Peugeot 508 SW 2.0 HDI (2012) long-term test review

Published: 21 March 2013

Month 12 running a 508 – the final verdict on our time in the 508 SW

It’s au revoir to the grand voiture this month, and as I watch the collection driver slowly check for damage around the vehicle that has been my personal transport for the last eight months – and silently curse me for leaving it with an almost empty tank – I reflect on my feelings. This car ticked many boxes for me. Large, diesel, estate, well equipped, smooth riding, economical. On paper it was a great match, but as I catch a last glimpse of the pretty rear end with its red LED lights, I feel no sorrow for the departure. We just didn’t click.

Its strengths are many and persuasive. It’s leagues away from the quality levels found in Peugeot’s past efforts in so many ways – fit and finish, panel alignments, interior materials, contact points and switchgear feel are all high grade. The 163bhp 2.0-litre HDi engine is a strong performer and has also proved extremely economical – more so than I’d expected over our 15,000-mile test. The mpg averaged close to mid-40s overall, and with a huge 75-litre tank I was regularly achieving over 700 miles between fuel stops. The CO2 figure for the manual gearbox version is a healthy 129g/km, rising to 149g/km if you go for the auto.

For its price-point the car is well equipped, though if I was spending my own money I would be tempted to drop down a trim level from my ‘Allure’ to the ‘Active’ and save £2000. I would miss out on the keyless entry, but it hasn’t been 100% reliable anyway. Folding mirrors, slightly bigger wheels and electric seats I could also live without. French cars sell on price, and I can’t see many owners spending upward of £25,000 on this car. If you go for a 508 with a list price in the low-20s and bag yourself a good discount from a dealer or broker (four to five grand off seems to be the current norm) then you have a car that really makes sense as refined, economical family transport for Kia Ceed money.

That verdict comes straight from the head. If I speak from the heart, then I have to say I didn’t love the car. The reasons are many and varied. There was not one thing that I really hated or couldn’t live with, but so many aspects either annoyed on a daily basis or just left me cold.

Despite the apparently high quality, gremlins were present in the sat-nav and keyless entry system. The switchgear was confusing in layout and function, with an iDrive-style controller that robbed any storage space from the centre console. After eight months I never got used to the parking brake button hidden to the right of the steering wheel. That’s because it’s a stupid place to put it. The trip computer, meanwhile, was an optimist and caused me to run out of fuel more than once. I was driven mad by the lack of any storage in the cabin, eventually resorting to a rubber mat laid over the heated seat controls as a home for my phone.

On the plus side, the car was comfy and practical, the boot capacious and well shaped, the seats large and supportive. It was an easy car to drive for long periods; functional but never fun at the wheel.

I was dismissive of big French cars at the start of this long-term test and make no excuses about being a badge snob. We choose and buy cars based on more than price and function. The car itself may have exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations, but the Peugeot brand did not. I spend my working life around people who are interested in cars. A cute new little Clio or 208 may attract admiring glances, but the 508 SW might as well have been invisible. No one asked me what it was like. No one cared.

By Mark Fagelson


Month 11 running a Peugeot 508 – how improved is the 508 over a Peugeot 407?

The taxi to the airport arrives promptly outside my door at 4am. A silver Peugeot 407 SW – the predecessor to my own car – it’s driven by Ray.
An unexpected opportunity to compare and contrast with the latest incarnation of the Pug estate, I think.

I climb in the back. Wow. This could be my car’s dad. lt’s a high-spec model with full black leather, sat-nav, parking sensors, panoramic roof and cup holders. Ray is a man of few words, reluctant to elaborate on the levels of ‘on-the-limit’ grip and failing to provide me with a single animal-based simile to describe the handling.

The ride is terrible, the seats are flat and hard and the car bangs and crashes over potholes. If my 508 felt like this I would assume the tyres had been stolen off the rims in the night. It’s like being in the back of a Transit van. In time I drift into a light snooze, soon broken by the sensation of heavy braking, swerving and Ray swearing profusely. There’s a loud thump as we make impact with an animal. Yes, two months after Ben Whitworth knocked off one of the Surrey chapter in his Mini Coupe (CAR, October), CAR has inadvertently doubled its tally in our own personal badger cull.

