An estate body takes the edge off the 508’s style, yet doesn’t address all of the car’s practicality limitations

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The Peugeot 508 saloon has now been on UK roads for long enough to feel like a familiar sight. That’s normally about when a car maker changes up the model range by adding an estate bodystyle – and, right on cue, along comes the Peugeot 508 SW.

The 508 plays somewhat fast and loose with the automotive stereotype of the big French family car. It certainly cuts a dash and, as our reviews of higher-end GT versions have confirmed, it can handle pretty well by the best front-wheel-drive saloon class standards. But it’s not particularly big or accommodating and doesn’t quite have the laidback, loping ride that some might expect of it.

The 508 is somewhat less visually appealing, to these eyes at least, as a wagon than it is as a hatchback. That, I suppose, is a compliment for the job Gilles Vidal’s team did earlier

Extending the 508's roofline and bulking out the boot makes for 530 litres of luggage space behind the back seats and under the loadbay cover, which rises to 1780 litres up to the roof and with the second row of seats folded. Competitive figures both that you’ll need the very biggest wagons in the class to beat.

Meanwhile, all the engines and trim levels you can get on the 508 hatchback are available on an SW also, which means the line-up starts at just under £27,000 with a 129bhp 1.5-litre diesel manual in Active trim and winds its way up to a 221bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol auto First Edition priced at a whisker under £41,000. Our first UK taste of the 508 SW came in a mid-range GT Line car with a 1.5-litre diesel engine and an auto 'box.

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How does the 508 SW compare to the saloon?

The 508 is somewhat less visually appealing, to these eyes at least, as a wagon than it is as a hatchback. That, we suppose, is a compliment for the job Gilles Vidal’s team did earlier, although it bucks the emerging trend by which the estate or ‘shooting brake’ version of any new executive option has become the default pick for design aficionados (think Porsche Panamera, Mercedes-Benz CLA and Kia Proceed). It’s not that the 508 makes a bad-looking estate, just that the extended roofline and rear overhang fairly obviously don’t improve its proportions.

On the inside, the car retains the ability to pleasantly surprise you with its quietly lavish trim materials, its widescreen infotainment system and digital instruments. The leather seats look more comfortable than they feel, however, being a bit short in the squab, uneven in the cushion and given to poking you in the shoulder blades rather than enveloping you with comfortable support.

The estate conversion hasn’t done anything to increase occupant space up front, which should surprise precisely no-one. The 508 SW will therefore seem tighter than the average mid-sized saloon to drivers of above-average height, with a seat that seems to perch you a little higher than you’d like and a roofline that plunges a little too close to your scalp for comfort. In the second row, the squeeze gets tighter still; the 508’s back seats offer pretty mean accommodation for adults, although there’s enough for kids, and while the SW bodystyle eases the head room limitation, it shares the same wheelbase as the hatchback, so leg room’s no better. There are Isofix child seat points on the front passenger seat and the outer back ones, though, and all come as standard.

The better news is that Peugeot makes a better fist of providing a practical loadbay here. The 508 SW has a low loading sill and a flat floor with no lip to lift stuff over, an underfloor cubby in which to store the sliding loadbay cover when you need to remove it and second-row seats that split 60:40 as you look at them from the boot opening – the more useful way around for through-loading as far as right-hand-drive markets are concerned.

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The boot is long. Lashing points in each corner are standard; if you want boot rails with adjustable tethering hooks or a restraint net to prevent stuff from sliding forwards into the passenger compartment, you’ll need an upper-spec GT or First Edition model to get them as standard, or to pay extra to get them as an option lower down the range.

How does the 508 SW perform on the road?

PSA’s 1.5-litre turbodiesel doesn’t sound like a particularly enticing engine for a car of this size and type, but it does a respectable job here – combined, as it is, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s certainly not the noisy, ever-straining act you might expect it to be. Torque of 221lb ft turns out to be enough to keep the car mooching along in give-and-take traffic just fine when it’s juggled by the slick, smart-shifting transmission.

The engine stays fairly quiet and smooth for a four-pot diesel – until, that is, you’re asking for everything it can give. At that point, when overtaking and generally hurrying only, the 508 SW does begin to feel a bit slow, and with a family and baggage aboard, it would feel slower still. But performance doesn’t really seem limited on part-throttle or indeed most of the time.

Judge that performance in combination with the fuel economy this car can achieve, in fact, and you might be well satisfied with it. You have to drive hard not to average 50mpg on the road. On a longer route and under a moderate style, an indicated 60mpg is easily possible.

It’s a shame that the ride and handling aren’t quite so creditable, then – at least, they weren’t in the particularly case of our test car which, because it was in GT Line trim, didn’t come with the adaptive dampers available on other derivatives but did have the 508’s very biggest 19in alloy wheels.

Rolling refinement is average at best on those on those rims, which kick up a lot of road roar while offering too much in the way of unsprung mass and too little in the way of tyre sidewall to make for the sort of supple ride comfort you’ll likely want from this sort of car.

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The 508 SW handles with good accuracy and precision and has good lateral body control. It steers more intuitively than other Peugeots featuring that same divisive i-Cockpit control layout, too, with weight better matched to its directness, provided you use Sport driving mode. But vertical body control can be a bit fussy, wooden and short-of-travel over less smooth roads and bump absorption is not all you’d want it to be.

The only other bugbear to report of the 508 SW's touring manners concern its electronic driver aids. It comes with an adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance as options on mid-grade cars. The former can occasionally be quite slow and abrupt when reacting to changing traffic conditions ahead and doesn’t prevent you from undertaking, while the latter can feel too much like it’s wrestling control away entirely and is more flakey than rival systems we’ve tested. As such, neither system really feels like it’s genuinely taking much strain out of a long-distance journey.

Does the 508 SW justify its place in the Peugeot line-up?

Simply put, you’ll want to avoid this combination of optional alloy wheel and suspension configuration. A GT car with adaptive suspension as standard or a lower-spec car with it fitted as an option might deal with bigger rims better. Equally, an Allure on 17in wheels ought to ride more quietly and with greater, more supple calm.

Before you get that far, of course, you’ll need to satisfy yourself that the 508 SW is the right car to meet your particular tastes and family transport requirements. And our hunch is that, whatever those tastes or needs may be, there will be one or two others that do it better. A fairly big boot doesn’t quite redeem a car that leaves a bit to be desired for practicality in other ways, and slick, fairly agile handling that comes at the cost of ride comfort probably isn’t what you’ll be looking for here either.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Peugeot 508 SW First drives