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Car reviews - Peugeot - 307 - XSE HDi

Our Opinion

We like
Steering, improved quality, silky auto, acceleration, quietness
Room for improvement
Accelerator pedal placement, no left footrest, ride lacks 306 suppleness

20 Sep 2006

THESE days we’re jumping in and out of more turbo-diesels than petrol cars.

They seem to be everywhere and even though they still only account for just 2.5 per cent of the overall passenger car market importers and local car-makers are slowly realising that once buyers turn to diesel, it’s hard to get them back to petrol.

Diesel sales have doubled this year and on the back of the volatile recent history of petrol prices, more and more people are realizing the benefits of turbo-diesel technology, namely incredibly good fuel economy, despite the fact that it’s slighter dearer at the pump than petrol.

In the Pug 307 HDi auto combined fuel economy is 6.7L/100km, which suggests a long highway trip will see economy dip well below 5.0L/100km.

A big sticking point however, was that until recently many brands only specified a manual gearbox when you ordered a diesel.

That has quickly changed and with more than 80 per cent of small cars sold being automatics, Peugeot has been quick to address the lack of an automatic in its 307 HDi range by slipping the Aisin six-speed tiptronic auto from the 407 sedan and coupe into its diminutive hatch.

It has been a year since the facelifted Pug 307 went on sale, gaining some modest styling tweaks and improved trim and equipment levels. Importantly too, the facelift address some quality issues with the previous model.

The newest 307 has proven popular, selling 2590 in year-to-date terms, significantly up from 1669 hatches and wagons sold over the same period last year, an increase of 55 per cent, while overall Peugeot sales are up 25 per cent over last year.

Interestingly, 35 per cent of 307 sales this year have been diesel. This compares to 23 per cent last year and 12 per cent in 2004.

Adding the six-speed auto to the HDi lineup is destined to help lift this number further.

We’ve experienced the silky smooth changes of the six-speed auto in the 407 coupe and the sedan but the hatch provides something of a revelation.

Because of the car’s relatively light weight compared to its bigger siblings – 1438kg in the XSE HDi – and well match ratios, the 307 HDi auto is something of a minor road rocket.

Peugeot quotes a zero to 100km/h time of 11.4 seconds for the six-speed manual 307 XSE HDi but the auto felt faster and that crucial overtaking range of 80km/h to 110km/h is dispatched very quickly. Peugeot claims from 80km/h to 120km/h takes 8.5 seconds.

The 307 HDi auto also excels around town. Even at low-speeds, where some of the newer generation diesels are off turbo boost and only hit their straps beyond 2000rpm, the Pug responded quickly. Again the ratios were well matched to take advantage of the low-speed torque of the diesel.

The common rail 2.0-litre HDi engine is fitted with a Garrett variable geometry turbo and the latest piezo injectors.

The engine develops 100kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at 2000rpm and on the four highest gears, the torque rises to 340Nm at 2000rpm thanks to an overboost function on the turbo that activates at full engine loads between 1750rpm and 3200rpm. A particulate filter takes care of harmful emissions.

So what’s not to like about the HDi auto?

Very little. Unlike some of its rivals, the HDi engine is quiet, smooth and responsive the steering well weighted and provides plenty of feedback the gearbox silky and well matched to the engine’s torque characteristics, while the sequential shift is handy for wannabee boy – and girl - racers.

Quality too seems to have been improved since we drove the previous 307 model.

Some issues continue to annoy us though. The clapper windscreen wipers are set up for left-hand drive, leaving a broad unswept area down the driver’s side A-pillar and the trip computer and radio controls are fussy and require some familiarisation.

And although the 307’s ride is good at higher speeds, it has nowhere near the low-speed suppleness of the old 306. On rougher roads around town and over corrugations the suspension will transmit some noise and road shock into the cabin.

Inside the cabin is spacious and well equipped and equipment levels are the same as the XSE petrol, except the HDi gains ESP and traction control. These two proven safety devices that are expected to roll out in the petrol-engined 307s soon.

Equipment levels include dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, brake assist, 16-inch alloys, full-size spare, cruise control, height and reach adjustable steering, climate control air conditioning, six-speaker CD stereo, trip computer, and front and rear foglights.

The HDi auto is a $2200 premium over the manual but it is an ideal fit with the diesel. Compared to the petrol four-speed auto, the HDi auto will set buyers back $3600. However, as Peugeot rightly points out, come trade-in time, the HDi will have a solid retained value.

Perhaps the only continuing worry with diesel cars here is that the available pumps are usually filthy and more suited to a truck-stop than a modern service station.

When the first oil company realizes there’s money to be made from providing a clean diesel filling environment for cars it’ll be on a winner.

The Pug 307 HDi auto’s saving grace is that it will go for a long way before you have to succumb to the need for fuel.

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