You can pick up a Peugeot 207 GTi from as little as £800 but if you want a good one, it's all in the timing
John Evans
1 July 2019

In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood may as well have handed the keys of a used Peugeot 207 GTi to the criminal lying before him on the ground as suggest he weigh up the possibility of him having a sixth bullet in his Magnum. Do all the pre-purchase checks you like but, ultimately, whether the Peugeot’s timing chain is about to slip, taking the engine with it, is simply a matter of luck. 

It’s all to do with the hydraulic chain tensioner fitted to the model’s Prince engine. You hear it first as a rattle from cold. As the oil heats up and circulates, it fades away, leaving you to think it wasn’t anything serious until one day… crunch: you and your bargain 207 GTi are friends no more. 

And it is a bargain. Just £800 is all you need for a weary 2007-reg 207 GTi, and £2500 should be enough for something clean and straightforward with a good service history. The most expensive ones are around £3000 but we did come across a 2009-reg Octane special edition with 67,000 miles and described as being in mint condition for a bullish £4750. 

The last ones were registered in 2009, so given that the model was launched in 2007, you’ve only three years’ worth of used 207 GTis to pick over, although those built from 2008 have, according to mechanics who work on them, better chain tensioners. They have better cylinder heads, too. Worryingly, earlier ones were prone to shedding alloy flakes into the engine. 

Otherwise, the Prince engine is a gamey lump. It may have only 1.6 litres, but thanks to its twin-scroll turbocharger, it produces 175bhp. Not only that but it also generates a handy 180lb ft torque that can be over-boosted to 195lb ft. Either way, the turbocharger starts working from as low as 1000rpm. All that muscle and the gearbox still has only five gears but they’re well chosen and, in any case, the engine thrives on revs. 

Our Verdict

Peugeot 208 GTI

Peugeot re-enters the hot hatch fray with its 208 GTI, but does the firm still understand what those three letters mean?

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Your £800, or £4750, buys a restrained bodykit complemented by smoked glass, 17in alloy wheels and twin tailpipes. Inside the car, you should find a pair of deep leather and Alcantara bucket seats (expect the side bolsters to be mushy by now) and an alloy gear knob and pedals. Incidentally, if the gearlever has a long, loose-limbed throw, don’t worry. It’s what sales people would call a ‘characteristic of the car’. Put simply, they all do it and from day one, too. 

The ride should be on the uncomfortable side of firm. If it’s not, suspect the condition of the suspension bushes. Grip levels should be high, unless it’s running worn or cheap rubber. 

The 207 GTi isn’t a five-star hot hatch and, in truth, it’s probably not a four, either. But the beauty of cheap old motors like it is that such ratings are nothing compared with the simple pleasure of enjoying some thrills on the cheap – and cheap thrills are exactly what a Peugeot 207 GTi offers.

How to get one in your garage

An expert’s view

Greg Erskin, general manager, Ecosse: “I wouldn’t have a 207 GTI, certainly not one built before 2008, if you gave it to me. The timing chain tensioner is the big issue. It sticks or becomes weak, allowing the chain to slacken off, and then you’re in serious trouble. The other problem area is the cylinder head. Those on early cars were poorly machined and you’d get bits of metal dropping into the engine. Otherwise, things like the gearbox and suspension just suffer the usual wear and tear issues. The engine can be remapped for around £375 while a dump valve is a popular aftermarket add-on.”

Buyer beware

■ Timing chain tensioner: A weak spot on early cars. Listen for chain slap and other noises when the engine is cold and idling. Fresh oil is critical to tensioner life so check oil services have been performed on time (yearly or every 6000 miles). 

■ Carbon build-up: Listen for misfiring possibly caused by carbon build-up on the backs of the inlet valves. Premium unleaded fuel can help reduce accumulations. 

■ Turbocharger: Inspect the exhaust manifold, turbo housing and twin-scroll divide for hairline cracks. Check the compressor outlet pipe and, by removing the downpipe, the turbo housing for oil contamination, both indicating a worn turbo. 

■ Cooling system: Look for coolant leaks from the plastic thermostat housing. Fluid can pool on the top of the transmission. 

■ Gearbox: Feel for worn synchros on second and third and feel for the clutch slipping. 

■ Brakes, suspension and steering: The ABS pump is another weak spot so ensure the warning light isn’t on. Check pad and disc life and the MOT for advisories relating to droplinks, wishbones, gaiters and excessive steering play.

■ Bodywork: Expect dings and scrapes but be wary of uneven panel gaps. Blocked windscreen drains divert water to the fuse box, so check these are clear. 

■ Interior: Check all controls work and warning lights go out after engine start-up.

Also worth knowing

Given a GTi is no five-star hot hatch and likely to have been driven hard, you might be wise also to check out the 148bhp GT version. Doing so will boost the pool of cars to choose from and the bonus is that it comes with a glass roof. 

How much to spend 

£800-£1249: Mixed bag of cars and not all of them old nails, such as a 2007-reg car with 70,000 miles and good service history for £1195. 

£1250-£1799: More of the same, including a 2007-reg with 127,000 miles and the all-important timing chain and full service history for £1450. 

£1800-£2399: Some better cars from here, including a 2009-reg Octane special edition with 52,000 miles and full service history. 

£2400-£2999: Lower-mileage examples such as a 2008-reg with 37,000 miles and full history for £2950. 

One we found 

Peugeot 207 GTI, 2007/57- reg, 70,000 miles, £1195: If even a specialist wouldn’t have one if it were given to him, we’d be mad to part with £1195 for this car, but as prices go, it’s about right and it does have full service history plus a new alternator and timing chain fitted 3000 miles ago. 

Read more

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Comments
6

1 July 2019

Blimey, I don't think I've ever read a 'Used Car Buying Guide' article on a car with less to recommend it!

1 July 2019

So many mentions of cam chain tension being the reason not to buy a 207 so surely it's Autocar's duty to tell us how much replacing the tensioner would cost, thus, providing a bit of a 180hp bargin

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

1 July 2019

I've had one of these for the past 18months or so, after it was purchased from new by a relative and had been sparingly used. I had the chain and tensioner changed as a precation as it was a little rattly when cold. If i remember correctly it cost around £600. I understand that with regular servicing, and keeping an eye on the oil levels the engine is fairly reliable. Overall it's not a bad little hot hatch, it's had a remap, and has some new Michelin PS4s and it drives pretty well

1 July 2019

So about £200 more than a cam belt that needs changing every 5 years. No drama Autocar

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

1 July 2019

Was this engine shared with the Mk2 BMW MINI? Seem to remember similar issues with the MINI Cooper S.

1 July 2019

Yes I believe it's more or less the same as the N14/N18 engine used in the Mini

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