Peugeot 508 SW long-term test review: report 1

Peugeot's 508 SW aims to mix the svelte looks of the 508 executive car with the practicality of an estate, but is the result as appealing as it sounds? Our chief photographer is finding out...

Peugeot 508 SW interior

The car: Peugeot 508 SW PureTech 180 Allure Run by: John Bradshaw, chief photographer

Why it’s here: I still believe an estate is the best way of fulfilling my  requirements as a photographer

Needs to: Offer plenty of space for all my photography gear, provide a comfortable ride on long journeys and have a raft of equipment and modern safety tech

List price £32,280 Price as tested £34,655 Mileage 2100 Test economy 37.8mpg Official economy 44.8mpg Options fitted Metallic Paint £725, Mistral Leather trim, front seat multi-point massage and multi-way electric adjustment £1,250, Driver assist pack £400

6 December 2019 – Real estate 

Click back to my last long-term car review, and you’ll see I thought I’d try something a little different by opting for a saloon to run during my job as What Car? photographer. However, you’ll also see I struggled to adjust to a lot of its saloon-specific traits, such as its small boot opening and limited boot space.

So as soon as I was asked to pick my next long-term runaround, I went back to my traditional choice – a large, load-lugging, comfortable estate. 

Peugeot 508 SW driving

This time I picked a Peugeot 508 – in SW estate form, of course. I liked its sleek looks, although already I’ve noted that its sweeping roofline means it has limited space in the boot, so it’s not as large as the cavernous Skoda Superb Estate. Saying that, compared with the shape and size of my previous Mazda 6 saloon, the 508 has been great for my photography.

I’ve been able to lower the rear seats to allow me to lay in the back (with a safety harness on, of course) to take tracking photos of following cars for the magazine’s group tests. That is really one of the main uses of my car for my job, so the fact it works so well for that overshadows most complaints I have, including the surprisingly high load lip. Another thoughtful touch is the boot interior's felt covering; it offers protection against damage from bulky objects, such as my camera tripods.

Rear-seat space feels slightly limited for such a long car, though. The bench is quite hard and there isn’t much space for your feet under the seat in front. Any regular readers will know I regularly ferry some burly six-foot football players to and from practice, so I’ll have to see how they find it after the next game. 

Peugeot 508 SW driving

The 508 SW rides well, but does tend to crash rather a lot over particularly large potholes. Its automatic gearbox is smooth and responsive, much more so than you’d find in German rivals such as the Audi A4 Avant. My decision to go for a petrol engine, despite diesel being the obvious choice for a car that's frequently full of people and luggage, has worked out well so far, too; it performs well and has even returned an impressive 37.8mpg over a mix of motorways and inner-city driving. 

The only thing that concerns me a little so far is the interior. I’d read about Peugeot’s unique “i-Cockpit” design, which combines a small steering wheel and high-set digital instruments to supposedly make it a more comfortable and intuitive place to be. However, the wheel feels too small; I might not be as tall and lanky as some of the What Car? test team, but even in my hands it doesn’t feel natural.

It also means the steering is faster than with a larger wheel, and although probably not by much, you do notice it not feeling quite as predictable when turning the wheel. It also assumes you will take a certain seating position – sit a little higher or lower, or more or less upright, than Peugeot intends and your perfect view of the raised screen is gone. Combine that with the sweeping roofline and the interior can feel a little claustrophobic. 

Peugeot 508 SW infotainment

There’s also the 508’s “piano key” infotainment system. There’s a touchscreen but also a row of physical shortcut buttons below. Normally in the What Car? office this would be a good thing, but they’re positioned at a right-angle and so it's nearly impossible to tell which button does what unless you’re staring directly down at them. It’s quite off-putting – it would be much easier to just have normal buttons or even put their functions on the touchscreen like in rivals such as the Volvo V60

So there are some positive and negative points already, and it will be interesting to see which kind takes precedence over future months with the 508 SW. I’m at least excited to be running another estate – it already clearly suits my photography needs much more than the saloon did. I knew I stuck to load-luggers for a reason. 

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