreen reducing the chance of missing them. As it is projected into your eye line, it also means you don’t have to adjust your focus to read them.

Another feature, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, makes it easier and safer to pull out of a parking space or into a road. It is nigh-on impossible to see everything when you’re reversing out of a space so the system warns you of any moving objects – be it cars, pedestrians or cyclists – approaching from either side, with door mirror flashes and a warning beep.

The Mazda6 comes with 8-inch colour touch-screen display, integrated BluetoothTM and apps for integration with internet radio and social media sites. But, hearteningly for those of us not from the download generation, it also still has a CD player.

Volkswagen Passat

The Passat is known as a stylish and versatile vehicle. Although its size is part of the attraction to people looking for something practical, it isn’t so bulky that it dulls the driving experience; indeed even the new 2.0 TDI Bi-Turbo diesel engine is quiet and responsive. In fact, the saloon model shifts from 0-62mph in just 10.8 seconds.

Practical dimensions and features include a variable boot fl oor that enables you to create more space by lowering it but in any case, with the back seats folded down, the load volume increases to 1,152 litres. (Optional keyless entry also operates hands-free boot opening.)

Not all roads are wide and straight so optional features like thetrafficc jam assist prevent stress in congested areas by keeping a constant distance from the vehicle in front, instead of a constant stopping and starting. Additionally, the Park Assist system uses sensors mounted in the bumpers to aid successful parking. Meanwhile, Area View technology enables drivers to see the entire surrounding of the vehicle which is useful in a number of scenarios.

Similarly, other proactive safety features help keep an extra lookout for you, such as an emergency city braking feature and pedestrian monitoring system.

Even with the infotainment gadgets, the Passat feels like a driver’s car. The Discover Navigation Pro, for instance is a touchscreen navigation/DVD radio system with integrated voice control – with the dashboard controls presented by the Active Info Display, which can be customised to show only what the driver needs to see.

Skoda Octavia

The Skoda Octavia is the brand’s best-selling model and with handsome looks and a bulging equipment list, it’s easy to understand why.

The exterior looks are complimented by LED daytime running lights and tinted glass while the interior lives up to expectations, presented in smart black fabric upholstery.

Infotainment comes in the shape of a Bolero radio with 8” touchscreen display SmartLink+ (including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink connectivity). An upgrade to the SE trim provides voice control.

Safety features start with driver, passenger, front and side airbags as well as head and curtain airbags, backed up by an automatic post-collision braking system that applies control after an initial bump has taken place, the idea being to minimise the chances of further injury by slowing the vehicle steadily but swiftly to a halt.

The Octavia hosts an XDS system designed to maximise road grip and improve response, especially when cornering and is complimented by tyre pressure monitoring and (again, with the SE trim) a driver fatigue sensor. Rear parking sensors are also an optional extra.

The Octavia has a great deal to offer and was certainly a worthy winner of the Family Car of the Year award at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards.