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Peugeot 207 S
safer, stronger, better built and sweeter to drive. These are the claims Peugeot makes of its all-new 207, a supermini with a very tough act to follow. An incredible 5.4 million 206 models have been sold worldwide in the last eight years, so is that success going to continue?

After driving the 207 on its launch in France (issue 902), Auto Express is now the first magazine to put what is arguably the most important new car of the year through its paces on British roads.

One of the model's most striking attributes is its size. The newcomer is much bigger than the 206, which Peugeot will continue to sell as a smaller and cheaper alternative. Dimensionally, the 207 is virtually identical to the old 306 family hatchback, although it looks like a slightly inflated 206. And that's the first drawback - the styling doesn't move the game on very much.

It's similarly proportioned and uses virtually identical styling cues, but they have been exaggerated by a gaping grille, large front badge and vast headlight lenses. The blistered wheelarches and pronounced side sills are all-new, though, and they help to give the 207 a solid stance on the road. It just isn't a very exciting car to look at.

Nor is it that well packaged. Rear seat space is modest (kneeroom in par-ticular is tight) and the 270-litre boot is average for the supermini class.

Passengers don't have a lot of room, due to the space taken up by all the safety kit. On the upside, the 207 has already been awarded five stars for occupant protection, four for child safety and three for pedestrian impact in Euro NCAP crash tests. These results


make it the safest supermini on sale. That's very reassuring, but what most people will notice first is the improved driving position. Reach adjust has been added to the steering, and larger seats make it easier to get comfortable.

With chrome round the dials and a central digital display, the upper part of the dash is well trimmed and designed. However, the heating controls look and feel distinctly budget, while the glovebox is on the small side.

The 16-valve 1.4-litre engine is better, producing 90bhp and a healthy 133Nm of torque. Yet even in three-door guise, the 1,139kg 207 isn't that light. As a result, acceleration is modest, with 0-60mph in 12.7 seconds.

At least the powerplant is relatively smooth and suitably insulated, even if the five-speed manual transmission has a mushy shift. The driving experience, though, is every bit as crisp as we had hoped. Despite being quite firm, the suspension is never uncomfortable, even on rough B-roads.

Add steering that weights up well, great grip plus fine chassis poise, and the Peugeot is neat, controlled and quick round bends. It's not outstandingly agile or sharp, but satisfies keen drivers while remaining smooth and manageable for everyone else.

Prices are broadly in line with rivals, and range from ?8,995 for the entry-level 1.4 8v Urban to ?15,345 for the GT HDi 110. The 1.4 S driven here costs ?10,295. So is the 207 up to the task of challenging the Renault Clio and Fiat's Grande Punto for class honours? As long as buyers aren't after anything too radical, the Peugeot looks set to match the success of its predecessor.
Oliver Marriage
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