3- and 5-door 207
hatchback range has
much to recommend
it to a large cross-
section of buyers.
Officially a supermini,
its actually roomy
enough to start a new
THE ALL-NEW 207 hatchback is expected to become Peugeot's best selling model in the UK.
So it is very unfortunate and potentially a sales and PR nightmare to announce just prior to the launch of the new car the closure of the UK's only Peugeot production facility, PSA Peugeot Citroen UK at Ryton, Coventry.
Peugeot had always said the 207 would not be built at the Ryton plant and the current 206, which will remain on sale, would go on being produced there in a reduced model line-up for a significant period of time. However, nobody really expected the axe to fall in 2007 with the loss of 2,300 jobs.
So, clouds could be gathering over the UK launch of the new 207 as the unions are threatening to lobby Peugeot dealerships to urge customers not to buy the cars unless the car maker reverses its decision.
The reality is the UK is an expensive country in which to manufacture cars as salaries of production workers are higher here than in emerging Eastern European countries new areas being exploited by car makers setting up new manufacturing facilities. In the UK new car sales are falling, prices are lower and customers demand more specification making cars very price sensitive. A spokeswoman for PSA Peugeot Citroen in the UK said last week that it costs in the region of £350 more per unit to build a car of the 206's size here than it does in mainland Europe as most of the parts are imported, assembled and then re-exported as a whole car.
Which explains why the new 207 it has cost £700 million to develop will be built at factories in France, Spain and Slovakia.
Last year 67,000 Peugeot 206 hatchbacks were sold in the UK their best-selling model range. The Company expect to sell around 32,000 207s by the end of this year, and around 75,000 in subsequent full years.
The new 207 three- and five-door hatchbacks are B segment cars Superminis, as we know them and the new range is in line with other new-generation family hatchbacks which are bigger, stronger, safer and offer more specification as standard. New models already on sale such as the Fiat Grande Punto, Toyota Yaris and the Renault Clio are good examples of the standard now being set in this sector of the new car market and which accounts for a third of all new cars sold in this country.
Prices start at £8,995 and range up to £15,345. The expected best-selling models are the 1.4 16v 90bhp petrol five-door S with air conditioning that will cost £10,895 and the 1.6 HDI 90bhp diesel equivalent model which will cost £11,995. Additional 207 CC and SW derivatives will join the range from mid-2007.
Small cars are big business for Peugeot with the 107, 1007, 206, 307 and now the all-new 207 extending their line-up. Peugeot's customer profile for the 207 is very broad. Anyone from young families to older couples and ranging from 25 to 75 years of age. For 80 per cent of buyers it will be their primary car, with a 50:50 split between male and female purchasers. Retail customers are expected to account for 70 per cent of total sales and 70 per cent of buyers will choose petrol versions over diesel. Fifty-five per cent of customers are expected to choose the five-door body option.
Initially, the 207 range will be available with three petrol and three diesel engine options, all with five-speed manual transmissions. A 1.4-litre petrol engine offers two power output levels: 75bhp and, the expected top seller, a 90bhp version. The 1.6-litre petrol engine with 110bhp will be in the line-up until the end of this year, when it will be replace by a sophisticated new range of 1.6-litre engines being developed by PSA and BMW.
These new engines will be available in two forms for the 207. In October, a 115bhp variable-valve timing unit for three- and five-door models will be launched along with the option of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. A 150bhp turbocharged engine for the three-door 207 GT will go on sale in September.
Diesel engines are 1.4-litre (70bhp) and 1.6-litre (90bhp and 110bhp) units, with the 90bhp powerplant forecast to be the best-seller.
In addition to engine options, and depending upon which engine and body style is chosen, the new 207 will offer five styling and equipment levels of specification. 'Classic' models, as Peugeot call them, have softer styling lines and come badged as the Urban, S and SE. 'Sport' and 'GT' variants reflect their names with their trim levels and styling both inside and out. The S level is expected to account for 37 per cent of sales followed by the Sport with 32 per cent, SE with 18 per cent, GT with 10 per cent and Urban with 3 per cent.
In keeping with the 107, 1007 and 307 ranges, all 207 models retain Peugeot's feline-styled family face. The 207 is noticeably larger in all areas than the 206, being 8 inches longer, 65mm wider, and 56mm taller and with a wheelbase that is also longer, by 97mm. It is also, due to the extra safety equipment and the weight of the better noise insulation and higher specification equipment, heavier.
