Estate cars have been having a tough time of it in recent years, with MPVs and small SUVs stealing sales. However, the sector seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance, what with all-new load-lugging versions of the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat imminent.
Peugeot is also still keen to have a slice of the action, though, so has unveiled its refreshed 508 SW, which goes on sale this autumn.
Changes include suspension that's been modified in an attempt to address one of the 508’s biggest criticisms, its ride quality. Most 508s get this ‘regular’ front suspension, while more powerful diesels have a double-wishbone set-up.
There are also two new diesel engines. We’ve already tested the 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 unit in the saloon and it’s a largely impressive thing, with low CO2 emissions and strong economy making it attractive to company car drivers. The other new diesel – a 178bhp 2.0-litre unit – is destined for only the beefed-up version of the SW, the RXH, which until now has been powered by a diesel-electric hybrid engine.
Inside, all 508 SWs get a standard 7.0-inch touch-screen with standard sat-nav, while a head-up display that projects basic information and navigation instructions on to a pop-up screen in front of the driver, together with blindspot monitoring, is available as an option on Allure trim and is standard on GT trim.
Outside there's a new front grille, which will gradually appear on all new Peugeots, and a flatter bonnet. LED daytime running lights and indicators are standard throughout the range, while Allure and GT trims also get LED headlights and foglights.
What's the 2014 Peugeot 508 SW like to drive?
We've driven the 508 SW in 2.0 Blue HDI form in Allure trim, and in range-topping GT trim, which comes with the 2.2-litre HDi. The lesser engine generates 148bhp and 273lb ft of pulling power, while the larger motor develops 200bhp and 338lb ft.
The 2.0 emits 110g/km of CO2, and the 2.2 puffs out 144g/km (140g/km in the saloon). The smaller engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, the larger to a six-speed auto, which allows you to take control via paddles behind the steering wheel.
Performance is in both is adequate rather than brisk. The 2.0-litre engine takes a second or two to gather its breath, but then launches the 508 SW forward with reasonable intent. It's a shame the manual gearbox is a little vague, and the engine is rather too keen to let you hear how hard it's working.
The 2.2 is the more refined engine, and becomes intrusive only at the top end of the rev range. In normal driving its auto ’box slushes through the gears very smoothly, although it can get things wrong when, say, you’re approaching a roundabout at low speed but then need a spurt of power to take advantage of a gap in traffic.
A Sport button makes the ’box hold on to gears for longer and increases its eagerness to change down, although it’ll often change down a couple of ratios when you only want one and, inevitably, the revs are then sent soaring. Knocking the gearlever to the left gives you manual control, but the plasticky steering wheel paddles don’t feel that nice and there’s some lag before the gearbox does what you ask.
The 2.0-litre car comes on standard suspension, which is markedly inferior to the set-up on the top-spec car. The Allure-trimmed car tends to get jiggled around slightly more by bumps, mainly in town. It's better on the moptorway, but then there's too much noise thrumming up through the suspension.
The high-end version is much better. It’s more settled in town and more adept at dealing with poor road surfaces, despite the GT having 19-inch alloys as standard. Yes, potholes still thump their way into the cabin, but the SW remains composed and grippy when you’re blasting down a twisty road and the steering is less vague than that in cheaper 508s when you’re driving in a straight line. It still has a slightly odd weighting in corners, but it’s not as pronounced as in cars without the double-wishbone set-up.
Those larger wheels mean there’s some road noise in the GT, and the door mirrors generate wind noise on the motorway regardless of which trim you choose, although neither factor is intrusive.
What’s the 2014 Peugeot 508 SW like inside?
Every 508 now gets a 7.0-inch touch-screen as standard. It's a welcome addition, and the screen is clear and fairly responsive to use. The touch-screen connects to Peugeot Connect Apps, which can display real-time information such as nearby parking spaces, fuel prices and traffic and weather data.
It's good to see that you don't have to delve into the menus to fiddle with the ventilation settings, as you have to do with the Peugeot 308. This inevitably means that the dashboard is a little cluttered with control buttons, but it's a reasonable compromise.
Other goodies now fitted as standard across the range include a DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control and electric mirrors, keyless entry and start, an electronic parking brake and automatic full beam, as well as a JBL audio system – which makes the big Peugeot pretty good value.
The top half of the dashboard is covered in high-quality soft-touch plastics, although you don't have to look too far down to find harder, scratchy materials. Even the aforementioned buttons feel cheap, although the general build quality is good.
Our cars came with Nappa leather-covered, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, which are standard on Allure and GT trims. They're comfortable, supportive and – together with a reach- and height-adjustable steering wheel – make it easy to find a natural driving position. Forward visibility is hard to fault and the rear view is reasonable, but it's good that rear parking sensors are standard.
Despite the new car being 38mm longer than before, it offers similar amounts of interior space, which means there's plenty of room for four tall adults and their luggage. Headroom is generous, and although rear legroom can't compete with that of the Mondeo or the VW Passat, no one should complain. Even a third rear passenger should be happy on shorter journeys, thanks to the flat floor area.
The boot is unchanged, which means it’s beaten on volume by the current Mondeo and Passat Estates, but more or less a match for the Skoda Octavia.
Should I buy one?
Prices for the Peugeot 508 SW start at £23,245 for the 1.6-litre 115 e-HDi Active, which is more than £3k pricier than the outgoing entry-level SW. However, Access trim has been ditched and you get much more standard kit than before, as listed above.
Allure models add front parking sensors, keyless entry and go, electric parking brake and reversing camera, with prices starting at £26,295 for the SW, which also includes a panoramic sunroof.
Our test SW’s GT-only spec costs £32,045, which is more than £2k pricier than the most expensive Mondeo Estate and makes the £27,565 VW Passat 2.0 TDI 177 Executive Style look like a bargain. Yes, you get masses of kit, but it simply doesn’t make sense to run privately or as a company car; for that reason, it's hard to award it more than two stars.
We’d prefer to concentrate on entry-level Active trim with the 2.0-litre HDi 140 engine; it still gets plenty of kit and has a much lower price that should make it a more appealing choice to private buyers and company car choosers, so we suspect it will be more worthy of recommendation.
What Car? says…
Ford Mondeo Estate
Peugeot 508 SW 2.2 HDi FAP Automatic
Engine size 2.2-litre diesel
Torque 338lb ft
0-62mph 9.2 seconds
Top speed 144mph
Fuel economy 51.4mpg