IT'S tough out there on the mean streets...especially for traditional saloons.
Elbowed out by a tide of SUVs and muscled in on by ever-larger hatchbacks and crossovers, the once ubiquitous four-door with a boot is in steep decline.
But a new breed of family saloons - with style as well as practicality - is making a bid to plug the gap. Fastbacks with a rakish profile yet possessing four-doors and opening tailgates are making their mark.
Best examples are BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe, the VW Arteon and the new Kia Stinger. In fact, the fashion for low-riding almost coupe styling was started several years ago when Audi introduced the A5 and A7 Sportbacks.
And the latest convert is the new Peugeot 508 Fastback, which replaces the old-school style saloon by the same number designation.
Shorter and lower than both the previous model and most of the obvious competitors, with a £25,000 starting price that goes up to £37,000 for the flagship, Peugeot is raising its sights to above Mondeo, Insignia and Superb level to take aim at the German premium brands.
For the rep, still pounding the motorway miles and packing carpet samples or whatever, the new car is probably a hugely attractive proposition. Significantly Peugeot predicts 80 per cent of sales will be fleet.
I drove the most powerful petrol - diesels however are expected to take the lion's share of sales - which despite having a capacity of just 1.6-litres knocks out an impressive 223bhp.
It's blend of pace and real-life economy is likely to have wide appeal. With a max of 155mph and acceleration to 62mph in just 7.3 seconds, it's a match for most rivals.
Play with the steering wheel paddle changes on the eight-speed automatic gearbox and an ear-to-ear smile is likely to appear on most drivers' faces.
All this and an official combined fuel consumption of nearly 50mpg, which probably tallies with a real-life figure of close to 40mpg.
In keeping with the racy looks, the new car is good news for keen drivers. Its new platform with greater rigidity benefits handling to produce a far more athletic and dynamic drive. Nicely weighted steering turns in well, and body roll is suitably checked.
Like the successful 3008 and 5008 SUVs, the Fastback is treated to Peugeot's radical iCockpit with 10-inch central touchscreen and tiny steering wheel.
Quality is high and there's a snug feel to proceedings but the steering wheel needs to be set fairly low otherwise the dials are obscured.
The set-up generally works well but there's some reflection off the row of soft keys in bright sun which obscures their identification.
There's plenty of space for four or even five people. Despite the rakish roofline headroom in the rear is sufficient for most. Rear visibility isn't the strongest point though thanks to the steeply raked back window.
I found the opening glass panoramic sunroof (an £870 extra) a boon during good weather. Apart from making the cabin more airy, It also serves to lighten up the rather sombre cabin.
Although it is 8cm shorter than the outgoing 508, the boot is larger at a generous 487 litres. The rear seat splits and folds making it useful for families.