I decide not to go back to sleep, choosing instead to inform Ray that my new model had made huge leaps in interior quality, banishing forever the cheap plastics and flimsy switchgear that blighted cars like his. Ray seems suddenly defensive, asserting that the 407 is the best cab he has ever had, being well equipped, good on diesel and very comfy (from the front seat at least).
As we pull up at the terminal Ray says he’s planning to buy the new 508 as a replacement at some point. He likes the look of the new car – bigger and with a prettier front end. Mind you, any other car’s going to look good when you’ve got a badger stuck in your front grille.

by Mark Fagelson

Month 10 running a Peugeot 508  – to buy or not to buy

It’s coming up on the tenth month of life with the 508 SW. Long enough to get a measure of the vehicle. Long enough to admire the fine qualities therein and curse the flaws I have found. Long enough, I feel, to pop the big question: would I buy one?

My head says maybe. Sometimes a writer runs a long-term vehicle that doesn’t quite fit his requirements. Witness Andy Franklin gamely trying to bond with the Nissan Cube a couple of years back. No such mismatch for me. The 508 SW suits me well on the face of it. It’s got space and economy. It looks smart and modern and has plenty of gadgets.

I couldn’t buy one though. The heart says buy German. At £25,545 as we see it here it’s not cheap. A base model BMW 3-series Touring is £26,000, and I’m sure I could just learn to live without gadgets. Wait just a minute though, this is a Peugeot! Maybe I’m not comparing like with like. The French brands are famous for their keen pricing. No one pays list price – an online broker will get you more than £5k off the ticket price without breaking sweat. Try asking for that kind of deal over at the Beemer showroom and see how you’re treated.

Secondhand the prices tumble further. Let’s say you were in the market for a car similar to mine? Same trim and engine as my car, one year old, 7000 miles. Yours for £15,989 before you even start to haggle. Would I buy one? For this sort of money it suddenly makes a lot of sense.

by Mark Fagelson

Month 9 running a Peugeot 508  – Five flaws of our Peugeot 508

Let’s not make a big deal over this, but I’ve had some problems with the big Peugeot recently. Nothing major, no biggie, just a few niggles. Yes it’s a new car but, as regular readers of these pages will testify, new cars go wrong too. Ben Barry’s disastrous experience with his M5 bears testimony to that! The fact that you can take them back to the dealer and have a moan offers little comfort.

Our Cars gives a useful peek into the problems and pitfalls of new-car ownership. It was with good reason that I have previously in these pages made mention of the fact that both my Mini Countryman long-termer and the recently departed (and sorely missed) Skoda Superb were almost flaw-free.

Enough of my flannelling: it’s high time I dished the dirt with a countdown of the top five faults on my 508SW!
1. Oil warning light. The car says it need oil. I check the oil level. It’s fine. Car says oil level correct. Repeat every week or so until exasperated.
2. Sat-nav screen. The car starts, the screen stays black. Comes on after a minute or so. Sometimes shuts off randomly. Repeat every few weeks until infuriated.
3. Sticky clutch pedal. Pedal goes all sticky when changing gear on the motorway. Bit scary at the time. Fine after restarting car.
Never repeated.
4. Keyless entry. The car lets me in with the key in my pocket. I press the start button. The car says key not present and won’t start. Repeat daily with annoying  variations of (not) locking, unlocking, starting engine, stopping engine, until you arrive at the end of your tether.
5. Fuel range. I’m getting low on petrol. Fortunately the car has a trip computer showing miles left in tank. I monitor this constantly and carefully. Car runs out of fuel on busy dual-carriageway with 18 miles showing in the tank. Repeat until you have learned your lesson (in my case twice) or your shed is full of green plastic jerrycans. Or until you begin to have recurring nightmares involving the throttling of French car engineers.

by Mark Fagelson

Economy driving in the 508 – 30 May 2012

Those of us who find no pleasure in regularly spending over £100 at the petrol station eternally search for that elusive balance of power and economy in a vehicle. BMW hit the nail on the head over ten years back with the 320d, and now in my view Peugeot follows this winning formula with our long term 508 SW.

The 2.0 HDI engine is a peach, with the vital eco statistics of 56.4mpg and 130g/km being achieved with a healthy 163bhp. More importantly, as the weeks turn to months I seem to be achieving real-world mpg figures well into the mid 40s. This is better than expected, especially as recent far-flung shoots have called for fast motorway averages and a boot loaded up to the gunwhales. If I had the time or patience to sit at sub seventy speeds then I feel sure 50+ mpg would be the order of the day.

The only chink in the armoury of the 508’s 2.0 HDI engine is a laziness at low revs. Hitting the gas when pulling out at junctions while rolling in second gear has left me going nowhere a few times, as I’m caught off-boost with tallish gearing. I guess I need to get used to the characteristics of the set-up, but I don’t think it odd to expect a car to pull away in second if it’s on the move.

I’m still struggling with the switchgear, though. I love the look and feel of the interior – the seats are amazing – but the controls are just badly planned at many levels; from the use of interior space to the operation of buttons and menu systems. The dearth of cubby holes has driven me to purchase a cheap rubber mat to lay my phone on when driving. This square of sticky rubber lays uncomfortably over the heated seat controls but gives the phone a home of sorts.

The 508 SW estate is proving good in so many ways, yet I’m not warming to it as I should. The solidity and quality of the exterior and interior has impressed as has the mile-munching refinement, but the interior layout and controls grate on a daily basis and a few things are going wrong with the car. More on those to follow.

By Mark Fagelson

The 508 SW has arrived! 30 April 2012

The Peugeot 508 SW arrived today to take the place of a much beloved and recently departed Skoda Superb. Both big diesel estates, both costing around £25k. The Superb pleased on all fronts and gives a good basis for comparison.

The big Pug looks great sat on the driveway – it’s all high waistline, big 18in wheels, tints and chrome surrounds. With the exception of the familiarly ugly Peugeot nose it’s a good looking set of wheels and makes the Skoda look staid in comparison.

I’ve not had a chance for a proper drive yet, but a brief spin around the block revealed the lively 163bhp engine and a smooth, refined big car feel. Quoted mpg is 56.4, which seems great for the power on offer. I look forward to seeing how the real-world figures compare to the Eco-spec 105bhp engine of the Greenline Skoda.

The interior quality of the Peugeot 508 SW looks and feels great, with fixtures and fittings befitting a car of this size and cost. The switches and controls may take some getting used to – the steering wheel in particular being in possession of more buttons than my TV remote.

Boot space looks great. I was bracing myself for disappointment after the vast Skoda but the space on offer in the 508 SW looks great. To my delight I even found levers in the boot that drop the back seats to instantly offer a huge, flat floor. Hiding under the floor is a spare tyre, which as time goes by is becoming rarer than you might think on new cars. My father-in-law recently left his Audi Q5 on the hard shoulder while the nice man from the AA took him on a shopping trip to the nearest Kwik Fit.

If I can get my head around a new and unfamiliar set of buttons, I think me and the Peugeot will get on just fine.

By Mark Fagelson

Looking forward to our Peugeot 508 SW – 16 March 2012

Soon to arrive on the CAR long-term test fleet is a new Peugeot 508 SW. The 508 is a direct replacement for the 407, but high-spec models have replaced that French ministerial favourite, the bigger 607 – and, whisper it, are there to also attract the odd soul who doesn’t default to a German exec.

The 508 was well received at launch in 2011, plus Peugeot had already impressed the press with its svelte RCZ coupe, and recent early drives of the new 208 supermini prove Peugeot is definitely getting its act together. So, time to see whether initial positive impressions of the 508 endure…

Our 508 is the SW estate, so there’s plenty of room for all my photographic gear. And it’s got the 161bhp 2.0 HDi engine. For a boy that’s used to a 104bhp fuel-sipping Superb, I think heady times might be ahead. Versus the Skoda’s official 64.2mpg and 114g/km CO2, the more powerful Peugeot isn’t quite as parsimonious (with 56.4mpg and 130g/km) but it’ll be interesting to see what difference there is between the fuel figures returned in the real world.

The Allure trim level of our 508 SW is one step down from the top-of-the-range GT, and offers plenty of kit as standard. Highlights include auto and electric everything (windows, mirrors, lights), a gargantuan panoramic roof, part-leather trim, heated front seats, keyless entry and go, and rather dashing 18in alloys. That’s £25,105.

Beyond that we’ve spent £450 on ‘Aluminium’ metallic paint and £1215 on a pack that bundles together sat-nav, Bluetooth, a colour head-up display and Peugeot Connect SOS, which I presume to be a roadside pack of French lions at my disposal.

I have never owned a Peugeot, and only driven a handful in my time so I’m looking forward to seeing what the French brand has to offer me. This is, after all, my favorite type of car: a diesel estate with plenty of space, but it has a tough act to follow after the utter faultlessness of my current car, that big, white Skoda Superb.

By Mark Fagelson