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Peugeot 508 SW Active Estate e-HDI 112 Review

Tue, 28 Feb 2012

The Peugeot 508 SW Active Estate e-HDI 112 in for review

This week we have the Peugeot 508 SW Active e-HDi 112, Peugeot’s new 508 Estate in for review. Is this eco 508 Estate up to the job?

Peugeot has never really been very successful at selling big cars, so they’ve taken the pragmatic approach and replaced the old 407 and 607 with the all new 508. And what we have in this week, in the guise of the Peugeot 508 SW Active e-HDi 112, is Peugeot’s eco special estate which offers good economy and low emissions all wrapped up in a very stylish estate car.

The 508 SW Active e-HDi 112 is Peugeot’s least powerful diesel estate car with mid-range trim and offers a 110bhp 1.6 litre diesel with stop-start and an electrically controlled automated manual gearbox to deliver average economy of 65.6mpg and emissions of 110g/km; impressive figures for a spacious, good-sized load lugger that is also very easy on the eye.

So, a good looking car that offers impressive economy and decent equipment levels at sensible – if not bargain basement – prices. But is all as good as it seems?

If you’re opting for an estate car then there’s a good chance you want space, and the 508 SW doesn’t disappoint. It has a chunk more room in the back – seats up or seats down – than the VW Passat Estate, and there seems little compromise in cabin appeal to accommodate the box on the back.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, controls are easy to hand and equipment levels are decent. On this mid-range 508 SW Active that means stuff like a decent RDS radio and CD with MP3 playback and Bluetooth, auto lights and wipers, AirCon and Cruise.

But our test car has a chunk of options, including Metallic paint (£450), Half Leather (£795), Rear Parking Sensors (£330), Peugeot Connect SatNav (£1,215) and a Load Space net (£155) which adds up to almost £3k of toys. But even without the extra goodies the inside of the 508 SW is still a good place to be.

Outside the 508 SW is stylish with no hint of a box bolted on the back. The 508 is a modern swoopy-coupe type estate, despite which it’s still commodious. The new Peugeot nose is a huge improvement on the old Peugeot big gob job, the lines are sleek and elegant and the 17″ alloys and panoramic roof look good (and that roof does make the cabin very light and airy too).

So, good looking inside and out with comfort, decent NVH control and enough toys without having to bother the options list too much (although for some reason SatNav is an option on the Active – which is odd).

Good looking interior and dash on the 508

Despite a quite paltry 110bhp, this 508 SW manages to get around town quite swiftly, helped by the 199lb/ft of torque on offer, and the stop-start works well enough, even though we’re not big fans usually, and even cuts the engine before you’ve fully stopped, which sounds a bit odd but works quite well.

As does the chassis on the 508, with body movement well-controlled - even if the ride is a bit on the stiff side – and a very un-estate feeling to the drive. That’s also in part thanks to decent steering that offers more feedback than you’d expect and it will take the B-road blat with alacrity; not as sharp as a Mondeo but streets ahead of the old 407 SW.

But all that 508 goodness counts for nought when you experience the gearbox; it is truly woeful. Peugeot has fitted the e-HDi with an electrically controlled ‘box as the best way to keep CO2 levels in check. But it’s perhaps the worst auto ‘box any of us have experienced in the last decade. It’s not just ponderous, it’s verging on dangerous.

Leave the ECG to do its own thing and you’ll feel like the car has lost a cylinder as it changes up a gear. Sounds an exaggeration? It’s not. One of our team had an altercation with a biker  who accused him of nipping the handbrake to catch the out rider – who was too close behind – so marked is the drop in forward momentum every time the ‘box changes up.

True, you can mitigate the effect of the gearbox by manually over-riding the auto changes, but even then you’ll still need to feather the throttle to get anything remotely resembling a decent change. It’s woeful.

We love just about everything about the Peugeot 508 SW. It looks great, the cabin is a really nice place to be, it rides well, handles well, is commodious and the equipment levels are just fine. In all the ways that matter, the 508 Estate is actually a great buy. And with any other engine and gearbox combination we’d happily run the 508 SW as a daily drive.

But the ECG ‘box is just so plain awful - and potentially dangerous – we wouldn’t give it house room. We understand why Peugeot has used this awful contraption – it nips the CO2 emissions in a way they don’t seem able to achieve with a manual ‘box – but it is so truly awful you initially think it’s got a major fault. It has, but not in the sense that the gearbox has gone wrong.

Don’t be put off the 508 SW by the silly ECG ‘box – it’s otherwise a fine car. Just run a mile from the Peugeot 508 SW e-HDi 112 until Peugeot either fixes the ‘box or manages to achieve the same emissions with a manual.


(39 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK