What Car? says...
If you fancy a little French flair in your life but also value the practicality of a wholesome estate car, you might want to check out the Peugeot 508 SW.
It's what you get when you take an eye-catching executive car then add a sprinkling of versatility. While the sleekly sloping roofline of the 508 saloon – or Fastback, in Peugeot speak – has restricted rear head room and a boot that's not much to shout about, this estate version is much more useful yet still retains a strong sense of style.
If you’re the sensible sort who appreciates the increased space inside, you will probably also like the wide range of engines available. At the bottom of the range, you’ll find a 128bhp petrol and diesel with low list prices and emissions, while if you're really looking to cut CO2 there are two plug-in hybrid options. There’s even a range-topping 355bhp performance version.
So, the 508 SW looks arresting and has a good range of engines, but just how good is it? After all, there are lots of other estate cars it can call rivals. There are mainstream options such the Skoda Superb and VW Passat estates, not to mention the temptation of premium-badged rivals. They include the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class Estate, but there’s also the Volvo V60 to consider.
Read on through this review to find out how the Peugeot 508 SW stacks up against them, what it's like to drive, which versions we think are the best and much more.
Don’t forget, if you do decide to buy a 508 SW – or a new vehicle of any make or model for that matter – make sure you get the best deal available by checking out the latest prices using the free What Car? New Car Buying section, where you could save thousands and find lots of great new Peugeot deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We’d skip the 1.5 BlueHDi 130 diesel because its 128bhp makes the 508 SW feel rather sluggish – even without a sizeable load on board it takes 10.1sec to get from 0-62mph. We’re yet to try the cheaper 1.2 Puretech 130 petrol, although it's marginally quicker (0-62mph in 10.0sec) and has impressed in other Peugeots, including the 5008 SUV.
The 179bhp 1.6 Puretech 180 petrol is our pick of the range. It doesn’t need to be worked too hard to feel pretty brisk and 0-62mph takes an entirely respectable 8.0sec. In fact, we’d say it makes the punchier (and far pricier) 1.6 Puretech 225 redundant.
Just bear in mind that the Skoda Octavia, Superb and VW Passat estates are available with even more potent conventional petrol and diesel engines. Premium rivals such as the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring have the option of even more power.
What if you’re looking for a plug-in hybrid, though? Your option for the 508 SW are the Hybrid 225 with a total output of 222bhp and the high-performance PSE Hybrid4 360 with a whopping 355bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 5.2sec.
We’d stick to the former as 0-62mph in 8.3sec is plenty fast enough, while an official electric-only range of up to 39 miles is impressive, if not quite as good as the Skoda Octavia iV’s range of more than 40 miles – an important fact we’ll come on to later. The PSE manages a disappointing 26 miles on a full battery.
Comfort isn’t the 508 SW’s strongest area because all versions fidget over road imperfections and thud when you hit potholes or expansion joints. Despite the seemingly firm edge, they also have a bit of unwanted float over undulating country roads.
Adjustable Active suspension is optional on all but Puretech 130 versions of the GT and standard on GT Premium and PSE models, but we wouldn’t bother. If you do value comfort, you’re best to select lower trim levels for their smaller wheels.
The 508 SW’s firm suspension set-up helps it to resist body lean reasonably well, and it grips like a limpet in corners. Despite having fairly quick steering, it doesn't match the precision of rivals such as the BMW 3 Series Touring – you end up sawing at the steering wheel quite a bit and it never feels particularly agile or fun, regardless of the version you’ve picked.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard on all models. It’s generally impressively smooth, but can be hesitant around town (a failing that's not helped by an overly intrusive start/stop system). When paired with the hybrid engine, it gets particularly flustered if you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration and can dither when trying to decide on a gear. Rivals such as the Octavia and Superb iV’s gearboxes are less easily confused and switch from electric to petrol mode more adroitly.
It’s worth knowing that in order to charge your hybrid 508’s battery at full speed from a 7kW wallbox charger, you’ll need to pay extra. If you do it’ll get a full charge in two hours, otherwise the best it’ll manage is four hours, or eight hours from a domestic three-pin plug.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The 508 SW features the same i-Cockpit dashboard design as the Peugeot 508 saloon. It centres around a small steering wheel that sits below your line of sight – you look over it, rather than through it, to see the 12.3in customisable digital display that takes the place of traditional dials.
While that set-up works well in Peugeot's 3008 and 5008, some drivers might struggle for a clear view of the digital dials in the lower-slung 508 SW unless the adjustable steering wheel is set lower than feels natural. Audi's similar Virtual Cockpit system can show a far greater breadth of information more clearly. The BMW 3 Series Touring and Skoda Superb Estate have far more physical controls rather than the distracting touch-sensitive ones (including for the heating) in the 508 SW.
Some people will struggle to get comfortable in the oddly shaped front seats, although they offer a wide range of movement including lumbar adjustment from Allure trim upwards. Part of the problem is that the squabs stick out quite a lot in the middle, which forces you to sit with your legs slightly apart. The Volvo V60 is the car to beat in this area.
Allure spec also brings a larger touchscreen (10.0in rather than 8.0in) with sat-nav, although both infotainment systems are laggy to respond to your commands and their menus are illogically structured. The USB ports are tucked away out of sight, making them tricky to access.
On the plus side, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring are standard, while options include wireless smartphone charging and a punchy Focal stereo that sounds significantly better than the standard item. The BMW 3 Series Touring still rules the roost with its responsive, easy to use iDrive infotainment system.
