Europe’s superminis have never really taken off in South Africa, mostly because of a perceived lack of value. You see, importing from Europe is expensive, and South Africa’s domestic manufacturers used the opportunity this presented to develop entry level cars from previously discontinued models. These cars were almost always bigger than the superminis offered for slightly more cash, and resultantly have been seen to offer more “metal for the same or less money”.
Now that the likes of Mazda’s Midge, the Ford Tracer, Fiat Palio, Toyota Conquest and VW Citi have (or will soon) gone the way of the Dodo, the European supermini may finally have its day. We test a quirky newcomer from Peugeot to find out whether this is indeed the case.
Super compactMeasuring in at just over 3.4 metres in length, the Peugeot 107 X-Line is certainly a tiny tot. It boasts very short front and rear overhangs, but even with the little 14-inch wheels pushed to the corners, the wheelbase remains relatively short at 2.34 metres. As a side note, it is interesting to note that the 107 was co-developed with the Citroen C1 and Toyota Aygo, and that all three cars are built in the same factory in the Czech Republic. The three cars are pretty much identical underneath, but all three manufacturers have endeavoured to give their products a look that is in line with the rest of their line-ups.
Peugeot has been particularly successful in that regard. The 107’s headlamps are oversized and the front grille takes the shape of a large, smiling mouth, lending the 107 a cartoonish face. At the rear the tail lamps are similarly oversized, taking up almost the entire C-pillar, while the tinted rear window doubles as a tailgate. The slightly flared wheelarches give the 107 some cheeky visual muscle.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Peugeot has managed to squeeze five doors out of this small package. And even more impressive is the fact that the cabin does not come across as being too cramped, even for four adults. Legroom is acceptable in the rear for such a small car, and headroom is sufficient for adults, too. Of course, the boot is really very small and only suitable for a few shopping bags. Then again, the 107 was never developed to be anything but a compact city runabout.
The car’s dashboard is similarly quirky to the exterior. There’s an oversized speedometer behind the steering wheel, with a separate, pod-like rev-counter situated near the A-pillar. The heating/ventilation controls use clever vertical guides and some of the buttons are finished in an almost see-through type of plastic that light up when the headlamps are switched on. The sound system is a neat, fully integrated system.
This Peugeot 107 X-Line model is currently the flagship of the 107 range, and features no fewer than four airbags, ABS, air-conditioning and electric windows. The mirrors are still adjusted manually, but this is no hardship seeing as the car’s cabin is so compact – they’re hardly a massive stretch away. The steering wheel lacks any adjustment, but the set driving position is a good one.
Perky performanceFire up the tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, give it some revs and you may be surprised by the sporty exhaust note. The engine delivers only 50 kW and 93 Nm of torque, but it’s certainly a willing little unit. Remember also that it only has to lug 830 kg of metal and plastic around, so the power/weight ratio is not completely atrocious. The engine is mated with a five-speed manual transmission that delivers light and accurate shifts.
Overall, the performance is impressive. It’s not the quickest off the mark, but once up and running the power delivery is impressive and linear in nature. The 0-100 km/h dash takes 13.7 seconds, but more important than this is the fact that the 107 doesn’t struggle to keep up with swift-moving traffic. It is also very economical – 4.6 litres/100 km is excellent in anyone’s book.
Peugeot is highly regarded for its ability to develop cars that strike a near-perfect compromise between ride and handling. Achieving such a delicate balance with a small car is, however, far more difficult. Still, it has done well. Although the ride is on the firm side, the suspension appears to boast plenty of travel, so bigger bumps are impressively “erased”. It only gets a trifle unsettled on rippled surfaces. Oh, and for parents who may be looking to buy a first car for their university bound child, the 107’s standard safety systems (ABS, EBD, four airbags), will be a massive reassurance at this price level.
VerdictThis particular example of the Peugeot 107 X-Line is quite expensive, even though the standard equipment and overall quality of the vehicle go a long way to justifying the price. It will be interesting to see whether it can lure South Africans out of slightly bigger, slightly cheaper cars that offer fewer features (particularly with regards to safety items). For shoppers looking for an economical, safe and fun-to-drive city runabout, the 107 deserves serious consideration.
Passenger space (given the size)
We don’t like:
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol
Power: 50 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 93 Nm @ 3 600 rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
Wheels: 14-inch alloy
Top speed: 157 km/h
0-100 km/h: 13.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 4.6 litres/100 km
Silly name apart, this budget-friendly Clio is a winner. It may lack ABS, which is a big disappointment, but there are two airbags, air-con, an audio system, electric windows and power steering. Plus, it’s nice to drive.
At about R10 000 less, the Yaris is a very strong contender. It is a bigger car overall, but keep in mind it offers only three doors. Safety wise it is a strong package, with two airbags and ABS as standard, but it lacks air-conditioning and an audio system.
A very likeable car that feels less entry level than you may think. A driver’s airbag and ABS are standard, but there’s no radio. Still, an aftermarket item is not too expensive and the price is very attractive.