New car review

Peugeot 508 SW review

Peugeot expects its estate-bodied 508 to take on the fleet market’s biggest hitters from Audi and BMW – can it?

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Design
8.5
Comfort
8
Driving experience
7
Value for money
7
Safety
9

Summary

The Peugeot 508 SW is a car to turn the heads of those looking for a premium estate, offering striking visuals, efficient engines and plenty of technology.

Summary

The Peugeot 508 SW is a car to turn the heads of those looking for a premium estate, offering striking visuals, efficient engines and plenty of technology.
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The Peugeot 508 SW is the estate version of the French brand’s latest large family car.

Key features
Striking design, practical boot space, quality interior

Our view
The Peugeot 508 SW matches its Fastback sister as a car to turn the heads of those who have always bought premium estates, especially in the fleet market.

Peugeot has managed to maintain striking visuals in the more practical estate body shape, and overall the car is well built with generally efficient engines and plenty of technology.

Similar cars
Audi A4 | BMW 3 Series | Ford Mondeo | Kia Optima | Mazda 6 | Mercedes-Benz C-Class | Skoda Superb | Vauxhall Insignia | Volkswagen Passat | Volvo V60

2019 Peugeot 508 SW review | The Car Expert

Full review

Introduction

When Peugeot launched the latest version of its 508 onto a sceptical British market in October 2018, we were presented with a car both pitched and priced against premium market names from the likes of Audi and BMW.

This was a bold aim, as the previous 508 was a thoroughly forgettable car, but the new one delivered in most areas. It brimmed with tech, it was generally well put together, and with its fastback-style exterior shape it looked the part.

Now with the 508 SW, Peugeot seeks to use a similar formula to tackle the upmarket models that form the bedrock of the motorway mile-crunching fleet market – estates.

Like the saloon, the new estate is built on PSA Group’s latest EMP2 platform. The important result of this is a 70kg weight saving compared to its predecessor. New engines promise better economy and emissions with no compromise in performance, while the cabin is packed with the latest technology including the much-feted i-Cockpit digital display.

Potential buyers will first be drawn to the 508 by its looks and the SW apes the saloon in this respect. It’s low, at 1.42 metres standing less than 2cm above the fastback, and is a mere 4cm longer – both versions of the modern 508 being distinctly more compact than their predecessors.

It’s difficult to make an estate look as attractive as a fastback saloon but Peugeot does a pretty good job. Most notable in the exterior profile is the roof slope, downwards towards the tailgate, which gives the car a very attractive presence but suggests rear-seat headroom may be tight. However, appearances can be deceptive…

Visually, the Peugeot 508 SW certainly fulfils the brief – it looks nothing like the many, very many, German rivals on UK roads.  

Buying and owning the Peugeot 508 SW

 
 

The 508 SW is of course closely related to its saloon sister and this is reflected in the model line-up. Again we have 14 different versions across four engines, and again the fleet-driver aim of the car means that bucking the trend of today’s overall market, diesel buyers have more choice than those that prefer petrol.

Both petrol engines are based around two recently launched units dubbed PureTech and of 1.6-litres, with either 180hp or 225hp. You can’t have a petrol engine in entry-level Active trim, and you can’t have a manual gearbox – all versions use an eight-speed automatic transmission, which admittedly allows manual shifts if you are that way inclined. 

Diesel options range across a 1.5-litre BlueHDi unit with 130hp, and 2.0-litre versions with either 160 or 180hp. The smallest oil burner can be had with a six-speed manual transmission instead of the automatic, and across the first three of the five trim levels.

The five trims are dubbed Active, Allure, GT Line, GT and First Edition, and yes range-topping First Edition is supposed to only be sold for a limited period.

Prices start from £26,845 for an Active model with a diesel and manual gearbox, and quite a bit of tech even at this level. For starters, the i-Cockpit is standard on all 508 models, fastback or estate. Basically, this is a 12-inch digital display ahead of the driver that can be configured to individual preferences – big or small dials, navigation displays or other info in the middle, orange or blue backgrounds and the like. It is rather absorbing…

Dual-zone climate control, auto wipers and headlamps, rear parking sensors, electric driver’s seat adjustment and Connected 3D navigation are all included, though you likely won’t use the latter as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink smartphone compatibility is also part of the package allowing easy use of the likes of Google Maps with its free traffic announcements and such.

Like the fastback, the safety specification of the 508 SW is impressive and easily earning a top five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. Thatcham Research also rated the Peugeot 508 range as one of the ten safest new cars for 2019. Active safety measures include auto emergency braking, a distance alert, lane keeping and road edge detectors.

Inside the Peugeot 508 SW

Remember that sloping roof? Well the 508 SW is somewhat tardis-like because tall adults sitting in the back will be cosy, but not exactly scraping their head on the ceiling.

