Peugeot 207 (2007) review
Fluid handling and strong grip is topped off with punchy performance and great all-round ability
The spirit of the 205 GTi is alive and well! With its fluid handling, involving steering and strong grip, the 207 GTi is a fabulous hot hatch. But the car has grown up, too, and the brilliant turbo engine offers punchy performance plus plenty of all-round ability. It's just a pity that Peugeot hasn't been more daring with the styling enhancements. All the same, with great sports seats and an affordable price tag, the 207 GTi is sure to be popular.
There aren't many letter combinations that get enthusiasts as hot under the collar as G, T and i. And when they're applied to a small Peugeot, the results can be spectacular.
But Peugeot lost its way recently, and the 206 GTi fell short of expectations. So the pressure's on for the all-new 207 GTi, which arrives later this year, packing turbo power for the first time. Can it beat hard chargers such as the Renaultsport Clio 197 and Vaux-hall Corsa VXR?
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Peugeot 207
While those models have gone for brazen bodykits with flared arches and aggressive stances, the hot 207 adopts a far more subtle approach. It adds side skirts, a roof spoiler, chrome tailpipes and 17-inch alloy wheels.
As a result, it's more elegant than the competition, although for some buyers there won't be sufficient visual aggression. Inside, it's a similar story, with no brightly coloured trim or vivid badges to lift the mood. Changes are limited to chrome dashboard dials and aluminium pedals.
However, the Alcantara suede-clad bucket seats are fantastic. And, as soon as you feel your shoulders being clamped into place by the side supports and grip the chunky sports wheel, it's clear that you're going to be in for a good time.
With stiffer springs and dampers, plus uprated suspension mountings, the GTi adds more grip and agility to the fluid handling. Of course, the ride is firmer, but on the twisty, undulating roads of southern France, where the car was launched, it was fabulous fun, turning in instantly and always feeling light on its feet.
The upgraded electric steering is impressive as well - much purer than that of rivals, with accurate weighting and precise feedback on what the 205/45 tyres are doing.
Certainly in the dry, the car resists understeer, with a lift of the throttle seeing the nose tuck in safely, rather than the rear step out sharply. And although that may disappoint fans of the Renaultsport Clio, the new model's all-round security is welcome.
The engine is another example of its maturity. Using the same 175bhp 1.6-litre turbo as the MINI Cooper S, the 207 GTi provides less power than the 189bhp Corsa and 194bhp Clio - although that doesn't mean it's left wanting for performance.
The sprint from 0-62mph takes only 7.1 seconds and the top speed is 137mph, but it's the flexibility that makes the Peugeot so fast. From 1,600rpm, the unit is already producing 244Nm of torque. An 'overboost' facility briefly raises that to 264Nm.
Due to the wide powerband and well spaced ratios of the five-speed box - with a tall first gear for the GTi - you can stay in third on most country roads. That's in complete contrast to the rev-hungry Clio 197.
The gearchange itself feels loose and imprecise, but that's about the only negative. The chassis is easily capable of translating the engine's punch with none of the wheelspin or torque steer you would expect from a Corsa VXR, for example.
Priced at £14,995, the GTi represents great value, too, undercutting the 197 by £1,000 and the VXR by £600. There's plenty of safety equipment as well, including a new ESP stability system to minimise stopping distances on slippery surfaces. But to add climate control, cruise control and adaptive headlights involves paying £1,000 for the optional Pack Plus.
So is the 207 GTi better than its rivals? It's not as raw, but the brilliant chassis and muscular engine provide an exciting experience - one which will appeal to all enthusiasts, whether they are Peugeot fans or not.