Peugeot 207 1.4 Active (2009) Driving Impression

Peugeot 207

Judged against its predecessors, and coming as it does from a company that has such a proud tradition of making compact hatchbacks that offer both bags of charm and an engaging driving experience, the 207 must rate as somewhat of a disappointment to Peugeot fans the world over. Whereas it’s direct 205 and 206 predecessors were practical, but also nippy little runabouts, the Peugeot 207 1.4 Active tries to be a cushy, quasi-premium hatchback loaded with features.

Consequently, it is rather overweight, a factor that has counted heavily against it from the word go, because its 65 kW 1.4-litre engine was simply not up to the task. Now Peugeot has added variable valve timing to the engine, and upped the power and torque outputs to 70 kW and 136 Nm respectively. Has this put some fire into the little Lion's belly?

Subtle styling revisions

The engine upgrade coincides with the 207's mid-life refresh, but you'd be hard-pressed to notice the changes. The grille is subtly different, and the front-end also gains some fake air inlets lower down, supposedly to endow the little Peugeot's face with a hint of aggression. At the rear the lights have been neatened up, and now incorporate LEDs. To some extent the small changes are understandable, because the 207 has never been an unattractive car. This Active specification model boasts a neat exterior treatment, at least partly because the plastic wheel covers do a very good job of looking like proper alloy items!

The interior remains a mixed bag. First impressions are very good, because the upper section of the facia moulding is soft to the touch, and the aluminium trim surrounds for the ventilation outlets, audio system display and instrumentation dial look very convincing. In this latest model there have been further improvements - the controls for the ventilation system have been upgraded, for example - and there's a feeling of solidity about the cabin that is very comforting. However, starting poking the plastics lower down in the interior, and you'll notice a sharp dive in tactile quality.

Space up front is excellent and in typical Peugeot fashion the seats are almost over-sized "lounge" items. The driver's seat offers height-adjustment, and the steering wheel is rake/reach adjustable, so a comfortable driving position is very nearly a given for anyone. Unfortunately those seated in the back are less lucky - legroom is rather cramped and there are also no electric windows. That said, the overall specification level is not bad, with an audio system (with auxiliary input), air-conditioning, electric front windows, front and side airbags and even cruise control being included. The boot, by the way, is one of the bigger ones in this segment, and includes a full-size spare wheel.

Extra muscle?

Although Peugeot still offers less powerful (54 kW) 207 models equipped with 1.4-litre engines, this new variable valve timing-equipped number takes on such vehicles as the Mazda2, Hyundai i20 and Opel Corsa... cars that all pack around 70 kW. So, with 70 kW and 136 Nm of torque, the figures are certainly competitive.

Unfortunately, not much could be done to the 207's weight, so the new engine, extra muscle and all, doesn't really turn the 207 into a little robot racer. That's not the point, of course, but the fact that it still feels noticeably more lethargic than its main rivals, certainly is. As it stands, owners will have to use that five-speed manual transmission often to keep the engine on the boil, but this is no hardship, seeing as gearshifts are light and accurate. In faithful

Peugeot tradition, the shift action is rather long. The new engine does do exceptionally well in terms of fuel economy, with a figure of 5.9 litres/100 km not being entirely a pipe-dream. Normal day-to-day driving should see a figure of around 7 litres/100 km being achievable.

The 207 continues to impress with its ride refinement. It soaks up bumps like big Peugeot sedans of old, with the cabin remaining a quiet, comfortable place even when road conditions worsen. In that sense, it is a true Pug. But the weight and very comfort-oriented suspension do rob it of the agility that was the hallmark of cars such as the 205, 206 and even 306. There's a woolliness to the steering and a top-heavy feel that make the driver feel somewhat removed from the action. If this is not a priority to you, then you'll love the 207's serene driving experience.

Verdict

The new engine has brought little meaningful change to the 207 1.4. Yes, it's a bit more responsive low-down than before and the economy is very good indeed, but in character it remains a car that will mostly be enjoyed by a relaxed, unhurried driver. Of far more importance is the addition of a four-year/60 000 km service plan to the deal. That will go a long way to allaying any fears there may be when considering the purchase of a French car. Mindful of that particular addition, the 207 suddenly looks a great deal more attractive. It's very comfortable, well-specified, refined and economical. Fun is still not on the list, but there are many potential customers out there who won't care.

We like:

Refinement

Driving comfort

Facia design

Standard features

Service plan

We don't like:

Still down on power due to weight

Rear legroom is limited

Fast facts

Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol

Power: 70 kW @ 6 000 rpm

Torque: 136 Nm @ 4 000 rpm

Transmission: five-speed manual

Wheels: 15-inch steel

Top speed: 185 km/h

0-100 km/h: 11.5 seconds

Fuel economy: 5.9 litres/100 km

Also consider:

Mazda2 1.3 Dynamic:

More expensive, but then it also does boast extra features. The performance figures suggest it's not much nippier than the rest, but it feels more agile. Build quality is good, too.

Hyundai i20 1.4:

Very well-priced and already deservedly popular but ultimately not as comfortable and refined as the Peugeot, with especially road noise intruding. Lacks the Peugeot's features.

Toyota Yaris T3+:

A slightly smaller offering, and also has less power, but the performance is broadly similar to the other cars here. Feels noticeably more "lightweight" than the others but quality has proven to be good.

Comments