Peugeot 508 SW: A French Adventure

  • Mammoth 1,072-mile journey in the French estate
  • The competent load-lugger handles the trip well
  • Comfort put to the test, as were 80mph speed limits

The decision to drive to the middle of France for a holiday meant a rather daunting 1,072 mile round trip in the Peugeot 508 SW.

While I’d completed a drive to Liverpool recently, and had done plenty of commuting in the estate, this was going to be the longest journey that I had undertaken in the Peugeot.

So far the car had proven excellent, barring its small sat nav problem, but before I could go anywhere I had to make sure I had all the necessary bits and pieces required to drive legally across the border.

I managed to borrow some hi-visibility vests and also to scrounge a first-aid kit from someone. Handily the 508 SW has a little compartment for the warning triangle you have to use if you breakdown. Unfortunately Peugeot had either forgotten to put it in the car, or a previous occupant had swiped it. Again I managed to get hold of one of these.

We planned to set off at 5am on the Wednesday in the hope of catching the Euro Tunnel at 7:30am. The train would arrive in Calais just after 9am, meaning that as long as the outskirts of Paris were kind to us we would be turning up at my a parents house in central France at around 3pm.

That sounded like a long drive but we were hoping to do just a couple of stops along the way for a bit of food and perhaps the odd toilet break. I had filled the car up with diesel at Folkstone and based on the trip computer the Peugeot would cover around 800 miles before needing another fill-up.

Our trip to the tunnel, and the Tunnel itself, was incredibly trouble-free. This was the first time I’d used the Tunnel and I quickly realised how much more convenient and pleasant it was than the ferry – no lying in the centre of a ship trying not to be sick for me.

We hit French soil at just after 9am and immediately set off. As well as this being a test for the 508 SW, it was also interesting to drive in a country that has 80mph speed limits in place – particularly as the UK Government is flirting with the idea.

Something that I noticed immediately was the sheers size of the roads, often three or four lanes, and the lack of cars filling them. While it may not have been rush hour do the same in England and you’re still likely to come up against congestion along the way. So with this the 80mph limit seemed manageable and there was less danger of suddenly being caught in swathes of traffic.

There seems to be a simple reason for the 80mph limit, however. The current UK population is around 62 million, while in France it is about 64.8 million - a little more. The area of the UK is around 94,526 square miles. The area of France is about 260,558 square miles. Thank you, Google.

So, France is almost three times as big but with a similar population. With a similar number of people spread over a much larger area, the number of cars on the road is also spread out further and congestion is reduced.

The roads were also incredibly smooth and easy to drive on. Road maintenance is paid through tolls and taxes from local residents. Another point was that any work that was being carried out was merely coned where it needed to be, then opened up again. None of this 14 mile stretch of average speed cameras and cones, with no workers to be seen.

In order to change to an 80mph limit our roads need improving and we need to extend our countryside. In other words, it’s an unworkable plan.

Anyway, that’s enough of the Daily Mail style rant. Apart from some traffic problems around Paris we made it to La Chapelle St Martial in the Limousin region by 4:30. We were very ready for a beer and sit in the sun by that point.

The Peugeot was excellent in its homeland. The plan had been to swap drivers half way but it was proving so comfortable that I did the whole 12 hours and came out feeling like I had only done about two. Impressive.

At this point, the fuel gauge was also claiming I had only used half a tank which is also very good. Performance-wise, the 2.0-litre diesel was ideal for long-distance driving too.

The problem with driving to France - a boot filled with random buys. It was worth it for the excellent wine, however.

Housing for warning triangle is useful, that's if it hasn't been stolen by someone before you.

Current mileage: 11,008 miles

Average mpg: 49.7