Peugeot 207

A return to form from Peugeot. The 207 GT performs and handles superbly

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Peugeot has a great history of producing fun small cars, but the firm’s sporty line-up has left a little to be desired in recent years. Thankfully, the 207 GT is a fine return to form. It may be too subtly styled to be a real hot hatch, but the new engine offers brilliant performance and the suspension tweaks result in excellent handling. Add in a decent kit list, and you’ve got a very impressive all-rounder.

Excitement is reaching fever pitch for fans of performance Peugeots. Next year sees the arrival of the new 207 GTi - a hot hatch which looks set to rival the class-leading Renaultsport Clio 197, with razor-sharp handling and racy looks to match.

It promises to be the first sporty Peugeot that truly lives up to the legend of the original 205 GTi. But if you can't wait a few months - or something less fiery would suit your budget better - how about this, the 207 GT?

It's powered by the same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the forthcoming GTi, but it has a little less boost, so power drops to 150bhp.

However, with the 0-60mph sprint taking around eight seconds and a top speed in the region of 130mph, it still provides plenty of punch on paper. So how does it shape up on the road?

Well, if you're looking for a car that turns heads wherever you go, the 207 GT isn't quite it. There's no doubt the sleek lines and panoramic glass roof are appealing, but there's not even a new badge on the tailgate to help mark the newcomer out. Visually, the petrol GT is identical to its diesel-powered brother, as it comes with the same 17-inch alloy wheels, subtle bodykit and spotlights mounted in the egg-crate front grille. Clearly Peugeot wants to make sure there's plenty of distance between the GT and GTi models.

Inside, it's a similar story, with white-faced dials, drilled alloy pedals and a metal gearknob dropping the only hints that you're in something sporty. However, accelerate hard away from a standstill, and it's clear that the 207 GT is no ordinary supermini.

The new 1.6-litre powerplant was jointly developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and BMW, and will also power the new MINI. The unit features direct-injection and a twin-scroll turbo-charger - which is designed to help reduce lag - and the warm hatch kicks out a useful 240Nm of torque from only 1,400rpm. With such low-down urge, it feels a bit like a diesel, but the bonus is that this thrust continues right across the rev range.

Unlike the frantic, high-revving nature of the Clio 197's normally aspirated motor, it's straightforward to access the 207 GT's power, and the result is fast progress and simple overtaking. However, despite shorter gear ratios, shifts of the five-speed box still feel too long, and cog-swapping is a vague process.

But the best bit isn't the engine - it's the way the car goes around corners. Simply put, the 207 GT is one of the best handling cars Peugeot has built since the firm's Eighties heyday. It offers keen drivers some real fun in twisty bends. Engineers have used the same basic suspension set-up as the diesel-powered GT, but have tweaked the dampers, stiffened the rear torsion beam and used firmer bushes on the front wishbones.

And these upgrades can be felt as soon as you turn into a corner at speed, as the nose dives straight for the apex, while the lively rear end adds to the feeling of agility. There's plenty of grip, and thanks to a ride that's firm but still compliant, it is possible to attack bumpy roads with gusto.

Steering feedback is also excellent, thanks to a revised electrically assisted rack. And the good news continues when it comes to the price, as the 207 GT offers great value for money. The £14,345 asking price includes automatic headlights, climate control and electronic stability control. If you equipped Ford's Fiesta ST to a similar level, it would cost £600 more. So the 207 GT adds up to an excellent warm hatch, and is a good omen for the flagship GTi version.

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