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Click to view road test review picture gallery“137mph GTi heads
  up new models for
  Peugeot’s 207 range.
  Undeniably perfor-
  mance-orientated, is
  it the definitive hot
  hatch? And is it for

FROM JUNE, the Peugeot 207 GTi THP 175 model priced at £14,995 will be added to the high-selling 207 range of three-and five-door hatch-backs and CC coupé- convertibles in the UK.

The 207 line-up will be further extended this month with a four-speed Tiptonic automatic transmission option becoming available for 1.6-litre petrol three- and five-door Sport and five-door SE models with prices ranging from £12,822 to £13,622.

The 207 SW estate models with petrol and diesel engine options will be added to the range in July, with prices yet to be announced. These will be followed by a recreational version based on Peugeot's SW Outdoor concept model.

The Peugeot 207 was launched last July into the rapidly expanding 'supermini' range of passenger cars. This sector has shown the best growth in the UK new car market this year, with sales up by 7.5 per cent. Customers — either up or down-sizing because of taxation and traffic congestion issues — are being attracted into this sector by the increase in interior space, added specification and seating and load carrying versatility offered by the new generation of larger 'superminis'.

Since the 207 launch in July 2006, Peugeot has sold over 50,000 of them in the UK and this year, with the addition of CC and SW derivat-ives, they expect to sell close to 70,000 units. In 2008 they estimate 207 hatchbacks will achieve 70,000 UK sales, CC models 10,000 and the SW estate version 10,000 registrations. In fact, the 207 is the overall best-selling model range in Europe.

The UK sales objective for the new GTi is 700 units this year and 1,000 units in 2008. Most sales will come from retail and business user-chooser customers. As a range, the 207 attracts 67 per cent of its sales from these customers.

Peugeot Motor Company in the UK said this week that the customer profile for the new 137mph 207 GTi was: 60 per cent male buyers; more model than brand loyal; price is not a key purchase decision; and they are generally younger than the average buyer in the 'supermini' segment.

In the GTi sector, Peugeot are most well known for their much admired 205 GTi models. Launched in the mid 1980s with a total of 61,226 cars sold in the UK, the famous 205 GTi was replaced by the less able 206 GTi in May 1999.

Andrew Didlick, Peugeot's UK Director of Public Relations, said this week that the first 205 GTi model cost £6,700. The car had only a 105bhp engine, less performance, little in the way of interior specification, no air conditioning, no power steering and no air bags. He added that the original £6,700 price in real terms is worth around £16,000 in today's money. The new 207 GTi with more power, more performance, more technical refinement, more equipment, more interior space and more safety features — priced at £14,995 — represents much better value for money.

The Peugeot 207 GTi will sell in the main against such rival 'hot super-mini' models as the new Vauxhall Corsa VXR, the new MINI Cooper S and the Renault Clio Sport, all of which it undercuts with its starting price of £14,995. Taking into account adjustments in price for specific-ation, a similarly equipped MINI Cooper S, which uses the same PSA/ BMW joint venture 175bhp engine, costs £18,835 and the Renault Clio Sport £16,845.

However, Peugeot expects the majority of customers buying the new 207 GTi will take the extra cost 'Octane' Pack' — which adds £1,000 to the price. This pack includes such items as black chrome finished head-lights, dark tinted rear and rear side windows, rear parking aid, cruise control, electric folding mirrors, directional headlights, tyre pressure sensors, automatic lights and wipers and dual-zone air conditioning. In addition, there is a wide range of other extra cost options from metallic paint (£350) through to a colour satellite navigation, upgraded sound system and fragrance diffuser, at a combined package price of £2,070.

Peugeot describes the new 207 GTi as a 'day-to-day' hot hatch. It uses a three-door body design with wide opening side doors to allow easy access to the rear two sculpted passenger seats. In the front
are two large sports bucket style seats and all the usual bright metal treatment for the control pedals and the instrument surrounds. With the must-have 'Octane Pack' pushing the price up to £15,995, it is a classy and worthwhile buy — ideal as much for track days or for everyday motoring, it will capably serve a broad base of motoring requirements.

Outside, the classy look is repeated. Yes, all the usual 'sports' styling tweaks are present and correct — from a rear tailgate spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tailpipes, chromed door mirrors and wide section tyres on 17-inch, nine-spoke alloy wheels. The 207 is a pretty car anyway, and the GTi treatment only adds further to this image and is far more sophisticated than the blatant boy- or girl-racer look of the Corsa VXR.

So the 207 GTi looks the part. But how does it perform? In most res-pects it is well suited for real-world use. It has all the safety features required, including Peugeot's new Steering Stability Programme. Give a car more power and you need to give it better handling performance. The 207 GTi has that function and its comes under the umbrella of SSP. This integrates the functions of stability control with the respon-ses of the electronic power steering and braking functions to provide optimum grip, adhesion and braking performance to the wheels with the highest grip — whether that grip is on dry or wet roads, or whether the road has a smooth, broken or rippled surface.

Where all is not well with the 207 GTi is the ride comfort. It's true that the car has superb grip and it provides a totally flat ride along with excellent and sharp steering responses. However, the suspension is so hard when the car is driven at higher speeds over some road surfaces that it can become quite uncomfortable as it 'patters' over the uneven surfaces and ripples in the tarmac. So much so that it actually made my co-driver physically ill.

By uprating the springs, dampers and anti-roll bar to make them stiffer by 30 per cent over the 207 GT (and 42 per cent stiffer than a stan-dard three-door 207), all to give optimum grip and handling, is a step too far for the UK's A and B roads.

As for the power source, what can I say that hasn't been said already about this award-winning engine? The 1.6-litre, direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharged petrol engine which comes from the PSA/BMW alliance is superb.

It performs really well in the MINI Cooper S and it is no different in the 207 GTi. It is responsive and by having huge amounts of torque for a petrol engine of this size — 180 to 195lb ft with overboost from just 1,600rpm to 4,500rpm — makes the car responsive to drive without
the need for constant gear-changing. So no matter whether you are driving in slow traffic, cruising on the open road or trying a little harder, it is brilliant.

To support that engine performance, the five-speed manual gearbox has well chosen gear ratios to utilise the 175bhp and high torque with commendable refinement. The gear change is not quite as slick as the six-speed 'box in the Cooper S, but it is acceptable. Against? The harsh ride and the fact that the options push up the reasonable purchase price. On the plus side, it's exactly what its predominantly male target market wants: sporty styling, good equipment, 137mph performance and grip. Given that, Peugeot looks like hitting its sales objective of 700 207 GTis this year. — David Miles

Peugeot 207 GTi THP 175 3-door | £14,995
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 33.3mpg | Power: 175bhp | Torque: 180-195lb ft

CO2 171g/km

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