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Click for pictures“David Miles — No,
  that
s not him on the
  right! — liked the
  Peugeot 1007’s side-
  sliding
electric doors.
  But what he
really
  wanted was a bit more
  power...”


THERE I WAS, just starting to collect my thoughts on just what to say about the dismal performance of the Peugeot 1007 1.4-litre Dolce. And then, bingo! Along came a press release from the manufacturer announcing a new petrol engine option. The current 1.4-litre 75bhp petrol engine is not being totally replaced, but a 90bhp 1.4-litre unit has been added to the line-up.

This 'new' unit is the Euro IV petrol engine previously fitted to the 206 Sport. Producing 90bhp at 5,250rpm and a maximum torque of 100lb ft at 3,250 rpm, the new powerplant will only be available with a manual 5-speed gearbox. Zero to 62mph acceleration is quicker — at 13.6 seconds — and the increase in available engine torque provides the 1007 with a more dynamic performance than the current 1.4 litre 8V engine.

Unfortunately, at this stage, it is only for Sport specification models. However, it can only be a matter of time before the sluggard eight-valve, 75bhp unit is consigned to history.

Of course, you already know that the 1007 is the quirky, compact, high-roofed supermini with full-length, side-sliding passenger doors that was launched earlier this year. Available in Dolce and Sport specificat-ion, there's a comprehensive options list so you can tailor it to your own personal tastes. Prices start at 10,850 and range up to 12,300, with the latest 1.4-litre, 90bhp 16-valve variant in Sport specification costing 11,850.

The range also has a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a much better 1.4-litre HDI diesel unit which, for an extra 700 over the price of my test car, has to be a bargain.

Anyway, back to reality. I have just spent a week being outpaced by heavy lorries on A-roads and hills due to the seemingly snail-like per-formance of the 10,850, 1.4-litre Dolce 1007. Did I say performance? Sorry. The wrong word because the weight of those large sliding doors certainly does blunt the car's ability.

So you can see why I was gathering my thoughts about what to say when the Peugeot Christmas Fairy lightened my mood.

The 1007 is a unique and innovative car but it has not reached the sales potential in Europe or the UK that Peugeot expected of it so, consequently, production levels have been cut back. I think there are two reasons that have adversely affected sales. One, the new Peugeot 107 has also been introduced this year and as a traditional city car is more acceptable in both design and price. The second reason that I feel the 1007 is unloved is its sliding doors. For some reason sliding doors for passenger cars have never quite caught on — possibly because they seem to suggest van or commercial vehicle use.

A shame really, because the full body length twin sliding side doors of the 1007 give both the driver and passengers really good access to the front and rear row of seats. There is a tailgate providing entry to a small load area, and the rear seats slide and fold to provide reasonable load space. The high roofline allows the 1007 to have a 'command' driving position so visibility is good. The tall body style does cause it to roll on corners and although it does look a fun car, it really isn't that fun to drive.

Getting used to sliding doors takes a while, but they proved really useful in narrow supermarket car parking spaces. I'm still not sure of the safety aspect of getting out of the car into the road with no door opening outwards to attract the attention of other motorists. Cyclists hate vehicles with side-sliding doors because car occupants suddenly appear on the road in front of them.

The doors cannot be opened inadvertently whilst driving along, although the car can be driven with the side doors open. Not sensible, really. You can be sure somebody will do it whilst driving off-road or on the beach and be thrown out because they're not wearing a seat belt. But in all other aspects of safety the car is excellent, with a full five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Another benefit of these doors is that they can be opened and closed electronically by a push button on the facia or using the key fob. Walk up to the 1007 fully laden with bags of shopping, fumble for the key fob, push the correct buttons and, hey presto! The side doors slide open just like those on big MPVs such as the Peugeot 807.

What would be nice would be for the 1007 to be that bit longer. It's too close to the 107 and with a bit more load area length it would be a really useful small MPV — something Peugeot does not have, and which could compete against the likes of the Vauxhall Meriva, Renault Modus and Ford Fusion.

Almost enough said already about the performance of the 1.4-litre engine. Due to the weight of the car there is really no reason to buy this version unless you are going to use the 1007 as a commuter car or just for occasional use. I'm sure the just-announced 90bhp 1.4-litre unit will be a much better bet. And I would certainly choose the 1.4-litre HDI diesel unit over the 1.6-litre petrol engine. Although the diesel only produces 70bhp it does have 120lb ft of torque, and it shows. It's more responsive, has more 'guts' for everyday motoring and at 60mpg, fuel economy is far better as well.

Having said that, it's interesting to note sales-to-date figures show that only 20 per cent of 1007 customers have bought diesel versions. Peugeot hold a 15 per cent share of the UK's small car market with their 107, 1007 and 206 models and in the UK during 2006 expect to sell 8,000 of the 1007s — 80 per cent of which are forecast to be petrol models.

Based on my test drive of the 75bhp 1.4 Dolce, I found the perform-ance disappointing, as well as the ride/handling, and the boot space is too small. On the plus side is the 1007's innovative design, great cabin access, its well-earned five-star safety rating — the class-leading safety equipment fitted as standard on all 1007 models includes seven airbags, ESP, ASR, ABS, EBA and EBFD — and a versatile options list, not forgetting the decent diesel engine and the new 90bhp petrol unit. Looks like I got a wish after all. — David Miles


Peugeot 1007 1.4 Dolce | 10,850
Maximum speed: 102mph | 0-62mph: 14.4 seconds
Test MPG: 34.5mpg | 75bhp | 88lb ft


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