While sales of sports utility vehicles continue to soar, reports of the demise of the large saloon have clearly been exaggerated.

Peugeot has benefited hugely from sales of its slick SUVs, but its latest offering attacks a much more traditional sector where only the best manufacturers survive.

This is the sleek 508, a five-door, five-seater saloon oozing Gallic charm that has its sights firmly set on upmarket opposition from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

This is company car territory like no other and the statistics that Peugeot are wielding range from a starting price of £25,000 and insurance groups starting at 22 – four groups lower than the previous model – to competitive benefit-in-kind ratings and residual values that are estimated to beat German competitors.

But what is it like to drive? I spent a morning driving models from both ends of the range in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and the answer is that however much you spend it is really rather pleasant.

With a compact overall length of 4.75m and a low roofline, the sharply-sculpted front end, sloping roof and frameless doors give it coupé-like styling.

On the move, Peugeot’s active suspension makes for a classy calm ride that soaks up the worst of our roads without fuss and steering is nicely weighted at speed. A touch of a button switches between different drive settings.

The 508 is available with a range of six petrol and diesel engine/transmission combinations, covering 130 to 225 horsepower.

The six-speed manual transmission fitted to the 130 horsepower version I drove was slick and positive, but the vast majority of the range use a smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission that suits its executive air to a tee.

That 130 horsepower diesel while lacking the effortless power of the larger engines offers both low CO2 emissions and insurance grouping and holds out the alluring potential of more than 70mpg.

Peugeot’s ’i-Cockpit’ with its small, leather-trimmed steering wheel, large touchscreen angled towards the driver and a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel comes together beautifully.

The crisp technology is softened by an impressive combination of gloss black, brushed metal panels, plenty of soft-touch materials and a line-up of easy-to-operate chrome-plated piano-key controls.

Standard equipment is high with satellite navigation, voice recognition, twin-zone climate control and rear parking sensors.

Features available range from ambient interior lighting and a wireless smartphone charge pad and plenty of on-board technology including cruise control and speed limiter and a speed limit recognition display that flashes a grumpy red if you slip over the limit.

Safety features range from automatic emergency braking and distance alert, to lane keeping assistance and road edge detection.

One option I could not try in daylight is a new night vision system that operates in the dark and in reduced visibility. It uses infra-red cameras to detect the presence of obstacles, including pedestrians and animals within a 200-metre range – beyond the headlights – and then displays an image on a head-up display.

As distinctive as the car is from the front, it also shines with personality at the rear with rear LED ‘claw effect’ lights glowing even in daylight.

Despite the coupé-like styling the car retains five-door practicality with a large hatch opening to a generous 487-litre boot.

In short, Peugeot has created a good-looking, spacious and well-equipped car and if you are looking for a distinctive D-segment saloon with more than a dash of French fastback flair, it has plenty to offer.

Auto facts

Model: Peugeot 508 GT 225 Auto

Price: £35,975

Insurance group: 34E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 49.6mpg

Top speed: 155mph

Length: 475cm/187in

Width: 186cm/73.2in

Luggage capacity: 17.2 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 13.6 gallons/62 litres

CO2 emissions: 131g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles