There’s a fun old Simca commercial for the new Aronde Elysee that includes the phrase “a triumph of French engineering!” These days, Americans hearing that tagline may find themselves stifling a giggle. French fashion? Oui. French culinary artistry? Mais certainement. French viticulture? Ooh la la. But engineering—of cars? The last Peugeots and Renaults marketed in the U.S. didn’t exactly give Honda and Toyota a run for their JD Power rankings. But Peugeot says it’s coming back to America by 2026 at the latest, so we did some tire-kicking around Peugeot’s 2019 Geneva Motor Show stand to assess its readiness seven years out.
The small 208 generated the biggest buzz, making its global debut in gas, diesel, and full-electric guises in keeping with Peugeot’s pledge to offer electrified versions of all its products. This one is almost certainly not coming to the U.S. owing to the three-strikes rule (it’s a car, it’s a hatchback, and it’s too small), but as compacts go, this one is super stylish. The floating-element grille and the triple-slash lion’s-claw lighting signatures at the front and rear are striking, so if the next generation of products currently on drawing boards for production in the mid-2020s build on this design aesthetic, they’ll at least decorate our roadways nicely. They’re even cooler inside. The 3-D holographic dash display looks super cool, though it’s unclear whether Yanks will warm to the notion of viewing gauges placed above a small flat-topped steering wheel. The electric version boasts a 50-kW-hr battery pack good for a reasonable 211 miles, but its 134-hp motor means the 0-62-mph dash requires 8.1 seconds—an eternity in a market of 6.3-second Chevy Bolt and 6.6-second Hyundai Kona EVs.
With the 508, the eye is drawn to a very fetching design that looks great in sedan or wagon guise. A single lion-claw mark (or maybe lion fang) lighting signature in front looks menacing, and the general proportion and stance seem pretty spot on. Sadly, Peugeot will be arriving in a post-sedan America (and we’ve been post-wagon for quite some time). Still, it’s fun to imagine a new sport sedan like the 508 Sport Engineered concept. The plug-in hybrid offers 30 miles of electric travel, while the 200-hp front engine combined with 110-hp front and a 200-hp rear electric motors deliver 0-62-mph performance of 4.3 seconds. Fat 245/35R20 Michelin Pilot Sports and 15-inch front brakes with four-piston calipers promise impressive grip and braking, as well. The car features dramatic aero aids, including splitters, air fences, diffusers, and two really weird little horizontal blades mounted to the C-pillars that would never pass pedestrian protection regs. Here again, cool looking—inside and out—but it doesn’t seem all that likely to come our way.
Peugeot e-Legend Concept
Peugeot has a rich back catalog of often Pininfarina-designed coupes and decapotable ragtops to draw inspiration from, and this one channels all the right cues from the 504 coupe that first appeared in Geneva 50 years ago. The formal roofline, the flared fenders, and the wild rocker panel extensions all just work, and that front-end design is clearly informing the look of the 508 and 208. Inside, check out those velour seats! Such a car would sell in minuscule volumes if offered here, but it could serve a useful purpose as a brand halo vehicle. And positioned as a Tesla-fighting premium-performance EV (the concept boasts 456 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, good for a claimed sub-4-second 0-60 time with 370 miles of range), it might even be able to sell for enough money to recoup the homologation costs (but probably not). Our fingers are crossed.