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Best compact execs 2019: 508 vs Arteon vs Giulia vs A5 Sportback

Published: 03 January 2019

► Best compact exec
► New 508 vs rivals
► Which one is best?

For your next company car, should you engage in corporate retreat and fall back from the trad boxy saloon? Which one of these four slick compact execs should you get instead?

Going back to the drawing board...

Peugeot 508
Peugeot really is on a roll – the new 508 is thoroughly un-boring to look at. It's extremely handsome even in 'don't look at me' blue with tasty rims and animated rear lights. You have to go GT-Line or GT (like this one) to get those sabre-tooth DRLs.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Still a real looker, even in a sober colour and trim. It's all about curves, in stark contrast to the other three, with their angles and lines. Giulia's shape is cohesive, classically Italian and not-actually-that-saloon-like. Molto, molto bene.

Alfa Giulia side

Audi A5 Sportback
Familiar shape that will make some nod in quiet approval at the crisp lines and clean surfaces, while others will reach for the Red Bull to help them stay awake. Ours is not in one of Audi's 400,000 different shades of grey. Hooray?

VW Arteon
Who'd have thought a modern-day VW exec car could get any attention in the office car park? Brash grille, Spirograph alloys and sharp beltline hide its plain Passat undergarments, with details only enhanced by the korma yellow paintwork.

Does it really move the needle?

Peugeot 508
Top-end GT's only diesel is a 178bhp BlueHDi that feels pokey, particularly when riding the torque wave, but engine noise when accelerating is more intrusive than the VW's. Unobtrusive EAT8 auto 'box is extremely smooth, with Sport mode jolting some life into it.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Engine willingly lets you know that it's a diesel, and quite a gruff one at that. Punchy delivery, though, with a smooth whump of torque to exploit via the eight-speed ZF and its gorgeous metal paddles. Manual changes in Dynamic are a little lurchy but you'll be having too much fun to care.

Audi A5 Sportback
Pretty much the same engine as the golden Volkswagen but the Audi runs slightly different mapping, to help bring the torque in earlier, and is slightly quicker on paper. It's also available in the supposedly thriftier Ultra version.

Audi A5 Sportback sid

VW Arteon
There's more power than the Alfa and 508 but that doesn't translate into particularly sprightly performance, with the torque flatter than the Peugeot in particular. Oomph from low-gear, heavy-foot cornering is neutered by hyperactive traction control. Boo.

Can it go the extra mile?

Peugeot 508
Active suspension kills bodyroll in Sport but can get wallowy in Comfort. It's a little louder at motorway speeds than the VW Group pair and the GT's big wheels make some potholes a little spikey. Steering via teeny wheel is precise and progressive.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Steering is among the best on the market, and just as lively as the hotter QF version. Ride strikes a great balance between killing bodyroll and not making ruts too much of a fuss. Adaptive dampers can be in their 'soft' setting even in Dynamic mode. Brakes are strong, too.

Audi A5 Sportback
This one has no-cost-option Comfort suspension (Sport set-up is default) to help stave off some lumps but feels no softer than Alfa and 508. The progressive steering has a dead spot at centre and S-tronic gearbox ponders the odd hard acceleration shift. It's the most refined on the motorway, though.

VW Arteon side

VW Arteon
It's almost as hushed on the move as the Audi due to optional double glazing, but bigger wheels make more noise and tell you more about the road surface. Steering is mildly less dead than Audi and it corners flatter. Dynamic Chassis Control modes don't make a lot of difference.

Pushing the interior design envelope past the sticky bit?

Peugeot 508
Even for Peugeot this is ultra-modern and, unlike French stereotypes, well built. Cockpit has high instrument cluster with crisp graphics, and the centre console hides USBs and wireless charger. Usual PSA infotainment is still fiddly.

Peugeot 508 interior

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Driving position is proper sports car fare and most of the materials are fine, but ours had wobbly dials and a sticky cupholder cover. It doesn't help that infotainment is both complicated to navigate and has the resolution of a potato.

Audi A5 Sportback
Getting on a bit compared to the futuristic Peugeot, but still well built and ergonomically sound. Blocky gear selector, perforated leather wheel and metal door handles are sweet. Buy now before Audi kills the handy rotary.

VW Arteon
And we're back in a Passat! Plainest interior here with sporty wheel and stretching air vent the only real interesting bits. Optional ergoComfort seats have active lumbar supports and carbonfibre-effect upholstery.

