Handsome, smartly finished, very un-German. Giant boot too
Artificial, disconnected drive. The interior layout polarises opinion
What is it?
This is the second generation of Peugeot’s 508 SW – that’s estate in French carmaker language – which was revealed all the way back in 2018 at the Paris motor show. This generation of 508 looks rather handsome in saloon form, but especially so in this load-lugging format. Peugeot has really been on a design roll these last few years, and we hope it continues.
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. The styling might not be to your taste, but we can surely get behind Peugeot's attempts to try something a bit different.
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. Fold the seats down and you get a gargantuan 1,780 litres of space (versus 1,537 in the saloon).
The biggest of the premium Germans is the Audi A4 Avant, with 505 litres of boot, the BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class equivalents lagging behind by 10 and 15 litres respectively. So the Peugeot isn’t just stylish, it’s practical too. And one nice thing about the PHEV variants is that you don’t lose any boot space there either.
Is it nice inside?
The 508 interior falls slightly short of the standards set by the fancier German set and the Volvo V60, is level pegging with the likes of the Skoda Superb, but a notch above what you might remember from the no-longer-with-us Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo. It’s a snug cockpit up front, with reasonable room in the back and a large boot.
The frameless doors are an exotic touch as you get in, the choice of materials verges on the overly glossy (you’ll be whipping your microfibre cloth out at every set of lights if you’re fastidious about not having fingerprints everywhere) and there are a few decent storage options too.
And if you’re wondering, yes it does have the weird tiny steering wheel set-up that Peugeot insists on installing across its range of cars, but we’ll leave that to the Interior tab for a more in-depth look. It works if you’re on the shorter side, but you might struggle to get comfortable and still see the instrument panel if you’re tall.
How does it drive?
The steering wheel does have an impact here too, actually – it’s quite short-geared because of its size, which means extravagant turn-in if you’re too excitable. It does make it feel sprightly around town, but the front end of the car can’t quite cash the cheques the steering wheel is trying to write.
Dial it back a notch and the 508 is a capable cruiser – the gearbox is best left to do its thing smoothly, and the ride is mostly silky too. The higher spec cars have big wheels that don’t help matters – the sporty PSE car has huge 20in numbers, and the second-from-the-top GT Premium comes with 19in. The mid-range 18s are more of a sweet spot.
What engines are there?
The 508 SW comes with a small selection of downsized combustion engines – a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel, both with 128bhp and eight-speed auto transmissions (in fact that’s the only gearbox across the range). Company car drivers will be tempted by the plug-in hybrid options – there are two to go for, both with a 1.6-litre petrol. The first offers 221bhp combined and can be specced from the second trim level up, while the 355bhp second option is reserved for duty in the top-spec sporting PSE trim car, with extra tech for four-wheel drive.
What specs are available?
There are five trim levels available on the 508 estate – Active Premium starts things off at just under £30k for the 1.2-litre petrol option, then you’ve got Allure Premium, GT, GT Premium and PSE specs to consider. The latter tips the scales at £56k, so there’s a decent spread for different budgets.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
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 efficient engines are a bonus, but the Peugeot has the ‘German alternative’ market almost entirely to itself. There are a bajillion SUVs you could go for, of course, 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. Its interior is like nothing else out there, and you’ll need to be sure you’re comfortable with how it seats you, where you hold the wheel and if you can operate its touchscreen before you sign on the dotted line. The execution of the 508 SW isn’t flawless. In some places, it’s downright frustrating. But we’re still glad it exists.