More important perhaps in an estate is boot space, and here the 508 can beat its premium rivals, but not some mainstream opposition it still needs to compete against. With all seats in place there are 530 litres on offer, and this increases to 1780 litres with the rear seats folded down.

These capacities are respectively 25 and 270 more than the Audi A4 Avant, and they beat the BMW by 35 and 280. But the Volkswagen Passat Estate offers 650 litres with seats up (matching the Peugeot for space with seats folded) while the Skoda Superb Estate beats all comers with a gargantuan 660 litres, extending to 1,950 litres in two-seater form.

However the Peugeot’s space is rather practical. The loading lip is low, and the boot aperture wide with minimal intrusion from such irritations as wheelarches. And with the seats folded you get a pleasingly flat floor.    

We praised the fit and finish of the fastback and of course the estate matches it – the surfaces are of high quality, especially if you choose the expected big-selling GT Line variants with such niceties as a leather effect on the steering wheel and the seats, with double-stitching too.  

The minor irritations also remain, however. It takes a while to become accustomed to the combination of a small diameter steering wheel, which has to be set rather low to see the displays on the i-Cockpit, and the equally compact gear lever. And while the centre console works well, the row of horizontal switches below the infotainment screen is attractive to look at but not quite so user-friendly. 

Driving the Peugeot 508 SW

The 508’s driving position is generally good for visibility in all the important areas, though it’s not that comfortable and as mentioned the steering wheel position is odd, lower than many will like due to its compact dimensions.

On the launch event The Car Expert was able to drive cars fitted with the most powerful engines – the 225hp petrol and the 180hp diesel, both in top specification GT trim (discounting the limited run First Edition).

We are told the petrol engine is new and it is smooth enough while fairly swift, hustling this car through 62mph in 7.4 seconds. But the gearbox certainly likes to keep the driver guessing – sometimes it will let the revs climb into higher figures before intervening, at others being rather too keen to explore all of its eight speeds.

Most buyers in the target market will likely choose diesel and while the lower-powered variants will take more sales, the 2-litre 180hp is a generally impressive piece of kit. The 8.4-second 0-62mph time is obviously in the top petrol version’s shadow, but the diesel counters by going almost 10 miles further on very gallon. Mind you the CO2 emissions rating is only around 5g/km better than the petrol range-topper.

The 508 SW is not a car to drive over enthusiastically. You don’t get enough feel through the steering wheel to encourage enthusiastic cornering, but of course such scenarios are not its natural environment.

Cruising mile upon mile of motorway, the 508 SW will reward with a comfortable, cossetting ride and a highly refined, one could say hushed audio note, whether petrol or diesel powered and all the better to enjoy the more upmarket audio system in our GT versions.         

Summary

The Peugeot 508 SW virtually matches the conclusions we reached after driving its fastback sister. Firstly, and crucially for Peugeot, it looks and acts like a more premium car than mass-market rivals from the likes of Volkswagen, which does make it a viable consideration for those buyers fed up with choosing Audis, BMWs or Jaguars.

The Peugeot 508 range (covering both fastback and estate) currently has an Expert rating of 76% on The Car Expert’s unique New Car Ratings system, based on more than 20 different reviews from the UK’s leading automotive websites. This is slightly above average but not quite on the same level as some of its more premium rivals.

The car launches into a market steadily being decimated by crossovers but is a more satisfying drive than any of those higher-slung contenders. And with Peugeot continuing to focus very heavily on keeping residual values high, it will certainly appeal to both fleet drivers and their managers. 

Good points
Striking, attractive exterior design
Well-designed boot space
Good safety package

Bad points
Indecisive auto gearbox
Odd steering wheel format
Boot not as big as some rivals


Key specifications

Make & model Peugeot 508 SW Audi A4 Avant Volkswagen Passat Estate
Specification GT BlueHDi 180 Black Edition 2.0 TDI 190hp GT TDI SCR 2.0 190hp
Price (on-road) £38,245 £38,455 £34,480
Engine 2.0-litre diesel 2.0-litre diesel 2.0-litre diesel
Transmission Eight-speed automatic Six-speed manual Seven-speed automatic
Power 180 hp 190 hp 190 hp
Torque 295 Nm 400 Nm 400 Nm
0-62mph 8.4 sec 7.9 sec 7.9 sec
Top speed 144 mph 146 mph 145 mph
Fuel economy (combined) 50.6 – 45.0 mpg (WLTP) 61.4 mpg (NEDC) 61.4 mpg (NEDC)
CO2 emissions 124-125 g/km (WLTP) 121 g/km 120 g/km
Insurance group TBC 26E 22E
Euro NCAP rating 5 stars (2018) 5 stars (2015) 5 stars (2014)

Design
8.5
Comfort
8
Driving experience
7
Value for money
7
Safety
9

Summary

The Peugeot 508 SW is a car to turn the heads of those looking for a premium estate, offering striking visuals, efficient engines and plenty of technology.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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