Lavishly-equipped, rugged-looking Peugeot 508 estate is a pleasant drive, but there are many more recommendable alternatives

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The new Peugeot 508 RXH is a bit misleading - that's what it is.

Where previously the chunky bodykit and raised ride height was unique to the four-wheel drive, electric-diesel 'Hybrid4' powertrain, this is in fact a straightforward front-wheel drive 508 estate, wearing the hybrid's mud-faring regalia.

The 508 RXH feels solidly put together, and with the sheer level of equipment makes it feel cosseting

Still, with 178bhp from the 2.0-litre diesel, and a six-speed automatic as standard - a powertrain that's only available with the range-topping GT 508 SW - this diesel RXH offers good mid-range performance and a massive saving of £4350 over the hybrid model which is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel and an electric motor.

On top of that, the entry-level car's emissions are a very respectable 119g/km, which could make it actually a lot more sense than the 'proper' hybrid RXH.

Peugeot intends for the 508 to compete with more upmarket rivals from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and you can see what they've done to support that claim in the RXH's interior.

It feels solidly put together, and with a standard panoramic glass roof brightening everything up and heated, electrically-adjustable seats, the sheer level of equipment makes it feel cosseting.

However, the perceived quality of the switchgear, a few of the plastics, and a slightly unintuitive dash layout doesn't quite live up to the standards of the minimalist interiors that generally sets the German offerings apart.

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There's plenty of room in the back and the boot is a good shape, though, even if rear legroom and boot capacity falls short of what you'd get in plenty of rivals, including the Skoda Superb estate and Subaru Outback.

On the equipment front, Peugeot has kept it simple with only one trim level to choose from - RXH, which equips the car with 18in alloy wheels, a panoramic glass roof, satin roof rails and a rugged bodykit, alongside technology such as parking sensors, heated door mirrors, electric windows, adaptive LED headlights, and keyless start and entry. Inside there is cruise control, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, head-up display and Peugeot's 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB radio, reversing camera, sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

The way the diesel RXH drives is more of a letdown. It's absolutely fine in normal use, but it's no more than fine. Its auto 'box is pretty sluggish, and even under moderate acceleration or on an incline, it sometimes decides to change down when you don't expect it to.

The engine stop-start system is similarly unintuitive, as it's quite slow to fire up the engine and can make quick getaways jerky and unpredictable. Throw in some damp roads and you can add a liberal dose of wheelspin for a really scrappy start, too.

Still, once you're underway, the gearbox is smooth enough most of the time and keeps the engine in its torquey comfort zone.

The steering feels quite artificial and doesn't offer much joy if you want to tackle your favourite country road, but it's well-weighted and predictable, so adds to the easy-going character and makes it easy to pilot the 508 precisely.

You're probably not going to be too bothered about that country road anyway since the 508 RXH is not the keenest through corners. Body roll is actually quite progressive and not too intrusive, so you don't get the exaggerated wallow and pitch of some soft, jacked-up estates.

There's little communication through the controls, however, and the understeer-oriented chassis ensures that any potentially spirited drives will be quite underwhelming.

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For all that, ride comfort and refinement could be better, too. It's settled on the motorway, which is truthfully where the 508 feels most at home anyway, but high-frequency undulations have the suspension working hard, and the whole car shudders over mid-corner bumps. Road and wind noise are noticeable at higher speeds, too.

This is one of those cars that, when someone asks you what it's like, you nod and say "nice". It's relaxing to drive, the interior looks good and is comfortable and spacious and you've got all the kit you could want.

It's also worth looking at as a company car thanks to its impressive emissions, provided you're just after a top-spec estate and not something with off-road or heavy utilitarian potential.

After all, the 508 RXH has a fairly low maximum towing capacity of 1475kg and will be about as useful as a tissue-paper umbrella in a monsoon when it comes to any really uncivilised terrain.

A Subaru Outback, a four-wheel drive Skoda Superb estate or even the vastly cheaper and similarly spacious Skoda Octavia Scout all trounce the RXH for usefulness given their circa two-tonne towing capacities and willingness to scrabble over rough terrain. And even higher up the spectrum the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack may seem a more enticing proposition.

Having said all that, if you reckon this rugged-looking but not rugged-actually 508 RXH makes more sense for you than these similarly priced all-wheel drive alternatives, and the various cheaper, conventional big estates like the excellent Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo, then you'll probably quite like it. It's really very nice.

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Peugeot 508 RXH 2012-2017 First drives