5

The Peugeot 207 hatchback is safely-played and as such lacks charm, verve and difference

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Peugeot is a clever company. While critics like us wail about the good old days of the 205 and 306, the French car-maker just quietly keeps knocking ’em out. The most conspicuous example of its success was the 206 supermini, launched in 1999 and, until 2005, the best-selling car in the UK for private money. We were never 206 fans; the car was some years past its best when Peugeot finally put it out to pasture. Nice business if you can get it.

Whether the 207 deserves a similarly comfortable ride is another matter. Peugeot built the 206 at its Ryton plant in Coventry, after all, but announced that the factory was due to close in the same year that the 207 was launched. Over night, a lot of British goodwill for Peugeot’s shopping hatchback evaporated.

The 207 is based on the Citroen C3 platform

The small hatch class had something of a reawakening in the 207’s launch year. The Renault Clio, Fiat Grande Punto and Toyota Yaris were all renewed, and each one deserved to be taken very seriously, offering much more competitive propositions to the marketplace than their respective predecessors. That left the 207 with a much more attritional existence, and a tougher fight for success, than its designers would have expected two years before launch, when its design must have been signed-off.

The 207 sits on an evolved version of the platform that started life in the Citroen C3 and comes with the usual range of petrol and diesel motors. And while its looks are modern (although from some angles often difficult to distinguish from other Peugeot products), there isn’t an unconventional bone in its body. Even the 206 went faintly against the grain with its use of trailing arm rear suspension, but now its successor is back in line with the torsion beam configuration used by almost everyone else.

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DESIGN & STYLING

Peugeot 207 headlight

The 207 is available in four trim levels and with six engine options. The three diesels look good on paper, but are quite expensive. There are roughly 90 horsepower powertrain options of both fuel types, for example, but if you want the 1.6 diesel instead of the 1.4 VTi petrol, it’ll cost you an extra £1300.

The basic 1.4-litre eight-valve petrol powerplant is gutless, making the natural choice (and inevitable best-seller) the 1.4-litre, 94bhp, 102lb ft 16-valve motor. Above that, Peugeot’s 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol, co-developed with BMW, looks appealing until you realize that it inflates the 207’s price to almost warm hatchback levels.

The 207 is a typically stylish small French hatchback, big grille notwithstanding

While there are also estate and coupe-cabriolet versions of the 207, spring 2007 brought an interesting addition to the range in the shape of a ‘GTi’ model. The 207 GTi largely shared its styling with the regular three-door ‘Sport’ 207 hatchback. Under the skin, changes were pretty minimal too. The body was no different from that of other 207s, while the front and rear tracks were slightly narrower by dint of wider wheels. But the springs and damper rates were different, as were other suspension components. And the car’s engine, developed jointly with BMW, was a 1.6-litre turbo with a relatively high specific output, that would spread far and wide across PSA’s new cars. In the GTi, it developed 173bhp and 180lb ft of torque.

But, like every 207, the GTI’s weight penalized it – and may partially explain why it failed to sell, and why Peugeot withdrew it from UK sale in 2010. 

The 207 is not only slightly bigger than the 206, but 150kg heavier – two hefty blokes’ worth of bulk. It would be startling indeed if the car could even match the performance of a 206 fitted with the same engine. Which is why Peugeot’s own figures show that the basic 1.4-litre 207 has poorer acceleration than its antecedent, and uses more fuel in all three official measures while pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere. Not a good start.

INTERIOR

Peugeot 207 dashboard

The 207’s cabin looks transformed in comparison to that of the old 206, but unless chrome instrument surrounds are your idea of innovation, you will struggle to find anything that breaks new ground in this interior.

Peugeot had obviously been stung by the relentless (and entirely justified) criticism of the 206’s driving position, and therefore ensured that no one would ever make such a complaint about a 207. Not only is the fundamental relationship between the pedals, seat and wheel as it should be, but the wheel also adjusts for both rake and reach.

This is how auto headlights should be: there’s the option on the column stalk to leave them off entirely

The driving environment is still disappointing. The black-on-white dials of the Sport version look dated, as does the centre console with its unattractive buttons, dials and slots. At least it is all trimmed in decent quality materials and gets a leather wheel and gearlever.

There’s good legroom, too, but only if you care little about the person sitting behind you. Four average-size adults will achieve reasonable comfort, but only a child will be happy to be the passenger behind a tall driver. Stowage space is limited, with nothing under the floor of the boot and a minuscule glovebox. At least it provides a couple of cup holders and map pockets.

Sadly, though, the 207’s cabin lacks versatility. While the rear seat is of a split-fold design and can be removed, it neither slides nor reclines, giving a take-it-or-leave it cabin configuration, not to mention a too-upright backrest.

The 207’s five-star Euro NCAP achievement is worthy of praise in a small car, and owners are likely to be just as impressed and reassured by the sense of solidity exuding from the whole car. Doors slam with a chunky thud, noise levels are well controlled and the whole car smacks of a quality no 206 owner would ever recognise. Having said that, the 207’s quality still isn’t distinguishing in a class now packed with even more expensively appointed models.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

1.6-litre Peugeot 207 petrol engine

Our own figures show that the 1.4 VTi 207 is capable of 0-60mph in 12.9sec and a top speed of 107mph: no more than reasonable performance for these times. 

The engine is one of Peugeot’s better units, with a wide spread of power. Despite its short gearing, the 207 is quite refined, with the engine a distant presence at a motorway cruise and wind and road roar well muted.

