I’ve always had a soft sport for estate cars.
Maybe it makes me weird but in my opinion the looks of pretty much any hatchback or saloon are improved by the addition of a whacking big boot on the back.
And Peugeot’s executive 508 model is no different. In fastback form it is one of the most stylish and attractive cars in its class and the SW is even better looking. The front end retains the bold, broad face with narrow headlights and the vertical daytime running lights flank the grille like the fangs of a sabre-toothed tiger (or lion, if we’re staying on-brand).
At the rear the fastback’s severely raked roofline is replaced by a longer, gently sweeping form that falls halfway between a traditional estate and the increasingly popular shooting brake. Peugeot’s trademark “claw” rear lights spread out towards the centre of the tailgate along a gloss black strip and the Peugeot script stretched out beneath the rear windscreen is - like the 508 bonnet text - a tasteful nod to historic design.
Until now I’ve been convinced that the Volvo V60 is the best looking estate on the market, now I’m not so sure.
The 508 SW is as impressive inside with perhaps the best interpretation of the i-Cockpit concept. It’s fussier than the minimalist style of the Volvo but uses a nice blend of high-gloss plastics, chrome detail and carbon fibre-effect trim to offer something unique. The configurable instrument display is well thought out but the media/nav setup remains a real weakness of all Peugeots.
Of course, style will get you so far but there needs to be substance beneath it. Here the 508 SW impresses as much as the fastback.
The line-up features four regular trim levels plus a limited-run First Edition, with three diesel and two petrol engines, plus a plug-in hybrid petrol/electric option.
All models come with cruise control, lane keep assist, dual-zone climate control, the 12.3-inch digital i-Cockpit instruments, touchscreen media system with internet connectivity, Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
However, in higher trim levels, advanced technology such as a night vision system, adaptive cruise control, full LED lighting and wireless charging join Nappa leather, a 10-inch touchscreen, keyless entry and various interior and exterior design embellishments.
The 508 SW is available with a 129bhp 1.5-litre diesel with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto gearbox. All other variants - 2.0 diesel in 157bhp or 177bhp tune or 1.6 petrol in 177bhp or 222bhp - come with the auto as standard.
The 129bhp diesel feels down on power compared with the larger 178bhp 2.0 but not by as much as you would expect and it’s a match in terms of refinement.
The 178bhp unit is smooth and quiet and well suited to the car, although the equivalent 1.6 petrol is expected to be the big seller.
For a driver who rarely carries passengers or luggage the small diesel might be fine but if you use the SW as intended the extra power and torque of the larger units will be welcome.
Using the 508 SW as a proper estate, you’ll find a 530-litre boot that extends to 1,780l with the rear seats down. Higher grade models get boot rails and a configurable tie-down system and a power tailgate is standard on GT trim.
The less angular roof means rear headroom is much better than the fastback’s (a real weakeness) and legroom is decent, although you’ll struggle to fit three adults across the rear bench.
It’s not all good news. While the interior design is appealing, our test cars exhibited a couple of small build quality issues. And while the sloping tailgate looks good from outside it does give a more restricted rear view from the driver’s seat. The small rear ¾ windows are also tiny and almost completely obscured by the chunky head rests, hampering over-the-shoulder visibility.
On the road the SW exhibits the same easygoing manner of the fastback. It isn’t as dynamic as the premium models it aims to compete with but it’s composed enough under spirited driving and smooth and easygoing when you just want to eat up the miles.
The 508 SW isn’t perfect and compared with the premium brands there are a couple of areas where it struggles - fit and finish and infotainment, mostly. However, it’s still stylish, advanced and practical enough to be worth considering either as a cheaper alternative to them or a more upmarket rival to the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb or VW Passat.
Peugeot 508 SW GT
Price: From £39,960; Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel; Power: 178bhp; Torque: 295lb/ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 144mph; 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds; Economy: 45.7-50.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 158g/km