Peugeot 1007

 

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Price: £12,600 as tested
Maximum speed: 117mph, 0-60 in 11.8 secs
Combined fuel economy: 42.8 mpg
Further information: 0845 200 1234

I have been trying to get hold of a Peugeot 1007 for roughly an eternity. In a last desperate roll of the dice, I sold my house, moved to Paris and rented an apartment just around the corner from the Peugeot HQ on the Avenue de la Grand Armée, but to no avail. My calls and emails remained unanswered. I contemplated a self-immolation protest, but, as a last resort, I rang the head of PR. "Well," he conceded, "if my memory serves me correctly, your article last year was particularly critical of all our cars, not just the 607, saying that we did not make any good ones. Perhaps that could be clouding their judgment a little."

The penny dropped. I checked again and it's true: it seems I have never had a good word to say about Peugeots. The first 607 I borrowed broke down; I hated the 407 saloon and said so. I think in one article I might even have mentioned Agincourt.

Though I have met with a, let's say, frosty response to criticism of other company's cars in the past (I suspect, for instance, that Land Rover, in revenge for that spiteful Range Rover Sport review the other week, may have launched a covert operation to drive me insane by switching my iPod for one with a faulty dial), to their great credit they have continued to lend me test vehicles. I suppose car companies would be well within their rights to withhold cars from journalists if they were too beastly/honest, but an actual ban was a first. Where would it all end? Would I have to adopt a code of sly euphemisms in the manner of 1950s Hollywood gossip columnists (for "the energetic bachelor Rock Hudson", read "BMW's 1-series has some packaging issues"), like certain members of the "proper" motoring press whose livelihoods depend on good relations with the car companies for their pre-launch scoops and their magazines' advertising revenue?

Finally, I prised a 1007 from the Peugeot press garage, but this left me in a potentially tricky position. Praise it and it would look as if I were a snivelling Milquetoast; dish out another pummelling and I would never be allowed to drive a Peugeot again. As it turned out, there are some good things to say about the 1007, and some less so.

Its electric sliding doors are brilliant... if it's not raining. They open and close at the push of a button; they allow unparalleled ease of access; you can drive with them open and pretend you are in a helicopter flying over the Mekong Delta; and, of course, you can park in narrow spaces. Unfortunately they take six seconds to close. Count 'em. Now imagine it's raining really hard and you're wearing a linen suit. Plus they weigh 42kg each, which makes it feel as if the car has two bags of cement strapped to the side. Yes, it is ugly, but in an endearingly functional way, so that's a plus really, and the interior is immensely practical with its sliding rear seats and warren of cubby holes in which to lose your techy gadgets. But I'm less happy about the lack of puff from the engine, and the fact that, despite the truncated rear, the 1007 is really tricky to park because you can't see the front overhang. On balance, then, it is a brave try but there are just too many niggles.

Does this queer my pitch with Peugeot? I hope not - there are essential issues of democratic free speech at stake. And, besides, I'd like to try the new 407 Coupé soon.

To be continued... Or not.

It's a classic: Peugeot 205 GTi

For all my carping about the current crop of Peugeots, I have to say that I am not alone. In Top Gear's survey of 76,000 viewers, they filled three of the bottom ten rankings of 159 cars on sale in the UK, including "worst car" for the 806. That said, the company has built some crackers over the last two decades. It has, for instance, dominated the small, sporty hatch market since its now iconic 205 GTi in 1984.

With its perfectly balanced chassis and, after a couple years, more powerful engine, the 205 GTi epitomised the best of the "hot hatch" breed. It was a boy racer's dream, scaring parents and insurance companies silly in the process. With a top speed of 121mph and 60 arriving in just 7.8 seconds, the 205 GTi bought the kind of performance to the masses which, a decade earlier, had been the preserve of sports cars. It was easy to place on the road, agile and light. Even better, the 205 was just as practical as the shopping car on which it was based. Much missed.

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