Model: Peugeot 207 Sport HDI 90 3-door
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Performance: 0-62 mph in 11.5 seconds, 62.7 mpg
Worth considering: Fiat Grande Punto, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris
Derek Simpson, the leader of the trade union Amicus, doesn't want you to buy this car. Here's why. Peugeot is closing its Ryton plant, near Coventry, which, until now has been building the 207's predecessor, the 206. Rather than manufacture the 207 here as well, it decided to save a few bob by shipping the replacement model in from a new plant in Slovakia. Mr Simpson blames liberal UK employment laws that allow companies to shut down operations here more easily than those in mainland Europe.
One feels for Mr Simpson's members, of course, but I'm not sure that a boycott is a very good idea, or that Peugeot is the right target. Ryton, the traditional home of the Rootes Group, which made Hillmans and the rest, could easily have closed back in the Seventies, when it was part of Chrysler's failing European operations. These were eventually acquired by Peugeot towards the end of that decade, and the plant always looked like a peripheral part of the post-takeover set-up, so it's probably a bonus that it has survived as long as it has.
And unlike some other big car-makers that have closed factories in this country, Peugeot has never really wrapped itself in the Union flag and traded on its partial Britishness to push sales of its cars. It just hasn't been necessary - British car buyers are probably the first genuinely post-patriotic consumers on the planet. For better or worse, we simply don't care where our cars are built, which is why a boycott probably wouldn't work.
So, if the 207 is going to stand or fall on the basis of its merits, not its country of origin or the advice of union leaders, we'd better identify what those merits are - and it's a fairly long list.
First, the 207 has the sort of interior-trim quality that owners of earlier Peugeots could only dream about. And it's roomy and comfortable, too, thanks to the tendency of each generation of car to be bigger than its predecessor. But the most impressive feature of our test car was its diesel engine. Smooth and strong, it also has some of the best fuel consumption and emissions figures around. The overall impression is of solid all-round competence.
And yet there's something missing. Small Peugeots used to have a zest and eagerness that infected every area of their behaviour. Testers always called for some of that zing to be injected into Peugeot's dull larger cars, but, instead, a bit of the stodge seems to have worked its way down the range. The smaller models now feel very grown-up, but rather ordinary as well.
Ben McDougall-Hutchins, 30, theatrical agent, High Wycombe
USUAL CAR: FORD FIESTA 1.25
When I saw the Peugeot 207 I was quite disappointed. It looks like any other small car with the headlights sitting on top of the bonnet. The problem is Peugeot have found a style that sells and there's no imagination or creativity. The inside was also quite uninspirational, although the seats were comfortable and it was roomy. But take away the shell and the car was pretty good. The ride was a little hard but it cornered well, the steering was light and acceleration was as you would expect of a sporty small car. The boot space was again average. The problem was nothing really made me go, "Wow". It's not a bad car by a long way but it's not brilliant either.
Alan Bartlett, 54, marketing manager, Witney, Oxfordshire
USUAL CAR: BMW 330CI M
First impressions are that the 207 is a bigger car than its predecessor. The build quality is good - not quite yet in VW's league - but better than in the past. For me, it was over-styled though. The three-door version has very long doors - great for access but I won't park next to one at Sainsbury's. On the plus side, the cabin and boot space were decently generous. On the road, the 1.6-litre diesel, while no doubt frugal, was positively unexciting. A bigger engine in what was a decent chassis would make it a better overall package. Driving the 207 wasn't a life-changing experience. Peugeot still has a way to go before the "drive of your life" strap line holds weight.
Adrian Manger, 52, chartered surveyor, Aston Upthorpe, Oxfordshire
USUAL CAR: MERCEDES C220 CDI SPORT
It's hard to believe this neat and lively sports hatch, whose quiet and flexible power unit punches well above its weight, is a diesel. There's plenty of torque as you pull away, through to comfortable motorway cruising in fifth gear at 70mph with ample top-end acceleration left if needed. My drive reinforced impressions of Peugeot's small-car range as cheap, cheerful and for young drivers, but it was a pleasant surprise to find this model also has a grown-up, solidly built feel. A well-trimmed interior, comfortable sports seats, good handling and lively but economical performance make up a good overall package.
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