Supermini shows its teeth

John Simister examines the Peugeot 207, a crucial model that should become a familiar sight on British roads
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Does this new small Peugeot look familiar to you? At first glance you might think it's a 206 face-lifted with the new Peugeot corporate nose, but it's rather more than that.

You're looking at the new 207, which complements the car that for several years in its almost eight-year career has been the best-selling car in Britain to retail buyers. Complements, not replaces: the 206 will continue for a while in a reduced range, which is good news for the Ryton, Coventry, factory that makes it (along with seven other factories worldwide). The 207 is a more modern, slightly bigger supermini which addresses the 206's shortcomings and aims to replicate its predecessor's success, never mind that of the 205, which was the car that made Peugeot the company it is today.

"We wanted to make the new car more dynamic," says Peugeot's design director, Gérard Welter. So the 207 has a stiffer structure and a wider wheel-track (the lateral distance between the wheels).

In fact it has the longest wheelbase and widest track of all the Peugeot-Citroën group's "platform one" cars, which range from the Citroën C2 at the smallest through the C3 and the sliding-doors Peugeot 1007.

The Peugeot CEO Frédéric Saint-Geours is adamant that the 207 has excellent roadholding. "The steering is very direct," he says, "with a good change of steering weight with cornering load. You will feel confident in this car. It's a proper Peugeot." Let us hope he is right, for such things have been among a small Peugeot's great strengths in the past.

The design is clearly an evolution of the 206 theme, but racier and more aggressive, with its vertically-sliced wheel-arches and striking front end. In fact there are two front ends, a "sporty" one with a bigger mouth, a more pronounced proboscis above it and fog-lights which intersect the mouth's edge, and a more restrained "classic" one. Model names for the UK are as yet unconfirmed, but in France there's to be an Urban entry-level model, a Trendy with better trim and equipment, a Premium with the "classic" face and a five-door body, and a Sport with three doors.

The initial range will later be topped by a 207 GT, available with three or five doors, fitted with a panoramic glass roof and powered by a 150bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. This is the first of the new direct-injection engines developed jointly by Peugeot-Citroën and BMW, destined also for the next-generation Mini. There will be a yet more powerful version later (the one used in the three-wheeler 20Cup concept car) plus some non-turbo versions that will use a version of BMW's throttle-less Valvetronic technology.

This venture with BMW is one of several Peugeot-Citroën co-operations, others being with Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi. The key to their success, says Saint-Geours, is "French flexibility" (he does allow himself a smile while saying this).

The other engines in the 207 range are based on familiar 206 units: 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol engines and similarly sized diesels. The steering has electric power-assistance, and some versions have auxiliary "cornering" headlights. The side-indicator repeaters are built into door-mirrors and, unusually for a European car, the fuel filler is on the left.

It's inside the 207 that the major improvements over the 206 are found. The textures look and feel more expensive, with a "technical" grain instead of fake leather and, except on the Urban model, padding for the top of the dashboard. This padded section seems to float above the rest of the facia, adding to the interior's perceived airiness.

The glovebox is large and, addressing the major complaint with the 206, the driving position is comfortable and multi-adjustable. Rear space is good, and the spare wheel now lives under the boot-mat instead of underneath the car. A scented diffuser, like that on the Citroën C4, will also be available.

The 207 is likely to feel firm and solid to drive, not least because it has put on 150kg over the 206, much as its Renault Clio arch-rival has become more corpulent than its predecessor. Small cars are growing up and, in the Peugeot's case, there was also a need to distance it from the new 107. We'll be road-testing this new 207 in March.

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