Peugeot 508 SW estate long-term test (2020) review | CAR Magazine

Peugeot 508 SW long-term test: the nine-month verdict

Published: 01 January 2021 Updated: 01 January 2021

► Our Peugeot 508 SW long-term test
► We live with Pug’s biggest estate car
► Regular updates and real-life test 

I grew up on the tail end of the 205 GTI, 405 Mi16 and 306 GTi-6, and became a teenage car geek when the 406 Coupe was an achingly beautiful Pininfarina-penned design and its gold and green saloon sibling was competing during the British Touring Car Championship’s prime. And then…

And then Peugeot gave us that 1007 thingamajig, entered a convertible in the World Rally Championship, and stopped making GTI hot hatches. Aside from the glimmer of the RCZ coupe, the Noughties mostly gave us disastrous Peugeots.

Yet now I’m bidding au revoir to a big estate car that’s turned out to be rather decent, and the rest of Peugeot’s car range is just as good (bar the 108). No other manufacturer flip-flops quite like it. When brands like Chevrolet and Infiniti have withdrawn from the UK after failing to gain a foothold, I can’t imagine how Peugeot’s dealers are finding life. Great cars one decade, dross the next, followed by another about-face.

The turnaround of the 508 in one generation, both inside and out, is nothing short of remarkable. This praise might seem like a change of heart from past reports, but like a pubescent boy pulling the hair of the prettiest girl in class, I’ve belatedly realised I was mean to the 508 SW because I rather liked it.

Ten months on it looks more striking than ever. It’s not beautiful – no family saloon should be described like an E-Type – but it’s definitely more interesting than most rivals. Kudos to Renault for pinching head of design Gilles Vidal, who’s transformed the Peugeot range over the past decade.

No amount of sand and soil from countryside trips has dulled the aura inside. From the tint of the metal-effect highlights (titanium-ish rather than the usual crass chrome) to the grain of the dashboard and the heavily quilted seats, it still looks fab.

Fuel consumption kept improving, with the 34.5mpg average over 10 months belying the fact it was regularly beating 37mpg by the end of its time with us.

I’ve not completely drunk the Kool-Aid, though. The pillarless doors mean motorway refinement just isn’t good enough, the cruise control stalk is too clunky, the paddleshifters are pointless and cheap, the rear roofline tapers a little too steeply for adult rear passengers to enter and exit with ease, and the infotainment system’s ability to disconnect your Bluetooth and then deafen you with the radio could be reason enough not to buy.

As a 30-something who’s witnessed the recent peaks and troughs of Peugeot, would I have one? Maybe. Simply and objectively, is it a good car? Yes.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 34.5mpg (tested), 
124g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.9p per mile
Miles this month 1245
Total miles 6685

Month 8 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: the Y of E and V

508 sw LTT plug

Just as the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent scrappage scheme propelled the likes of Kia and Hyundai into the nation’s car-buying consciousness, so the Covid-19 pandemic might have a similar effect on EV uptake. There’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ as the population realises the health benefits of fewer cars on the roads and next to no planes in the sky.

As part of a wider drive for sustainability, the thinking goes that if we reduce our emissions and have less of 
a detrimental impact on 
the planet, maybe it won’t fight back with another novel virus.

Hopefully it’s a tipping point, together with a push for real equality and justice (bit deep for a brief update on a Peugeot estate, I know), but frankly I think any increase in EV sales will be for purely selfish reasons. I’m not even talking about smug self-satisfaction from ‘saving the planet’, but rather personal safety. Charging at home means not having to touch a fuel pump used by dozens of others each day. It means having a private sanctuary of sanitised space. At least that’s what went through my head as a Pod Point Expert (ironically not wearing any PPE) installed a charger for the electric car we don’t yet have.

Meantime, it’s time to glove up and get down to the nearest petrol station for the once-a-month fill. Thank goodness the 508 SW easily does over 400 miles on a tank, and we’re not going anywhere soon.

PS: I know I’m neurotic.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 36.9mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.0p per mile
Miles this month 619
Total miles 4673

Month 7 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: go configure

Ever since I spec’d our 508 SW in posh GT trim, complete with massage seats and not one but two interior fragrances, I’ve wondered whether any of it was worth the extra outlay. Seven months in – and six months since I last dabbled with Peugeot perfumes and a pummel in the back – that’s an easy answer. But given the choice again, what else would I have done differently?

The engine would still be the sole petrol available (plug-in hybrid aside), a punchy but quiet turbocharged 1.6 four that gets closer to its WLTP figure with each passing mile. But if we’re to forgo the top-of-the-line GT (losing the fancy seats and fragrances, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist, a Focal hi-fi, and adaptive dampers I never touch) you are limited to its 178bhp version, not our 221bhp.

508 sw ltt config

It’s then a choice of Allure or GT Line trims, with the entry-level Active ruled out as it’s offered only with diesel grunt. You can quickly add £2k to the price of either by choosing leather trim and red paint. Yet I’ve a 22-month-old so the seats need to be wipeable, and Ultimate Red is the only bright colour (though our current Twilight Blue has grown on me).

In the past bigger alloys were key, but these days it’s all about the headlights – their intricacy is one area where designers can flourish when much of the front bodywork is derived from pedestrian crash regs. Lesser 508s have halogens, and do without those vertical LED running lights too – but rather than spend £850 upgrading an Allure, the £1800-more GT Line trim includes them, plus extras like a smartphone charging plate and inch-bigger alloys.

3-series touring config

All in we’re around £36k now, down but not massively so on our current car. But it’s way cheaper than the German equivalents, right? Well, actually… a quick scout around BMW’s configurator imagined a new 3-series Touring, similar to the Pug, for £1300 more. Across a long-term lease deal the extra monthly cost would be negligible, while you’d have better residual values if the BMW were an outright purchase.

Don’t buy either yet. BMW’s approved-used network lists three-year-old, current-generation 520d Tourings for a smidge over £20k. (Then I went down an online rabbit hole with the 5-series Gran Turismo and Merc’s R-Class, wondering if either was worth a four-figure punt instead.) Becoming sane again, a secondhand Five, from a dealer, with a warranty, is all you’d ever need – and on finance, around £300 per month, rather than the circa £450 for this new red 508 SW.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 37.4mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.2p per mile
Miles this month 438
Total miles 4054

Month 6 living with a Peugeot 508 SW estate: a job too big for an estate

508 sw ltt skip

I’ve been working through a long ‘to do’ list. Or more accurately, in the 90 minutes our toddler sleeps at lunch I tidy the playroom, put food in front of a partner who’s tied to Zoom for 10 hours a day, then turn my attention to anything else in the remaining moments.

Job No1 – the only job I’ve managed so far – was to clear out the garage, shed and garden. I’ve removed enough rubbish to fill the 508 SW 10 times over.

Rather than make numerous trips to the recently reopened local household waste site, instead I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do: order a skip. It’s the biggest that would fit through our gate.

I filled it in just one lunchtime rather than savouring the experience, so now job No2 beckons: giving the Peugeot a proper clean. With summer here the Twilight Blue paint has started to sparkle in the sun, but the glimpses are fleeting given the thick layer of detritus covering it. Nothing 10 minutes a day for two weeks can’t resolve.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 36.5mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.2p per mile
Miles this month 438
Total miles 3633

Month 5 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: buying it gifts

508 sw ltt rear

In the weeks leading up to the UK’s lockdown I spent a lot of time in the 508 – a combination of family trips out of London most weekends and a few trips up to CAR HQ that avoided the public transport I’d usually use.

Solo work journeys saw my phone wirelessly charging in the centre console, a podcast playing clearly through the Focal hi-fi, and fuel consumption ticking above 35mpg too. The family trips, being short visits, didn’t tax the boot, which can seem annoyingly small.

The countryside’s combination of leaves and mud accumulating inside saw me purchase a hand-held vacuum to keep the 508 clean, a sure sign that I rather like it.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 35.2mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.4p per mile
Miles this month 680
Total miles 3195

Month 4 living with a 508 SW: it was sent to test us

508 SW interior

Time – the great healer. Take the steering wheel. Peugeot started shrinking them back in 2012 with the last-gen 208 and its ‘i-Cockpit’ design. It had a shrunken wheel that you looked over, rather than through, to see the dials. With your hands bunched close together like you would in a Caterham, it exacerbated the nimbleness. Perfect for a city car, then.

In the 508, though, with a tiny wheel in your hands you feel like you’ve been forced to buy a vehicle one size too small. And rather than the dials being raised up higher on the dash, it’s more like the wheel has been artificially restricted in rake adjustment. Add in an electric seat that won’t go low enough, and everything meets in the middle.

But then, the steering is quick, so you rarely need more than a quarter of turn of lock, the point at which my knuckles would bash my knees. In short, I’ve got used to it.

Elsewhere I’ve used my problem-solving skills to deactivate the incessant warning noises that bonged as you approached a speed camera, bonged as you passed it, bonged ahead of average speed cameras, and bonged again once you were through.

Given the fact that a variety of symbols pop up on the dials too – right in your eyeline, remember, now the steering wheel is so small – the audio warnings seemed unnecessary. I eventually found the crucial settings not in the menu alongside the safety systems, but within the in-built TomTom sat-nav. The infant can now sleep uninterrupted, while the Peugeot silently warns of approaching speed cameras.

So that’s sorted now. We’re good. Everything is how I like it. Unless you stop the car, even for a few minutes to, say, fill will fuel. At which point the 508 SW severs the Bluetooth connection with your phone – and when you restart the car your quietly-playing podcast is replaced by a blaring radio. The driving mode selector also resets itself. And yet if you killed the ignition with the heated seat on, that reactivates when you start the car. Why?

