Peugeot 508 SW Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Sunday 1st October
Not as complete as a Skoda Superb, but the world’s a better place with zany French wagons

Good stuff

Looks great in and out, corners decently enough, PHEV version good for tax

Bad stuff

The ride is a bit busy in town, PHEV sometimes drives clunkily


What is it?

This is the mildly facelifted ­of the 508 estate, or SW for station wagon in Peugeot-speak. Not much needed to change with the style – we love its wildcat front end and long, low, slinky tail.

The car has a long, low, sporting stance and the front and rear lights are very distinctive, whether it’s the LED tusks up front or the dark trim that links the clusters at the back of the car.

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An estate is a bit old fashioned isn’t it?

People do love their SUVs these days, and Peugeot’s new 408 is perhaps more the sort of estate/crossover mash-up we might be expecting. But there’s still life in the old estate car yet, as the 508 proves.

As evidenced by the 530-litre boot, which improves on the saloon car’s 487. In practice it's more of a gain than that, because these numbers assume the load covers are in place and the SW can swallow more of you load it toward the upright rear window, versus the hatchback's laid-back glass. Fold the seats down and you get a gargantuan 1,780 litres of space.

The PHEV versions don't lose any space either, as the battery is physically small.

Remind me of the rivals?

The opposition from Germany comes in the shape of the Audi A4 Avant, Mercedes C-Class Estate, BMW 3 Series Touring and the like, but in reality they attract a different kind of buyer, so it's not the most direct of rivalries. Think Mazda 6 (now dead, of course) or VW Passat and you're more in the ballpark. Don't forget the Skoda Superb Estate or Volvo V60 either.

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Diesel sales are wilting, so for the facelift the powertrain range drops to just three petrols: a plucky little three-cylinder, an FWD plug-in hybrid and a sporty Peugeot Sport Engineered one which adds electric drive for the rear wheels too. We review that PSE version separately here.

More detail on the refreshed design please.

The facelift brings changes to bumpers, grille and lights, but nothing revolutionary. Inside, the centre-screen software is usefully updated, and there's freshened upholstery.

You still get in via frameless doors, which allow a lower roof without compromising the size of the hole through which you're climbing. Indoors, it's even more distinct from its rivals, because it adopts the company's iCockpit twin-screen design, using a small, low-mounted steering wheel so you view the instruments over its rim.

What about depreciation?

Yeah, the traditional enemy of big French barges. After three years they'd be worth about the same as your three-year-old underpants. But Peugeot has got a bit of a grip now. Look at the lease rates because the lender will factor in the value of the car at the end of the term (high lease rates imply high depreciation). We find a top-spec 508 PHEV is about the same monthly rate as the cheapest-spec BMW 330e PHEV. Go to the used-car sites and the pure-petrol or diesel 508s are on a par with oversupplied premium rivals' too.

Ok, let’s get moving. How does it drive?

The 508 sits on the Stellantis Group EMP2 platform, as used by countless biggish Peugeots, Citroens, DSs and Vauxhalls. It's relatively light for its size, but doesn't feel fragile or floppy. This is the most sophisticated version of the platform, with multi-link rear suspension. There's also an option of adaptive dampers but it doesn't need them.

You don’t get much steering feel, and your relationship with the car is defined by that tiny steering wheel, which means you can use small arm movements. Then you find keen and level cornering. The ride can be a bit firm and niggly around town, but it settles down on more expansive roads.

All powertrains come with an auto ‘box, and the bad news is it's one that shifts ratios indecisively. The base 1.2 engine is sweet enough and saves 300kg over the plug-in hybrid, so isn't much slower. That PHEV is 1.6-litres with a total combined petrol and electric output of 225bhp, but the handoff between petrol and electric is jerky if you're accelerating through tight bends or roundabouts.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

You’ll want one for its looks, its individuality and its chic gallic flair. The big boot and sweet handling are bonuses

The 508 SW is a very practical car and a more heart-than-head choice. You’ll want one for its looks, its individuality, its chic gallic flair. The big boot and sweet handling are bonuses.

There are a bajillion SUVs you could go for, of course, and get more rear legroom for your trouble. But an estate like this still offers that bit more engagement for drivers than a high-riding lump.

This is one of the most subjective, try-before-you-buy cars on sale today. Peugeot's interiors are like little else out there, and you’ll need to be sure you’re comfortable with how it seats you and where you hold the wheel. Also check the PHEV suits your needs and driving style.

The execution of the 508 SW isn’t flawless. In some places, it’s downright frustrating. But we’re still glad it exists.

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