Car reviews - Peugeot - 207 - HDi XT 5-dr wagon
Styling, cargo area, performance, economy, low CO2 emissions, practicality, size, handling
Room for improvement
Some diesel clatter, rubbery gearshift, seems expensive, no stability control
6 Jun 2008
NICHE and easy does it.
The Peugeot 207 Touring HDi is a light-car first and foremost, but also a premium one, a wagon and a diesel too.
Not your mainstream carryall, then.
In this age of global warming and skyrocketing oil prices, it is tempting to consider a small family car that returns 5.0L/100km and 131g/km of CO2 emissions over, say, a petrol-powered Subaru Forester, which is similar money at $30,000.
But would you? Could you?
The number of like-priced rivals for the Peugeot runs well into double digits, covering everything from a Holden Astra CDTi to a SsangYong Actyon Xdi. It’s also the only diesel-powered light-car wagon available here if you discount the Skoda Roomster space cadet.
Not that the 207 Touring is everyday looking.
The tail-lights that envelope around the side of the car are massive, pointing to a very Mercedes A-class-style C-pillar design that helps give the petite Peugeot a soupcon of class, while the 207’s face could pass as a barfly from the Mos Eisley Cantina bar scene in the original Star Wars.
And if you’re not familiar with Peugeot’s recent form of vast dashboards with a windscreen base that is far, far away, then that is kinda out there too.
But it all works well, this spacious interior, with its smart symmetry, unexpected solidity – and appealing silliness of having a full-sized glass roof with variable tinting ability and an electrically operated sunblind that brings the joys of more light into an already attractive interior.
The black-on-white instrument facing is attractive and sporty, while the elf-ear like outboard dash vents – finished in a cool carbon-fibre like trim that also swathes the centre console and mimicked by the cloth seat pattern design – leaves the beholder in no doubt of the modernness and aspiration of the 207.
Some minor details of note include an okay audio system that is somewhat fiddly at first, a fussy trip computer layout and a lovely steering wheel.
Flat in feel initially but fine once accustomed to them, the front seats offer plenty of adjustment for an ideal driving position. Their head restraints can be tilted to aid comfort. And there is ample rearward travel for taller folk.
But the back seat is really only suitable for two people – with the centre spot spoiled by a lack of width and legroom. Having no fold-down armrest is not too bad, but the lack of cupholders back here seems like a wilful oversight on behalf of the French.
As a small wagon though, the 207 Touring really shines.
The rear seats fold in one easy step into a low, flat bed. The tailgate lifts either as a small window or a large door to reveal a gaping aperture that makes loading and unloading a dream.
And aiding this little car’s cargo carrying capabilities is a bevy of load hooks, load straps and storage compartments. We also give the 100kg-capacity parcel shelf a big thumbs up.
But the driving experience... well, it’s mostly impressive, and a tad disappointing too.
On one hand, the 1.6-litre HDi engine is quite a noisy little thing, and is audible at idle or from outside the car. There is no escaping its diesel din – which is a shock after the eerie silence of the 207’s 308 HDi bigger (and newer) brother.
None of this matter once you’re on the move. Put your foot down in anger and the front tyres will break traction because there is so much torque channelling through them. An overboost feature allows that figure to jump from a maximum of 240Nm to 260Nm.
With a healthy 80kW of power, there is no denying the easy everyday driveability that this versatile engine offers. In atypical diesel fashion, it will even rev, and sound quite sporty doing it.
Not a powerhouse, then, this 1560cc unit boasts a performance delivery that is more like a strong undercurrent than an out-and-out sledgehammer.
Nowhere is this more so than on the highway. Armed with the excellent optional cruise/speed-limiter control set at the required altitude, this thing flies down the road with a regal authority rare in baby cars.
And it is remarkably frugal – 6.5L/100km was our average over city and highway driving – and wins us over with its smoothness and flexibility once on the move. Peugeot includes a particulate filter, so you’re unlikely to find a cleaner wagon to boot.
On the subject of boots, we’re inclined to stick one in since Peugeot can’t build a consistently nice five-speed manual gearbox. The 207’s feels loose and sticky. And why can’t one of the world’s oldest car-makers offer a six-speeder anyway?
We also think that the lack of an automatic gearbox is a shame, especially after sampling the 2.0 HDi unit in the 308.
The suspension feels nicely tied down, with an amply absorbent ride quality available. This is one area in which the 207 beats its bigger sister.
And the steering feels fairly sharp, offering smooth and linear handling with plenty of grip on tap. On dirt roads, the Peugeot tracked straight and true, and pulled up from high speed with absolutely no fuss. Too bad ESC stability control is AWOL though.
The 207 Touring HDi makes for an interesting, frugal and low-emission alternative to a compact SUV or a mid-sized wagon like a Mazda6 – and it’s also a little bit cheaper.
But with the Skoda Octavia TDI breathing down its neck with ESP and other attractions starting from $31,990, we can’t help but think that Peugeot hasn’t sharpened its pencil enough with the Touring’s pricing.
We’re afraid that it is this – and the lack of a diesel automatic – that will keep the Touring HDi from becoming anything other than a niche-playing curio.
Imagine how much better traffic would be if all those 3.00pm school-run SUVs were replaced by cars like this?
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