02:50PM, Monday 21 October 2019
Estate cars; big, slabby things with boxy bodies and unattractive as a result.
That’s one view of them, reinforced by the likes of Peugeot which had a reputation for making these huge capacity family holdalls, with the 504 and 505 versions prime examples of the genre.
But not any more. Peugeot is among the brands helping make the estate car more of a sleek, eye-catching, yet practical car. Its new 508SW is a prime example of how these cars are now allowed to look following SUVs and MPVs taking over the mantle of brick-shaped holdalls.
That’s not to say the 508SW is lacking in volume. While its style suggests an elongated five door version of the previous Volkswagen Scirocco, the interior boasts a load volume of 1,780 litres. Even with the rear seats in place and the cover pulled across there’s 530 litres, making this a highly practical car that hides its sheer physical size well.
Of course there is a downside to that lovely slender profile and that’s sinking down to get into the seats. On the plus side, Peugeot has shaped the door openings in such a way they leave headroom in the crucial place. We have found in the past that’s not always so. When choosing a car to lease in 2010, we went for a Ford S-MAX rather than a Peugeot 5008 because the door shape made us into headbangers!
While on the subject of the low roofline, getting a child strapped into a seat in the rear is no easy task and hiding the ISOFix mountings behind small and fiddly zip fasteners is not the best idea. Other makes use pop out or hinged covers that work rather better although, to be fair, Peugeot is not alone in making life difficult in this respect.
One way they have beaten other makers is in managing to offset the hard ride effect of low profile tyres. The test car, in range-topping GT trim, was fitted with stylish 19 inch alloys shod with 40 profile rubber, and that’s thin! Low profiles tend to make for a harder ride because there’s less tyre wall flex to absorb bumps but that’s not the case with this car. Full marks to Peugeot. The 508SW is equipped with adjustable suspension on which comfort as the ideal setting without making the handling too soft.
Settling into the driving seat is a pleasing visual experience. Drivers who like to think of themselves as being in a cockpit can go into full fighter jet mode, looking out through glazing that forms a narrow canopy and ahead at an information display that’s full-on digital heaven. The square steering wheel can even give the semi-joystick feel, something that could never have been said for the Austin Allegro when it appeared with its much-derided “quartic” square wheel in 1973.
One drawback of the design is that it needs to be set low down to avoid the top of the wheel rim obscuring part of the instrument display; some taller drivers may find this restricting on leg space. That said, the GT has a pair of powered front seats so it’s possibly to juggle the settings to find an optimum position.
The test car also had a glazed panorama roof which prevented the panel from feeling too low and the car claustrophobic. The high waistline can give a “sitting in a bucket” feel and in the back it is quite enclosed.
Sculpting in the body sides gives the car a very flowing shape and when you see it from behind, with the Peugeot lettering inserted beneath the bottom edge of the rear window, the car looks very futuristic, particularly when equipped with Peugeot’s cat’s claw signature lights.
Under the bonnet of the test car was Peugeot’s 2.0L BlueHDi 180 engine coupled to its EAT8 S&S 8-speed automatic transmission, which comes as standard on virtually all variants; the 1.5 litre HDi engine brings the option of a manual box. Auto is far more efficient and this one particularly smooth. And with around 41 mpg on average (only little less than we got with a diesel hybrid version of the previous generation 508SW), what’s not to like?
Car: Peugeot 508SW 2.0L BlueHDi 180 EAT8 S&S 8-speed automatic
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 8.4 secs
Top speed: 144 mph
PS: 180 @ 3,750 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,000 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 60.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 124 g/km
Best bits: substance meets style
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