Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Test Drive - Peugeot 207 Hdi 110 Sport Review

I've been testing this car for some time now.
I've been intermittently using it from it's 20.000Km to it's sale last month at 54.000Km.
It was a 2007 207 model... the brand new one back then, and as every new model that created a big leap in innovation electronics, it had to be serviced recurrently during the first year. From ECU remaps to onboard computer firmware updates, this one had it all.
I guess that this is where price brand shows up. When I brought the MK2 Volvo S40 in late 2006, the car had innovative electronics all-round, and though it's been issued service firmware updates, mine just remained with version 1.0 while I've owned it (until last year)... and no glitches at all that could be noticeable.
This one however is a hole different thing. From Switching lights, wind-shield wipers and water mid night all alone in the garage, all the way to not turning them on while needed. A friend that had the car parked for a week while on a trip, arrived to find the battery drained together with all the wind-shield cleaning water...so it's fair to assume that it's been doing that for the entire week until no more battery power was available.
Again, it's a known issue with most French cars. Innovate in electronics and you should wait a full year until you buy the car, or be prepared to service it recurrently until debugging is all done (I blame Microsoft for this.... until they appeared on the earth's surface, no one would sell beta products as final versions, let alone charge for it... now it seems standard practice all over).

Having solved the problems the car became a very enjoyable possession.
It's 1.6 diesel engine is robust and quite elastic. And it's said to have 110bhp (in this version) but it clearly doesn't feel so. It feels heavy whenever you need to accelerate. There is a trick however that let's off a tip on how this car is electronically managed: instead of flooring your foot, use the cruse control and set it to 220km/h (witch will never ever happen as it will struggle to go beyond 190 and I've never seen it go beyond 205km/h). I would guess that the on-board computer requests an over-boost that your feet and the gas pedal can't do. So in truth, the car will accelerate faster if you don't step on the gas.
It's not brilliant in terms of economy, making an average of 5.6lts/100km. I don't find this a good average since it's a diesel and it's main purpose is to be economical... and if it was an 1.4 tdi with PD technology on it, it would do almost half as that with the same torque and little less power.
This car, as many other Peugeot, had a 5 speed gearbox. Feels like you're driving a vintage. Don't get me wrong, the feel and sync of the gearbox if good. It's very good indeed and if for some reason you grind during shift, YOU are to blame, as the box is very precise. It does however miss a gear and I feel that with a diesel it's a MUST in this time and age.

The chassis is very competent and (the best thing) tail happy. Lift-off over-steer on demand with a natural and composed let-go and re-grip. Even while driving hard on a bumpy road, it will grab the front and loose the rear. Clearly signed by Peugeot/Citroen and it's competitive heritage. It would be so much better car if only it wasn't designed as a minivan.
This car is very high. It's not a minivan, it's a car, and that means that there are at least 10cm of excessive hight that shouldn't be there as it's not used at all. That, together with a comfortable suspension, makes the car feel strange, and thought you can abuse it more, you don't feel the confidence to do that with all that wobbling.
It's suspension is also very sensitive to it's bushing maintenance condition. This unit suffered a lot during it's first 30.000km as it was daily driven through a road under construction...that took it's part in the premature deterioration of what is (on purpose to my view) an already too sensitive element. You see car makers insist on placing rubber between steel joints. In competition however they use polyurethane. The result it that every 50.000km, you have to change your entire suspension bushings because the rubber is all cut and falling apart, allowing uncontrolled suspension parts movement and altering angles leading to bad handling, edgy bump steer and excessive tire wear. WHY don't they come with polyurethane from factory!?!?!?!
Still, this chassis is EXTREMELY sensitive to bushing conditions. Causing more bump steer and wobbling that I thought a car with this weight would.

The steering is precise but could have a smaller wheel with heavier feel. It lacks some feed back but I'm blaming the soft Michelin tires for 50% of that numbness. Careful with the bushings here... the steering will struggle to return from full lock under breaking if your bushings are in bad condition.

The pedals are a bit too soft, but the gearbox operation has just the right weigh.

The driving position is good and the seats are competent enough for a fast drive... as long as you don't push it too hard and go Scandinavian flips all over, you should end up seated where you started.

The build quality is not brilliant. It's clear that it's not a design flaw, but rather assembly line one. For instance, this car had the driver seat with 2 loose screws, a rear right light unit with a poorly soldered earth-grounding connector (causing the electronic diagnostics system to beep every other road bump), a poorly screwed rear bumper and almost all the wheel inside covers started dropping after 30.000kms. Nothing difficult to solve or complex, but still irritating and the driver's seat slack from bend to bend was a scary flaw.

Overall I give this car a good rating. As it's enjoyable and easy to live with, once you solve the classical new car problems. However, if in the need of choosing another car like this, I would go the Ford Fiesta way... same engine brilliant chassis, far better built and less twitchy... and that's exactly what I recommended to 4 people.