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 32.3mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.4p per mile
Miles this month 659
Total miles 2515

Month 3 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: tailgate tribulations

508 SW boot

Every new car is bigger than the one it replaces, right? Not so the 508. Peugeot proudly points out the 508 SW is 2cm shorter than the previous model, and nearly 6cm lower. Great, except boot space beneath the luggage cover is 30 litres less than before – and 130 litres behind the one-class-down 308 SW.

I don’t want to drive a box on wheels, but if a weekend away requires us to fit a roofbox it rather undoes the sleekness of the Peugeot’s design. One detail highlights the problem: there’s a little cut-back between the rear lights and rear bumper, which looks snazzy but pinches the crucial few centimetres our pram needs to fit. Spin it through 90º and it can fit, but nothing can get in alongside.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 33.5mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 17.1p per mile
Miles this month 707
Total miles 1856

Month 2 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: when I press this switch…

508 SW LTT Ben driving

Just what do you get for the £500 per month Peugeot’s finance system reckons our 508 SW would cost on a typical deal? To start with, a 221bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. And it’s in GT trim, which is as high up the ladder as you can go, short of the fancy First Edition model.

Over and above the rest of the range, the key extras are active suspension (née adaptive dampers), safety systems including adaptive cruise control, lane positioning and blind-spot detection, an electric boot that opens if you wave your foot beneath the rear bumper, electric seats with massage function, an audio system from respected French brand Focal, and a choice of fragrances.

It’s a lot of kit (leaving little other than towbar, bigger wheels, night vision and a panoramic roof on the options list), but we figure it’s better to try these things and be sure they’re unnecessary, rather than spend months wondering. After all, how else will you know whether the Relax or Boost scent is best?

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 31.1mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 18.6p per mile
Miles this month 555
Total miles 1149

Month 1 living with a Peugeot 508 SW: configure to a happy place

Peugeot 508 SW hello

Delve into the world of Bentley or Rolls-Royce and you won’t find anything quite so crass as an actual price on their websites. Peugeot is quite the opposite. Not only does its online configurator tell you what your chosen paint colour or interior option costs, but it outlines exactly what that would represent on your monthly lease too. This is the way many of us now buy our wheels, and it really does turn the whole experience into an utterly transactional one.

Our selected model is a 508 SW, which starts at £27,630 – or £299 per month based around the Peugeot website’s chosen representative deal. But I want a petrol engine, because I live in London, which immediately rules out the entry-level Active model, so we’re onto at least the Allure spec, and a monthly outlay of £367.11 (or just over £32k in old money). 

Next, you’re into the nitty gritty, either choosing options or picking a higher trim level. The options approach is a lesson in separating out what you want versus what you actually need. For instance, £120 for a smartphone charging plate seems like a lot when you could just plug in your mobile – but when it’s presented as £2.80 per month it seems very palatable. And why wouldn’t I want a better hi-fi for £13.79? Panoramic roof for a few pence over 20 quid? Sure. You tell yourself it’s only a drink after work, or a Friday night curry, until you’ve chosen every option. (Except the boot load restraint net. At £4.67, I think not.) 

In the end I backed out of the options approach, scared by the mounting costs, and went for the GT spec. It’s the only way into the perkiest petrol engine, a 221bhp 1.6-litre turbo. Paint is either no-cost for grey, £13.44 for most of the rest, or £16.95 if you’re feeling particularly flush and want to stretch to Ultimate Red or Pearlescent White. I should have thrown caution to the wind, because an extra four quid a month would mean I could actually find the damn thing in our road. Twilight Blue, it turns out, is invisible between the hours of 5pm and 7am in winter. A neighbour has a red Peugeot 3008 which sits resplendent – and obvious.

I dodged the extra £7.01 to turn the standard black nappa leather into red, ignored the tow bar, bigger wheels, night vision and panoramic roof options, but spent the equivalent of a burger and chips in London for the 360º bird’s-eye parking cameras. Prices have gone up by around £600 since we ordered, so now you’d be looking at £39,780 all in, or £493.70.

The best estate cars you can buy

We're living with a Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Which seems like a lot for a Peugeot. When I first became conscious of car prices, Ford Fiestas were £8k, Focuses £10k, Mondeos £15k, and big spenders splash out 20 grand on a BMW 320d. Of course that world doesn’t exist, Fiestas start at £16k and in any case it’s all finance and monthly payments until the cycle begins again when your contract’s up. 

Although I’d never lay down close to £40,000 on a Peugeot, it sounds much more appealing as a smartly attractive big French estate on a lease deal. With quilted leather seats, a gorgeous-to-behold interior, all the gadgets, and then the ability to just give it back after a few years and get whatever takes my fancy at the time – that sounds good. And so does the idea of being the person to pick it up secondhand. 

We’ll get to the car itself and what it’s like to drive next month, because when you’re buying this way it’s first and foremost about what’s on the spec sheet. 

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW GT 1.6 225

Price £38,605 (£39,780 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 221bhp, 7.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 39.2mpg (official), 25.5mpg (tested), 124g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.2p per mile
Miles this month 213
Total miles 594

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