The brake pedal is far too sharp at the top of its travel

Don’t expect such rounded and mature performance from either of the entry-level engines. While the eight-valve 1.4 petrol takes almost 16sec to wheeze to 62mph, the even less powerful 1.4-litre HDI requires almost 17sec to do it. This is no major demerit: you can find Ford Fiestas and Volkswagen Polos that are equally slow. But for regular motorway or long distance commutes, you’ll want a more powerful version.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the 207’s performance spectrum, there is – or, at any rate, was - the GTi. This car easily outgunned its contemporary Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTi on power. It also, by virtue of having the same engine, had the same wallop as a Mini Cooper S. 

The 207 GTi cracked 60mph in 7.5sec during our 2007 road test - well short of Peugeot’s 7.1sec claim, but fairly fast in isolation, and hindered mainly by a rubbery, vague gearshift common with most manual 207s. The car cracked 100mph in less than twenty seconds, however, and was grippy and predictable enough in its handling to lap our wet handling circuit within a second of the laptime of VW’s more powerful Golf GTi.

The 207 GTi’s braking performance was also in keeping with a hot hatch. Its stopping times and distances were good, and the discs resisted fade well even on a hot, dry track. Shame, though, that the pedal didn’t have a better feel.

RIDE & HANDLING

Peugeot 207 cornering

The 207’s handling, like its cabin, is at once much better than 206 owners may expect, but a bit undistinguished in a wider class context. In town, its electric power steering system allows you to one-finger twirl the wheel into a parking space, suggesting that the same system might feel horrid at speed. In actual fact the wheel firms up nicely. And while there isn’t a lot of feel through the rim, we prefer Peugeot’s solution to electric steering markedly more than what Renault has chosen for the Clio, which feels remote and inert.

As you might expect, the 207 grips well, understeers gently and never does anything that might catch out even an over-enthusiastic teenager recently relieved of his L-plates. But nor, as you may also be suspecting, is there much in the way of fun to be had here. The chassis is poised and the steering accurate, but there’s no sense of being part of the action. 

Some of the 207’s driving controls disappoint. The steering wheel is too big and a tad slippy - not good for spirited driving

The same can even be said of the range-topping GTi. The car has an underlying dynamic competence, but lacks any lively interactivity or playfulness in its handling. Next to a Clio 197, it’s a decidedly ordinary car to drive.

At least the basic 207 rides fairly impressively; something we’re not always able to say about cars with that cheapest of suspension configurations – the front strut and rear torsion beam. The spring rates are distinctly on the soft side, but well-judged damping checks these. While the body is allowed to move quite a lot in corners and over undulating roads, those movements are well controlled. Only around town, where there’s too much pitter-patter over potholes, are the suspension’s limitations revealed.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Peugeot 207 2006-2012

In the 1.4-litre VTi 207, we achieved an overall fuel consumption figure of 36.2mpg during testing, which means owners should expect over 40mpg on a normal run out of town, with a realistic target being for around 350 miles of pump-to-pump range.

Going for either of the more economical diesels in the range may boost your cruising autonomy to more than 700 miles, with the 1.6-litre HDi boasting as much as 80.7mpg on the European extra-urban cycle

The 207's eco credentials are now looking dated

However, there is no such thing as a low-emissions 207; the most CO2-savving still emits 110g/km of carbon. And considering that other manufacturers now offer superminis emitting fully 20 grams less per kilometre, that looks pretty poor.

There’s no economy benefit in choosing Peugeot’s less powerful eight-valve 1.4-litre petrol engine rather than the sixteen-valve VTi. While the 74bhp lesser 1.4 is five groups cheaper to insure, we’d recommend spending the £400 extra on the more powerful engine if you can. It’s a decision that’ll pay dividends at the pump and elsewhere.

Peugeot’s entry-level 207s are quite meagre in their standard specification. You’ll pay extra for ESP and metallic paint on a basic 207, and only get an alarm, air conditioning system and Bluetooth if you move up the model walk.

Peugeot discontinued top-of-the-line GT-specification for the 207 in 2010. The current flagship ‘Allure’ version gets electric windows all round, air con, Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity; but cruise control, and alarm and ESP will cost you extra even here. Considering that some of these editions are £16k cars, that’s not exactly generous.

VERDICT

2.5 star Peugeot 207

We first suspected it with the Renault Clio, and the Peugeot 207 confirmed it: French hatchbacks have grown up. We know why: times change and manufacturers must adapt. The safety demands made of superminis are now so great that, if you’re going to achieve five precious EuroNCAP crash test stars, extra weight is hard to avoid.

But it’s still a shame that Peugeot hasn’t built a car that’s fun to drive. While the 207 is safe and reasonably easy on the eye, it’s dynamic performance is acceptable but dull. The car is easy- but forgettable-to-drive; competent but uninvigorating. And while that may not be a problem for so many supermini buyers, for those who flock to buy French cars in the hope of getting that certain disarming motive charm of old, it’ll come as a disappointment. The simple fact is, a Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2 or Suzuki Swift makes a much more zesty drive than a 207.

Competent and safe, but missing the final edge of driver involvement

Peugeot must at once be congratulated and criticized on the 207’s execution. While this car is a big step forward compared to the plasticky and palpably unpleasant 206 in terms of the material quality of its cabin, it’s still entirely unexceptional. Other superminis offer much livelier and more tactile driving environments. And with the likes of the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris injecting added practicality into the segment, Peugeot must not rest on its laurels the next time it lays out a compact cabin like this. Conventional no longer cuts it in this department.

Mark Tisshaw

mark-tisshaw-autocar
Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

Peugeot 207 2006-2012 First drives