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Peugeot 207 1.4 HDi

They know about diesel, but not enough about noise reduction...

They know a thing or two about diesel engines at Peugeot – the firm’s HDi technology is well established, and the stunning diesel-engined 908 prototype has just won the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race.

The 1.4-litre unit in our 207 Sport is essentially the same as the engine in the Fiesta, but how does the Peugeot fare against its Ford and Renault rivals?

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The 207 was launched in 2006 with styling that was an evolution of the successful 206, and is undoubtedly looking a little old these days. A makeover is in the pipeline – and it can’t come soon enough, as the car’s lines aren’t as cohesive or as sharp-edged as the Ford.

The Peugeot is longer and taller than the Fiesta, and has a longer wheelbase – but this doesn’t provide an advantage in terms of interior space. Rear passengers don’t get as much legroom as they do in the Fiesta, while the 270-litre boot capacity is the smallest of the trio. Things don’t improve much up front, either. Even though the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, there isn’t the same sense of space around the driver as you get in the Ford. Plus, as with the exterior, the layout is showing its age.

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While the top section of the dash is neatly designed and made of high-quality textured material, the rest of the interior is old fashioned. Much of the design is similar to the 206 – prime examples are the gearlever, heater and stereo controls, which look and feel cheap. The sweeping A-pillars cause blind spots, too, and none of the controls has the Fiesta’s delicate, near-perfect weighting.

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Add to the mix a flimsy and uncooperative gearshift, and the 207 isn’t as easy to live with around town or as fun to drive on the open road as its younger rivals. Plus, despite having the same engine as the Ford, at the test track the car was 1.1 seconds slower from 0-60mph, with a time of 15.5 seconds. It’s not as responsive in-gear, either.

This difference can be accounted for by the fact that the Peugeot is 213kg heavier than the Ford. In contrast, the Clio has an extra 18bhp and 40Nm of torque, so the 207 is outclassed when it comes to performance. The Renault accelerates from 50-70mph in fifth in 11.9 seconds – that’s 4.2 seconds faster – so you will have to change down through the gears much more in the 207.

Crucially, engine noise isn’t isolated from the cabin very well, either, and both rivals are more refined than the Peugeot on the move. However, there’s evidence that the company’s established reputation for creating great-handling cars lives on. The 207’s steering is accurate, grip is plentiful and body movement well controlled. It doesn’t have the razor-sharp feel of the Fiesta, but it provides more feedback than the Renault.

Unfortunately, the ride gets unsettled over bumpy surfaces and it recorded the longest stopping distances on test. So, while the 207 is well established, it faces a tough challenge to hold its own against such talented rivals.

In detail

* Price: £14,095

* Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 68bhp

* 0-60mph: 15.5 seconds

* AE economy: 40.9mpg

* Euro NCAP rating: Five stars

Details

Chart position: 3
WHY: Small diesels are Lion’s speciality – so is this car a winner?

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