Fit and finish are generally impressive; the dashboard and surrounding areas feature plenty of soft-touch materials and neat trim inserts, while top-spec PSE models make good use of high-quality stitched leather. Sadly, some cheaper-feeling plastic on the doors lets the side down a bit, and the 508 SW can't match the Audi A4 Avant for plushness.
Due to the 508 SW’s swooping roofline, rearward visibility, especially to the sides, is still quite restricted, so you'll be glad that a rear-view camera plus front and rear parking sensors are standard on all trims. It's worth noting that the camera’s image resolution has to be one of the lowest on the market – that of the Volvo V60 is markedly clearer - with the 360-degree camera on GT Premium trim and above proving no better.
All models get automatic lights and wipers, although frustratingly you have to activate the latter every time you start the car. If you want powerful LED headlights, you’ll need to jump up to GT trim or higher while all models get an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Up front in the Peugeot 508 SW, you’ll find adequate head room even with a sunroof fitted, although a Skoda Superb provides even more scalp clearance.
Oddment storage is excellent – there’s a huge central cubby under the armrest, two big cupholders, another lidded cubby next to the gear lever and a tray with wireless smartphone charging (on higher-spec cars) below it. It’s a shame, though, that the glovebox is so small and compartmentalised that there’s no space in there for the car’s manual, which is relegated to one of the door pockets.
The 508 SW has a less abruptly curving roofline than its Fastback stablemate, and its extra height brings a significant increase in rear head room. It’s still not a strength of the car, but a six-foot adult won’t struggle to fit. Anyone taller will find their head brushing the ceiling, though.
Rear leg room is exactly the same as in the 508 saloon, so a six-footer can just about fold their legs in behind a tall driver. Their shins will be awfully close to the backs of the front seats, so if you do have lanky friends we’d point you towards the vast Skoda Superb Estate.
Not only is space on the tight side, the tops of the slim rear windows are set well below an adult’s eyeline. That could make taller passengers in the back feel a bit claustrophobic. It’s also worth noting that the optional panoramic sunroof leaves a big bulge in the ceiling just in front of where a rear passenger’s forehead would go, adding to the cramped feel.
Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for: the boot. The 508 SW has a bigger bottom than the 508 saloon, making it far more practical, and beating the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class Estate. However, the Skoda Octavia and VW Passat estates both trump it, while the Superb Estate is still the car to beat in this class.
Unusually, the hybrids have the same sized boot as conventionally powered models – a rare trick matched by the Volvo V60 Recharge. Admittedly, hybrid versions of the 508 SW don’t have the option of a spare wheel, but you do at least get a small space you can just about squeeze the standard Type 2 cable into.
The rear seat bench folds in a 60/40 configuration, and while there’s no option to upgrade that to 40/20/40, you do at least get a central ski hatch as standard from Allure trim, which allows you to carry long, thin items while still using the two outer rear seats. The seats are easily folded down by pressing the buttons mounted either side of the boot entrance, or by using toggles next to the headrests. When lowered, they lie almost flat.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Peugeot 508 SW isn’t exactly a bargain as it costs more than the Mazda 6 Tourer and even the cavernous Skoda Superb Estate. Lower trim levels do at least undercut rivals such as the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and Volvo V60, although fancier models do tread on the coattails of those premium rivals.
Sadly, high-looking PCP costs don't help the 508 SW's case, but the regular Hybrid 225 plug-in version makes plenty of sense as a company car. The low emissions figures mean it costs around half as much in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax as an equivalent petrol or diesel rival, despite its rather high list price. Other plug-in rivals – such the bigger Superb Estate iV and the more comfortable VW Passat Estate GTE – cost a similar amount and are better all-round options. The Octavia Estate iV’s 40 miles plus electric-only range puts it into a far lower BIK tax bracket.
The plug-in hybrids should also be very economical – but only if you drive them with plenty of battery power to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel. The other non-hybrid engines have decent efficiency compared with rivals, too. The 1.6-litre Puretech 180 petrol is especially competitive for a car of its type, managing an mpg figure in the mid-forties. If you’re a long-distance driver, the diesel’s 60mpg+ claimed economy will no doubt be of interest.
Even entry-level Active Premium models get plenty of standard equipment, including dual-zone climate control, a leather steering wheel, keyless entry and start, 16in alloy wheels and all the equipment we’ve already mentioned.
We’d spend a bit more for Allure trim for extra safety kit, the bigger infotainment system, a ski flap and lumbar adjustment, extra interior lighting and even some carpet mats. Going any higher up the trim ladder than that starts to get pretty pricey rather quickly without adding much useful extra kit.
A long list of standard safety equipment adds to the appeal: lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and speed limit monitoring are all fitted across the range. Allure adds blind-spot monitoring and a driver attention alert, helping to make it our favourite trim. Euro NCAP awarded the 508 SW five stars for safety, with very high ratings for adult and child occupant protection. However, the BMW 3 Series Touring is even less likely to cause injury in an impact.
Peugeot finished a disappointing 25th out of 31 in the manufacturers’ table of the What Car? Reliability Survey. Its three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is only slightly above average for the class, with the Toyota Corolla offering a five-year or 100,000 mile warranty. The battery in the plug-in hybrid is covered by an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty, which also guarantees it will keep at least 70% of its capacity during that time.
|RRP price range||£35,370 - £55,175|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||158.5 - 58.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,213 / £2,300|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,425 / £4,601|