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Review: Peugeot 207 GTI

After selling Alton the Swift, and before i picked up the Roadster i test drove a lot of cars. One of them I came within a hair of purchasing, but it just didn’t happen. That one was a Peugeot 207 GTI.

Peugeot has a history of making damn cool little hot hatches like the 205 GTI and that’s kinda still used as the benchmark for what a hot hatch should be. I’ve driven a 205 GTI in the past and honestly, didn’t think much of it (handles like a go-kart but is built so badly it’s embarrassing) but that’s another story.

The 207 GTI is a few generations later, in a world where everything is now big, heavy and safe. You just can’t build small, lightweight cars like the 205 anymore…. not that it’s a bad thing, for the most part, but it does mean we now need to rely on more power and better design to do the same job.

Peugeot did OK on the design of the 207, it’s a decent car to look at. Although it does follow the same “big gaping fish mouth” design language of all their cars recently, its one of the least offensive on the eyes. The interior is spacious, clean, simple and easy to live with. The seats in the GTI are amazing, easily one of the best seats I have sat in. The GTI (but not the GT) gets a pair of large Recaro-style bucket seats trimmed in half leather, half Alcantara.

The 207 GTI is actually pretty well equipped considering its low price. Bucket seats, parking sensors, 18″ wheels, cruise control, metal pedals, trip computer, auto dimming mirror, and dual climate control are all included standard.

Back seat space was standard 3 door hatch stuff, not much room for legs or heads (plenty of space for torsos though), and the boot was an OK size; far better than Alton but nothing on the Fit.

The most interesting part though is the engine. It’s shared with a car that everyone seems to love; the R56 Mini Cooper S. The engine is the Prince 1.6L twin-scroll turbocharged 4 cylinder, jointly developed by BMW and PSA Peugeot Citroen, shoving out about 175hp through a 5-speed manual gearbox (which is slightly odd as the Mini uses a 6-speed manual gearbox). The gear shift has a typical Pug feel to it, a long throw with not much feel. It does the job but feels out of place in such a modern, high spec hot hatch. It would probably be more at home in the 205 GTI.

Unfortunately being shared with the Mini also means the engine shares the same design flaws and common failures that the Mini has. The main ones are a leaking oil feed to the turbo, which requires replacement of the hard-line (which the car I tested suffered from), and a design flaw with the timing chain system meaning the engine can go out of time and cause all sorts of issues (this is a cluster of issues, from stretched chains and worn guides to a crappy design of the crank pulley where it isn’t on a keyway and is only held in place with the friction of a well torqued bolt).

Despite their issues they are great fun to drive. Lots of low down punch of the quick spooling turbo makes for a lot of fun around town. That quick and low punch does mean it sacrifices top end power, but it’s far from slow anyway. Other than the sloppy shifts, the gearbox is well geared and cruises well open the open road.

The  standard exhaust makes a nice throaty sound, and will pop and crackle on overrun or when you blip the throttle at idle; I found myself blipping the throttle a lot whilst waiting at intersections just to hear the pop and crackle.

The handling is sharp, and direct with an OK feel through the steering wheel. Such a short wheelbase results a nice nimble, almost chuckable feel to the car. Around town its a bit harsh, thumping over all the bumps in our rubbish roads, but on the open road it’s comfortable and effortless to cruise along in. It would benefit from a little lowering to bring the centre of gravity down, but I suspect that would just make the harness around town even worse.

The one I test drove was in a lovely shade of metallic blue and with low kilometers on the clock it was in great shape.

Just as a side note, there is also a 207 GT, which has the same styling as the GTI externally, but only gets a 150hp version of the Prince engine, and no bucket seats but does gain a pretty cool panoramic glass roof.

I enjoyed driving it and took it for a couple of test drives, but in the end i just couldn’t pull the trigger on it. Something was holding me back, and I’m still not sure what it was. Maybe it was my subconscious trying to stop me buying a French car.

They are great value for money, especially when compared to the over-priced Cooper S. The styling is a bit Marmite, but it does grow on you. As long as you get a mechanical warranty, the are a good buy and a lot of fun.

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