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living: autocade

A green lessonA green lesson

Peugeot 207 HDI, photographed by Douglas Rimington, www.detunephotography.com

 

Lucire is UNEP's first fashion industry partnerIt’s a crime for the Peugeot 207 HDI 110 not to be sold in more places, as it’s good for the environment, says Jack Yan
photographed by Douglas Rimington

 

I CALLED ARMSTRONG PEUGEOT on the Monday night, wondering if they had the 207 HDI—the new small diesel from the French company—ready a day early. The following day, I was to ferry Miss New Zealand Laural Barrett and her sister Sharaine about, and I didn’t think putting the girls into my two-seater would be any fun. Why not have a brand-new car and be good to the environment at the same time?

God bless Armstrong: they were ready. I would not be guilty of trying to put one of the Barrett twins into the non-existent back seat of my regular car.

I am reasonably familiar with Peugeots and estimate that I have driven or owned 10 of them in my lifetime. And the 207, which is a fairly common sight in France, deserves to do well in New Zealand, even when you aren’t ferrying beautiful women around.

The issue is whether beautiful women think much of it.

Neither of the Misses Barrett thought ill of the 207, but then it wasn’t that remarkable as a style proposition, either. Another female friend said she loved how it drove and handled, but that when exiting the car, it was a let-down. In other words, Peugeot’s internal styling team might have to work harder for the facelift because there is, to the layman’s eyes, a similarity to the 206.

Assembly quality and the little faux aluminium touches inside the car really lift the ambience, so Peugeot has got things right inside. The plastics are slightly better on its arch-rival, the Renault Clio III, based on Lucire drives in France, but everything is a step up from the 206.

We even think the styling, critics aside, is right, combining the low nose that has already been seen on everything from the 1007 to the 407 Coupé. It exhibits the Peugeot brand well and contemporizes the look, one which people have been trying to copy since the cute 205 was launched in 1983.

The HDI, in particular, is celebrated by its manufacturer as a clean diesel, with a carbon dioxide rating of 126 g/km, totally acceptable for a turbocharged B-class car. Before you think that means a wimpy performance, think again: the 1·6, 108 PS motor has good, low-end torque (thanks to its turbocharger) and excellent gearing, as many French cars do, allowing one to pull away from tricky situations around the Arc de Triomphe. It also trumps the Clio by a few horsepower.

During the Lucire week-long test, we didn’t have to fill the tank once, nor did we suffer the embarrassment of returning it with an eighth of a tank left. The claim of 48 mpg is not far-fetched and we did reach that ourselves. It makes the sub-NZ$34,000 price tag acceptable, though it does push the Peugeot beyond the price of, say, a roomier Toyota Auris (Corolla Hatchback) in this market. (The base model price, with a simpler grille and lower levels of equipment, is more acceptable, closer to that of the Yaris.)

The main disappointment is not so much pricing—this publication goes to countries in which the 207 HDI is more competitively priced—but the fact it isn’t sold in more places.

The 207 has the potential now to be Peugeot’s world car, in the same vein as the Volkswagen Golf, but pursuing a far more environmentally friendly angle. For cost reasons, Peugeot has decided that it’s the 206 that goes everywhere from Red China (where it’s badged as a Citroën) to Iran (where it’s locally made by Iran Khodro).

The greatest omission is the United States, from where Peugeot pulled out many years ago. It has been talking about returning to North American shores, where an eco-207 could do very well.

With some models sharing a powerplant with the Mini Cooper S—itself a hit in the US, toppling the idea that Americans only buy big cars and SUVs—there’s little reason (other than launch costs) the 207 wouldn’t make an impact as a contemporary and clean car.

Californians wanting something more original than a Mini and less boxy than a Scion might clamour for the French car’s charms, especially when pushing the clean, green angle. If Honda can sell its rather older Fit there (Jazz in some export markets) many years after its original launch, then imagine what effect the newer 207 would have.

Here in New Zealand, it could do especially well with similarly minded eco-conscious consumers, even as a country that abandoned mainstream use of natural gas in cars in 1996. If we are willing to pay extra for organic food, then why not pay extra for an environmentally conscious car?

If fielding a full range—that’s the hatches, the new wagons, including the Matra Rancho-ized 207 Outdoor, and the coupé–cabriolet—this car could dominate its sector. Its already the top-selling car in Europe, beating the Volkswagen Golf.

And, when weighing up the effect on the environment, we are only talking an extra 22 g/km of carbon dioxide relative to the Toyota Prius, a car which sells for nearly NZ$9,000 more.

Forget the comparisons to mainstream Yarises and Aurises. Next to the Prius, the 207 is a convincing and far less complex ecomobile. •

 

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Photographed by Douglas Rimington

 

 

An eco-207 could do well in the US: Californians wanting something more original than a Mini and less boxy than a Scion might clamour for the French car’s charms, especially when pushing the clean, green angle

 

 

 

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