The all new range of Peugeot 207 three and five door ‘supermini’ hatchbacks was launched in November last year and during that introductory stage of its life it sold in 15% higher numbers than the 206 range did after its launch.
The 207, say Peugeot, has had much to do with their overall UK sales success this year, sales up 6% in October and 1% year to date in a new car market that is down by over 3%. Their fleet and business-user sales are up by 20% in a very competitive market. Currently private buyers account for 53% of 207 sales and the range has now taken the place of the 206 range in the UK’s top ten sales chart. Peugeot expects the 207 to become the UK’s number one retail selling car, just as the 206 range was at its prime.
To date the only ‘sporting’ 207 models have been the 1.6 HDi 110 GT three and five door diesel models. Given that Peugeot, and the parent company PSA, are strong in the field of diesel engine technology introducing diesel powered GT variants before petrol models is unusual but understandable.
Now a GT petrol powered three-door model is added to the range and goes on sale during November priced at £14,345. No five-door version for the UK market is planned.
In a full year of UK sales, once the 207 range is complete next year with the addition of a GTI hatchback, CC coupe and cabriolet, and SW estate models, total annual sales of the 207 should be in the region of 90,000 units.
The new GT model is only expected to account for 2% of that total and the more powerful GTi model, due in the second quarter of 2007, should take up to 5% of total 207 sales.
The proper title of the newcomer is 207 GT THP 150. Yes really. THP refers to Turbo High Performance for their new turbocharged direct injection petrol engine. Peugeot say this is in keeping with their use of HDi, High Pressure Direct Injection for diesel engines. The use of 150 refers to the bhp power output.
The new 1.6-litre engine is one of a number of all-new petrol units that have been developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and the BMW Group. PSA manufacturer the components and build their engines in Douvrin, France whilst BMW use the same source for components and build their engines for MINI at Hams Hall near Birmingham.
We have just seen two versions of these new ‘cooperative’ 1.6-litre petrol units in the new MINI. One is a non-turbo 120bhp unit for the Cooper and a twin scroll turbocharger and intercooler 175bhp engine for the Cooper S.
Peugeot use another version of the engine for the 207 GT. This has the same 1.6-litre capacity with a twin scroll turbocharger but no intercooler and with a power output of 150bhp.
The forthcoming Peugeot 207 GTi, due next year and scheduled to make its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, will use the same 175bhp unit as the MINI Cooper S.
Next year Peugeot will also replace their own aging 1.6-litre petrol engine with the new PSA/BMW 1.6-litre, non-turbo, 120bhp unit as used for the MINI Cooper. At the same time Peugeot will offer an automatic transmission option for 207 models with this engine.
A new 1.4-litre 100bhp petrol engine from the same source will be added to the Peugeot 207 and MINI range next year.
The new Peugeot 207 GT THP 150 will compete for ‘warm’ hatch sales against the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, the new Mini Cooper and the Renault Clio Dynamic S but it has a higher level of standard specification and it is faster than all of them with a top speed of 131mph. The 0-62mph acceleration time is 8.1 seconds and only the lighter and smaller Fiesta ST betters that at 7.9 seconds. Overall fuel economy for the 207 GT THP 150 is officially 40.3mpg but during the UK media’s first drive this week around the roads of Warwickshire the newcomer returned 30.1mpg. The solid construction and in-built safety features and specification of the 207 do give it a weight penalty.
The three door 207 GT THP 150 carries no exterior GT badging to differentiate it from its fellow 207 three-door models and it has identical specification to the diesel GT HDi model.
Standard specification includes, a Thatcham Class One alarm, auto lights and wipers, folding electric door mirrors, electrically operated windows, panoramic glass roof, central door locking with deadlocks, climate control, half leather interior trim, stereo radio and CD player polished alloy control pedals, an electronic stability programme, anti-lock braking, tyre deflation sensors, 17-inch alloy road wheels, front, side and curtain airbags. Like all 207 models the newcomer has a five-star adult occupant Euro NCAP safety rating with four stars for child occupant protection and three stars for pedestrian safety.
To accommodate the extra performance of the new turbocharged engine the front suspension has stronger flexible mountings to maintain front wheel alignment under acceleration and braking loads. The stiffness of the rear suspension torsion beam has been increased by 12.5% compared with the GT HDI diesel model. The damping rates have also been changed front and rear. The electronic power steering has also been tweaked to cope with the extra performance and to maintain the 207s reputation for precise and predictable handling.
Star of the show is the new engine. This really is a unit that gives the same driving pleasure associated with high torque only normally found with turbocharged diesel engines. The power is directly comparable with larger 2.0-litre petrol engines thanks to new engine and turbocharger technology. This is the first range of 1.6-litre petrol engines to use twin scroll turbochargers and they eliminate almost entirely turbo-lag. Being a direct injection petrol unit gives more power anyway and less emissions with the possibility of good fuel economy, but it is the torque that is impressive.
With the engine producing just 1,000rpm, little more than tickover, torque is 116lb ft and maximum torque of 177lb ft is reached at only 1,400rpm. This remains up to 3,500rpm with 153lb ft still available at 5,000rpm. So it is torque rather than bhp that impresses. This makes for a really responsive drive at all speeds but it is especially useful for the mid-range driving performance, getting past slower moving traffic at 50 to 70mph for example without having to change up and down the gearbox to keep the engine in its optimum power band. This high torque at low speeds is also brilliant for travelling in heavy traffic as a fairly high gear can be used, again without the need for constant gearchanges.
We were promised that the new generation of direct injection petrol engines would become just as user friendly as new direct injection turbo diesel units and these new PSA/BMW units prove that is the case. The downside is that still petrol cannot match diesel for overall fuel economy – yet.
Overall the performance of this additional Peugeot 207 offers driving refinement rather than out and out ‘hot hatch’ speed. Torque-steer is evident but predictable and the 207 GT’s handling is sharp with plenty of grip during cornering. It feels nose heavy under braking at times. It would also benefit from a new generation gearbox. This one is rather old-school Peugeot, not as precise as the one on offer in the new MINI. It has a rubbery feel to the gearchange, it does not offer slick changes and once at cruising speed a sixth speed would be give a more relaxed drive.
Until the GTi variant comes along you can still warm up your 207 driving experience with this very competent offering.
MILESTONES. Peugeot 207 GT THP 150 3-Door.
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve direct injection petrol with twin scroll turbocharger, 150bhp and 177lb ft of torque at 1,400rpm.
Performance: 131mph, 0-62mph 8.1 seconds, 40.3mpg (30.1mpg actual), CO2 166g.km,
Insurance group: 11E.
For: Great engine, flexible high torque output, good handling, fun to drive, good equipment levels.
Against: Still not a GTi, long-throw, rubbery gearchange, could do with a sixth gear for motorway cruising.