plenty of panache
COMBINING THE BEST ELEMENTS of a traditional mid-sized estate and a medium sized MPV, Peugeots hand-some 307 SW manages to look amazingly sporty for such a practical vehicle. Seating up to seven or swallow huge loads, it is also capable of mixing-and-matching to accommodate any combination in between!
The key to the SW's flexibility is its modular seating system. The three individual sliding seats across the centre of the car can be folded
flat, jack-knifed into an upright position behind the driver and front seat passenger, relocated to accommodate just two passengers in the centre row, or even removed altogether to leave two separate folding/removable occasional seats (available as £165 accessories) in the rear. There are three-point seatbelts for each of the seven seats and for some reason kids never seem to tire of sitting 'up back' in
the third row for them it has all the cachet of travelling first class.
Up close the first thing people notice is the panoramic glass roof stretching from the top of the windscreen to just above the third row of seats mesmerising on starry nights. Actually, one third of the
307 SW's total body area is glazed.
Heat-insulting glass, the standard fit air-conditioning/climate control system, and a neat electric blind ensures the family won't get a grilling come summer.
The light and airy cabin is generously kitted out with four, one-touch electric windows, trip computer, six speakers, steering column audio controls, and a 5-disc CD autochanger built into the dash great for changing CDs without stopping the car to remove everything from the boot.
Good quality materials are used throughout and, together with the high levels of fit and finish, ensure the 307's interior is a comfortable and pleasing place to spend time. A pollen filter and charcoal trap keep the smell of the traffic where it should be outside.
It's easy for just about any driver to get comfortable in a 307 SW thanks to the multi-adjustable and firmly supportive seat's ratchet-style height control (standard on both front seats) and a leather-trimmed steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach.
There's a number of nice storage touches, too, such as the drawer under each front seat and a pre-organised glove box that can be chilled if you prefer your J2O cold.
The SW is a hive of useful storage spaces with deep seat pockets and large door bins. Each front door can hold a 1.5-litre bottle vertically and there are drink holders in the centre console, shopping bag hooks and netted pockets for secure storage in the boot. There's even a handy overhead sunglasses holder above the dash.
The back of the central seat features a rigid storage unit, with mesh bags in the backs of all four outer seats and aviation-style pop-up tables on the backs of the front two seats. Two 12-volt sockets ensure drinks coolers or portable electronic games can be connected on the move.
Switchgear and controls are well sited, the instruments are large and legible, and the attractive aluminium finish to the centre console, air vents and interior door handle surrounds echoes the satin chrome finish of the roof bars and outer door handles. The switches for the hazards and the central locking, both sensibly sited on top of the dash, are within easy reach of the driver and the passenger.
The dash is quite deep but the substantial screen pillars don't intrude upon visibility. Despite its longish, raked nose, placing the 307 on the road is easy. Rear visibility is good, and there's audible help on hand from Park Assist to make going backwards a doddle.
So much for living with a 307 SW. Whats it like to drive? In a word: Satisfying. The supple ride is strong on refinement courtesy of good damping and effective noise insulation and remains so when either laden or driving solo.
Safe on the limit, it feels secure even in wet and windy conditions, holding reassuringly to your chosen line through deep standing water
if you're caught unawares even at speed.
The willing 2.0-litre engine behind the 307's distinctively styled wrap-around headlamps puts its power down through the front wheels, and with 138bhp on tap overtaking is quick and safe. Drivers with families will appreciate the SWs predictable handling, knowing they can press-on safely.
Steering is responsive, and the chassis is quick to follow where the front wheels lead. We had occasion to be grateful for this when a Spanish forty-tonner swerved unexpectedly into our lane on the M25!
The anti-lock brakes have real bite thanks to an army of safety systems including electronic brake force distribution (to balance the stopping power between front and rear wheels) and emergency brake assist which recognises an emergency and guarantees maximum retardation regardless of the force applied to the brake pedal. In these circumstances the hazard lights come on automatically. And there's also an electronic stability programme that detects possible loss of control in extreme circumstances or bad weather and automatically counters any tendency of the car to skid.
If an accident is unavoidable, the 307 SW is very well equipped to protect its driver and passengers, with six airbags (including side airbags and side curtains which protect front and middle row occupants in side impacts) and anti-whiplash head restraints in the front.
A retractable steering column and brake pedal minimises the risk of chest or foot injury. If a child safety seat is in place, the front passenger airbag can be deactivated, and there are Isofix child-seat mounting points in the centre row.
A low boot sill and grooved stainless steel runners ease loading heavy items. Integral satin-chrome roof rails allow a further 100kg of
cycles, skis, surfboards or cases to be carried externally. And if youre one of those people who regularly forget to lock your boot, don't
worry because the 307's got it covered for you with an automatic boot locking system that secures the boot when your speed exceeds 6mph.
Overall there's lots to like about the 307 SW, from the side-to-centre sweep wipers that clear the most important areas of the windscreen, excellent load carrying abilities, fine ride and refinement, and relaxed motorway cruising, to a four-star Euro NCAP crash rating and good fuel consumption. Our average test consumption came out at 31mpg, although most drivers should easily match the manufacturer's claimed 34pmpg.
Judging by our test car, the 307 SW is built to last and seems more than capable of shrugging off the tantrums of the 21st century family. I believe the term 'every home should have one' might well apply to this practical Peugeot. MotorBar