Safety is a big selling point for Peugeot with the 207. In the Euro NCAP ratings the car has received five stars for adult occupant protection, four stars for child safety and three stars for pedestrian safety. Insurance group ratings will range from 3E to 7E.
Safe describes the 207 in two ways. Firstly, it is safe because of its comprehensive safety features (six airbags are fitted as standard) and strong construction. Secondly, safe because of its 'more of the same' styling. As this is such an important new car for Peugeot, you can easily appreciate why the 207 is more of a progression from the 206 rather than being visually more radical and ground-breaking.
Perhaps Peugeot could have been more adventurous and radical with its design and in the process set new standards for the sector
rather than just follow the family theme already used for the 1007, 206 and 307. Okay, so it's blend of soft curves and bold contours styled
in-house by Peugeot's own stylists is more evolution rather than revolution but that's no bad thing.
Having driven left-hand drive versions of the new Peugeot 207 in March at the international media launch on challenging Majorcan mountain roads, it was good to get another drive this time with right-hand drive models on British roads.
Although most makes of cars are generally built for both left- and right-hand drive markets, if they start of as 'southpaws' sometimes the transfer to right-hand drive is not always so pleasing. The Peugeot 206 is just such a car. Right-hand drive models have always been criticised for the relationship of the driver's seating position to the positioning of the steering wheel and pedals, so they have never quite gelled. Which makes it good to be able to report that this time Peugeot has got it right: the transfer of quality, ergonomics and overall design from left- to right-hand drive is seamless.
The new 207 feels stronger, rides and handles much better and the overall quality and refinement far exceeds that of the 206. The five-door version is by far the most practical as its gives easier access to the quite roomy rear seats and Peugeot is, I am sure, correct to say this will be the best-selling body style. Yes, the three-door version looks sportier from the side, but the single side doors are unavoidably large (to give reasonable access to the rear seats) but they are too big to open anywhere near fully in car parks.
I always recommend going for a five-door hatchback over a three-door simply because if you have rear space you need access to it, even if it's only for putting shopping on the back seats. However, the 207 is a roomy and comfortable car definitely more than just another 'Supermini' hatchback and it is now large enough to be a family car as well.
The handling is surprisingly taut and the car rides pretty level with none of the fidgety ride or body roll of the 206. The extra weight of the car settles it well on the road, even on very poor surfaces. The electronic power steering gives good feedback unlike similar systems on small and large cars. It may not be a thrilling drive at least, not until we get the 150bhp turbo version but it is very competent and requires very little involvement from the driver. It does what most people want from such a car, and it does it quietly and efficiently.
The 1.4-litre 90bhp petrol engine will be the unit of choice for most customers at least until the new 1.6 units come along in the autumn. Having driven the current 1.6-litre 110bhp petrol engine, I can see no reason to choose this engine because it tends towards harsh-ness and feels pretty stressed when pushed hard. The sweet 1.4-litre unit is not only more responsive and quieter, but it is far more fuel-efficient.
For even better performance, either the 90bhp 1.6-litre or the 110bhp HDi turbodiesel units give the most responsive drive of all. I think most people, if they choose diesel power, will be more than happy with the 90bhp engine. With 62.7mpg and a low 120 g/km of CO2 emissions it makes really good sense, even though you will pay more for the privilege of buying a diesel engine.
Overall, the new 207 is a solid effort by Peugeot. It looks appealing and it slots neatly into the family line-up. The 1.4 engine needs to be worked hard to get the best performance but that said, it is a sweet little engine and impressively fuel-efficient and I prefer it to the current 1.6-litre petrol engine which is comparatively gutless, noisy and harsh. The good news is it will be replaced in the autumn by Peugeot's new range of sophisticated 1.6-litre PSA/BMW engines. For the record, the 90 and 110bhp diesel-powered 207s are notably superior to the current petrol variants to drive.
But whichever engine option you choose, you'll be getting a safe, stylish, roomy and well-equipped hatchback One that, commendably, delivers a capable and vice-free drive. A safe bet for the non-racing man! David Miles
Peugeot 207 1.4 S 5-door | £10,895
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 14.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 44.1mpg | Power: 90bhp | Torque: 98lb ft