Why this Peugeot SW is a fine estate of affairs – no question
... but low-slung roofline impedes easy access to this stylish 508 SW
This week's review of the new Peugeot 508 SW estate could be simplistically reduced to answering two questions:
1/ Would you buy it instead of joining the hordes who want a mid-size SUV?
2/ Is it not a near-irrelevance, given that we Irish tend to steer clear of estates?
Both reflect fair comment and perspective but they do the 508 SW a big disservice - despite one or two other drawbacks of its own making.
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For a start, it is one of the best-looking cars on the market. Certainly my deep-red test motor is a real style challenger in its family-car segment.
But I am conscious of beauty being in the eye of the beholder as I know from experience how one person's lovely car is another's abhorrence.
Ironically, the 508 fastback on which the SW is based is a rival for the 'best-looking' gong too.
Right now, I can't think of any comparably priced, or sized, SUVs that would compete on that front.
But good looks will only get you so far.
I think the SW gets you a fair bit further than that.
Certainly its interior matches/betters anything in its segment. That's a big statement but I think I'm being fair in saying so.
Focused around the core visual/interactive elements they call the 'i-Cockpit', the cabin was a joy to sit into and drive in such style and comfort.
The GT Line is an upmarket level of trim - as reflected in the steep price of my test car - and, as such, enhanced extra touches to great effect.
As you know the 'iCockpit' is a smart blend of tiny steering wheel, multifaceted high-resolution instrument panel in the line of the driver's vision, and a larger central infotainment screen for inputs, information and demands.
It's a smart and clever package that remains the best in class.
Okay, maybe it does over-elaborate a smidgen on one or two aspects - adjusting temperature being the main one.
But the overall effect is exceptional. Because the flattened steering wheel is so small you can see over the top to pick up on core information (speed, etc.) on the panel in front of you.
I like it because that little wheel also affects how I drive in a most pleasant way. I always feel it is fun. And I'm not a fan of large, thick wheels.
My car had the new 8spd auto transmission, which was as smooth as you like; not a hint of shunt up or down.
And the 1.5-litre diesel reminded me - as if I needed it - of how accustomed we have become to quiet running and low consumption in cars like this.
There was a nice, taut feel to the drive and a good driving position from the moment I got my seat/wheel calibrations on cue.
All in all, it was the sort of drive I'd expect from a Peugeot of this calibre and price.
It looks, and is, a substantial vehicle at 4.78m long and 1.42m in height.
In keeping with it being an estate, there's a good level of room in the cargo area (530 litres - better than many an SUV) which expands to serious levels if you drop/fold the rear seats.
But it is around those using the rear seats that its biggest drawback hovers.
I found getting into the front required a bit of a dip in this old frame as I had to stoop a little (it really is quite a low-slung car).
That has to do with the stretched-crescent shape of the SW requiring the roofline to slope as it does.
The further back you go, the more accentuated it becomes - to the point where even smaller passengers had to bow their heads a lot to get into the rear seats.
It's a pity and undeniably a setback.
Compounding that was the visual limitations of the rear windscreen. It was altogether too small for my liking.
But it is part of a design that ensured the SW turned heads and prompted questions.
I would have been less than honest if I didn't mention the couple of main drawbacks too.
Of course, the key question for me was, would I buy it?
Initially I had reservations about ease of access but I managed to devise a way of half-sliding in which reduced the physical strain of ducking every time.
So I'm not sure if, in the heel of the hunt, it would be a deal breaker.
I know one thing for sure, though.
I'd have it on my shortlist before many a bland SUV or saloon.
It's just a lovely car in so many ways.
Facts & Figures
Peugeot 508 SW estate
1.5-litre, 139bhp diesel, GT Line, 8spd auto; tax €190. SW from €34,110. Tested: €42,080. Fastback from €32,510.
Spec includes: iCockpit, 12.3in instrument panel, 10in t/screen, ACC, 3 ISOFIX points, spare wheel, parking sensors (reversing camera), AGR seats, 18in alloys, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink, phone charging plate, 4 USB sockets, voice control.