I need to touch base with colleagues...

Peugeot 508
Fastback rear cuts into headroom for the tallest of your corporate associates but legroom is good, while boot is larger than in the Audi and Alfa. Powered tailgate has hands-free function, while optional night vision will help you stop running folk over after office hours.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
If you can get in through the narrow doors, legroom and headroom are good, but shallow windows and roof-to-floor black inside may induce claustrophobia. It's the only proper saloon here, so boot access aperture is smaller, but it's on a par for space with the Audi.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Audi A5 Sportback
Supportive but firm seating all around is upholstered in half velour-like materials, with legroom tighter but headroom more generous than the Peugeot. The boot has the same volume as the Giulia, but access is naturally better here due to hatchback rear.

VW Arteon
Then this is the car to do it in. So much room in the back you could host your own sales conference, but skip the sunroof to maximise head space. Boot is also the largest here, which is almost as capacious as an Audi A6 Avant's by volume.

Let's crunch the numbers...

Peugeot 508
Just behind the Germans for claimed mpg and goes toe-to-toe with them in terms of residual values, thanks to Peugeot's new tactic of not flooding its dealers with OTT ex-demos. Three-year/60,000-mile costs are 55.6ppm. Get one for £316pm**, or £441pm** in this spec.

Peugeot 508 leasing deals

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa has introduced an updated diesel for the 2019 model year to pass Euro 6d-Temp emissions regs. New engine gains 9bhp (up to 186bhp) but economy is worse by 10mpg. Still the cheapest per mile to run at 51.2ppm, and you can lease one for around £345pm**. Bargain.

VW Arteon interior

Alfa Giulia leasing deals

Audi A5 Sportback
A5 remains competitive, with similar overall running costs at 55.3ppm if you get one with the Technology Pack, and it has the best claimed fuel economy (tied with the VW). Just be careful not to go overboard on additional options. A £584pm** lease offer is a lot more than the others.

Audi A5 Sportback leasing deals

VW Arteon
The most expensive to run over three years, at 55.8ppm. It's the cheapest to lease out of the four at £312pm** mind, and is in a lower insurance group than the Audi and 508. There are both ups and downs here – just like the thumb positions of passers-by.

VW Arteon leasing deals


WINNER - Peugeot 508: ★★★★
A stunner inside and out, and now a real contender.

Alfa Romeo Giulia: ★★★★
The driver's choice for those who don't sweat the small stuff.

Volkswagen Arteon: ★★★
Practical and striking, but a sheep in wolf's clothing.

Audi A5 Sportback: ★★★
Classic and refined, but roundly outshone here.

Best executive car test

Best compact executive: specifications

Peugeot 508 GT BlueHDi 180 auto
Price £36,400 (£38,875 as tested)
Engine 1997cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @ 3750rpm, 295lb ft @ 2000rpm Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.3sec 0-62mph, 146mph, 60.1mpg, 124g/km CO2
Weight 1535kg
Example insurance quote* £664.74
On sale Now

Alfa Romeo Giulia Diesel Super
Price £33,315 (£41,285 as tested)
Engine 2143cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @ 3750rpm, 332lb ft @ 1750rpm Transmission 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance 7.1sec 0-62mph, 143mph, 67.3mpg, 109g/km CO2
Weight 1445kg
Example insurance quote* £667.79
On sale Now

Audi A5 S line TDI 190 quattro
Price £41,210 (£46,670 as tested)
Engine 1968cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 3800rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 7.4sec 0-62mph, 146mph, 61.4mpg, 121g/km CO2
Weight 1600kg
Example insurance quote* £684.28
On sale Now

VW Arteon R-Line 2.0 TDI 190 DSG
Price £36,180 (£45,350 as tested)
Engine 1968cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 3500rpm, 295lb ft @ 1900rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.0sec 0-62mph, 148mph, 61.4mpg, 121g/km CO2
Weight 1651kg
Example insurance quote* £680.25
On sale Now

*Insurance quotes are from mustard.co.uk and are based on a 43-year-old employed, married male living in Stowmarket with nine years’ NCD and no claims or convictions. Insurance quotes will vary depending on individual circumstances.

**Lease rates correct at time of writing and found through Parkers’ leasing broker search function for a personal contract hire deal with a nine-month initial prepayment over three years with an annual mileage limit of 10,000 miles.

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By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches