+ Handsome looks
+ Plush interior
+ Good BIK benefits for company car buyers
- Sluggish infotainment system
- Hybrid drivetrain isn’t the most refined
Verdict: The new Peugeot 508 SW is a wonderfully stylish and rather premium choice in the shrinking estate car segment. SUVs might be flavour of the month, but this SW is certainly worthy of consideration for its practicality and general refinement.
SUVs are everywhere with their popularity now being totally self-perpetuating. People want to keep up with the Jones’ flash new motor, and car manufacturers have shaped their lineups to take advantage of this. However, what happened to the humble estate car in all this? Once the default family wagon, some manufacturers have been quietly killing off household names, such as Mondeo, in order to facilitate the SUV appetite. Not Peugeot though, as it has thrown everything at its new 508 SW.
For those of you who don’t speak Peugeot brochure, SW denotes this as the 508’s estate variant. You’re unlikely to forget this after seeing it in the metal because it truly is a great looking thing. Sure, it’s not as imposing as an SUV, but it has an elegance to it. A wide grille sits between rakish feline lights, not to mention those distinctive ‘fangs’ that serve as daytime running lights. It’s a car made of subtle curves and not harsh creases, a decision that promotes a sophisticated look.
Just like all new Peugeot’s, the cabin is an interesting place to set up shop, with cascading surfaces, interesting textures and a design that generally makes rivals seem a bit unimaginative. This i-Cockpit layout features a large customisable digital instrument screen and a shrunken steering wheel that lives beneath it. Some taller folks have commented on how the wheel can obscure the dials at times, but most people should be just fine. All cars except for the entry models come with a larger 10-inch infotainment screen that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.
Rear passengers get good levels of legroom, and headroom is pleasing even on cars fitted with the glass panoramic roof option. Boot space is 530-litres, or more than you’ll find in a Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6 Tourer. There’s a nice square aperture for loading items, and a flat floor to make life easier. Fold all of the seats flat and a plentiful 1,780-litres is yours.
The Peugeot 508 SW comes with the choice of three different engines. There’s a plucky 1.2-litre petrol engine that punches well above its weight, a 1.5-litre diesel which is ideal for those clocking the motorway miles, or a plug-in hybrid that company car buyers should consider for a BIK saving.
The petrol is great around town, providing good levels of torque after just a whiff of turbo lag, enthusiastically thrumming its way along with performance that’s only a little lacking when the car is fully loaded. Ticking the diesel box grants a motor with great cruising refinement and impressive fuel economy on the motorway. While the PHEV with its up to 39 miles of pure EV range delivers on a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario, if not the most sophisticated one.
If you’re looking for driver engagement, you’ll be better served by the agile Mazda 6 Tourer. Peugeot has focused on a tranquil driving experience here, so the steering is light and lacks the tactility of something with more sporting pretences. A cosseting suspension setup really proves itself on our less than perfect road surfaces, soaking up the lumps and bumps even with the larger alloy wheels optioned. There’s a little bit of wind noise that makes its way into the cabin at speed, but otherwise it’s an impressively hushed driving experience. Set the cruise control, relax and let the car take the strain on commutes or long trips – it’s a great way to munch those miles.
This is proof positive that an estate can be just as alluring as an SUV. Beyond just looking good, this comfortable family car is plenty practical and proves itself as a solid allrounder. It also comes with added benefits over its bulkier high-riding stablemates such as improved fuel economy and better handling. Long live the estate car.
We’re all used to car interiors being made of plusher materials and featuring swanky mood lighting these days, but the Peugeot 508 separates itself from rivals via distinctive design. The ‘i-Cockpit’ philosophy has been seen in many new Peugeots over the years, but it really suits this grown-up estate car’s form factor. A sculpted dashboard runs down to a high center console that divides the driver and passenger. You are cocooned in interesting material choices and glossy black finishes for a premium feel.
That said, there are a few scratchy plastics lower in the cabin. Below the digital instrument cluster – we’ll come back to this – sits a petite steering wheel that no longer has the driver looking through it at the dials, as is traditional. There’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, but some taller individuals still might struggle to find a setting where the wheel doesn’t obscure the instruments. Although, most people will get on just fine.
There are five trim levels to choose from with entry Active Premium cars being equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, a 180 degree reversing camera, and plenty of safety kit as standard. Allure models add things like a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 17-inch alloys, and navigation. Allure Premium is all about added luxuries like an electric tailgate and electrically adjustable half leather seats. GT cars really enhance the 508’s looks with LED lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as blue ambient lighting. Top-spec GT Premium models get all of the above but also a 360-degree parking camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, and premium audio. Truth be told, Allure and Allure premium models represent the best value of the bunch, with higher trims proving costly.
The 10-inch infotainment system on Allure cars and above is a great size, with large icons making it easy to navigate at a glance. There’s also a series of physical ‘piano’ shortcut keys to jump between menus. Less impressive is a lack of physical controls for things like air-conditioning, something that requires blindly stabbing at the screen while trying to adjust. This system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meaning you can use the faster-responding interface you’re familiar with on your smartphone.
The Peugeot 508 offers good levels of space for everyone, even affording respectable shoulder room for the middle passenger. There is a modest transmission hump in the floor, but it is far less intrusive than some rivals. Legroom isn’t class-leading, but there’s certainly space to stretch out, and headroom is a positive also. We do wish the rear windows were a bit larger to let in more light as the rear quarters can feel dark at times.
The boot aperture is nice and square, meaning that awkwardly shaped items should be loaded without issue. Its 530 litres is ideal for dogs, as is its lower boot floor versus an SUV. Fold the 60:40 rear bench flat for a huge 1,780 litres of space. Something like a Skoda Superb Estate might win in a game of Top Trumps against this Peugeot, but both the Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 Tourer do not.
There is a trio of engine options available on the 508 SW, something that gives this estate a broader appeal than some competitors. Petrol, diesel, and plug-in hybrid models are all on the menu.
The 1.2-litre petrol option is a delight. This three-cylinder unit is a past award winner, and its strong levels of torque and impressive refinement once up to speed highlight why. In this guise, this engine produces 129bhp and claims up to 49mpg in terms of economy. It punches well above its weight and never feels out of its depth. The only things to consider are the merits of a diesel engine should you regularly pack an estate car to the rafters.
We’re very familiar with this 1.5-litre diesel found in many other PSA cars. It is an impressively refined motorway trawler, and that’s exactly what many of these 508s will spend their lives doing. Muscular torque from low in the rev range makes this motor perfect for towing, but its claimed 62mpg will also make a lot of sense to those covering large distances on the regular.
Plug-in hybrids are increasingly becoming the norm and provide an ideal segue into electrification. Up to 39 miles of pure EV driving should account for most commutes, but the 1.6-litre petrol engine has you covered to charge the battery on the move or provide power itself. The 11.8kWh battery takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to charge from a home wallbox.
A combined 330bhp makes this model brisk, but its transitions between electric, combined and combustion power are far from seamless. Pauses and jolts highlight how manufacturers such as Toyota have got the recipe far closer to perfection. It makes a far more convincing case for itself as a refined motorway machine than around town.
No matter which engine you opt for, the Peugeot 508 SW is quite simply a lovely car to spend time in. It feels like something premium from behind the wheel, displaying a mature and refined character that will please anyone who spends considerable periods of time driving. Around town this estate doesn’t feel like such a big car thanks to light steering, that little wheel, and parking cameras to boost visibility. Models with these cameras are strongly recommended as the rear window’s shallow angle might be stylish, but its view isn’t all that helpful.
Peugeot has done a great job striking a balance between body control and ride comfort, with not too much of the former and plenty of the latter. Even on larger alloy wheel options, the suspension does a good job of absorbing road imperfections, with only the very worst potholes sending a shudder through the cabin. This cushioned and compliant ride helps define the 508’s perception as a more premium offering than its predecessor.
On faster roads the SW flows neatly from bend to bend, but hustling the car delivers little satisfaction. There is plenty of grip to be exploited, however, the detached feeling you get through the wheel disconnects you from what the front wheels are up to. Its change of direction feels swift, again thanks to the dinky steering wheel, but even the PHEV with its hot hatch horsepower won’t put a smile on your face like a Mazda 6 Tourer.
The new Peugeot 508 SW is certainly worthy of your consideration, be your next car an SUV or not. In terms of estate cars, it presents itself as a pleasing allrounder with more character and charm than its workaday competition. Sat next to an SUV at the end of a catwalk, we’d even go as far as saying this SW has the measure of many.