Drive Test: Peugeot 207 Active

Alternative thinking

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Since there’s not a lot to say, dynamically speaking, about the Peugeot 207 1.4 Active, we’re going to do something unprecedented for this Drive Magazine road test, and completely skip over (for now at least) exactly how this car drives.

Instead, we’re going to hop straight along to value. Because at R174K for this, the middle model in the 207 lineup, you may be forgiven for thinking it isn’t a stellar proposition, what with the class-leading new VW Polo 1.4 Comfortline boasting a list of R169K for its “plusher” baby. Thing is, you’d be wrong…

You see, the Peugeot is hardly luxuriously specced, but the price does include several key features which you’d have to pay a bit more for in the VW. The French company, unlike the Germans, aren’t big fans of hiding tens of thousands of Rands worth of purchasing cost away in the options list. Instead they build a model with certain features, stick a price to the window, wipe it down with a slightly polished rag, and send it on its way.

So what that means, as a buyer, is that you actually know exactly what you’re getting for your money. A pretty unusual thought for a car purchase in 2010, to be honest.

For your R174 grand then, the 207 Active gives you a front-loading, MP3-compatible CD-playing audio system, which although it doesn’t have wheel-mounted buttons does use that remote control mechanism mounted behind the wheel which Renault and Peugeot drivers will already be very familiar with. There are airbags for both front passengers, ABS with EBD, remote central locking, electric mirrors and both climate and cruise control.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, there’s a 4-year, 60 000km Service Plan attached to this purchase.

It’s this last item that really gives the 207 the edge over a Polo. Let’s look at the whole package though quickly…

VW Polo 1.4 Comfortline: R169 180

Cruise Control: R1570

60 000km Service Plan: R7400

Total: R178 150                  Peugeot 207 Active: R174 683

All right, so the VW does have the edge in terms of engine power (63 versus 54kW). But the pricing is pretty much bang-on when you consider it all-in like this.

Which unfortunately, means that in the end, we do have to actually get down to the actual drive…

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Unfortunate, because, in this motoring category, there’s really nothing to say. The 54kW 1.4 in the Peugeot is very much the same as the 63kW mill of the VW – anodyne, quiet, unobtrusive, and while not exactly as lethargic as you might expect thanks to a kerb weight in each of around 1000kg, not exactly spirited in their deliver either.

So what of the interior? These manufacturers approach their interiors from a startlingly stereotypes point, it seems. The Peugeot features a lot more flair than the VW, although again it’s the sort of flair that you’d “expect” at this price point, and while the architecture and design is more flowing, don’t expect chrome detailing or touches of felt or anything of that ilk.

The German option counters this with impregnable build quality. Which is not to say the 207 is bad. At all. It isn’t. But it does lack the hewn-from-granite feel of the Polo.

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Aesthetics? Well this is entirely subjective, isn’t it? While I do like the look of the new Vivo, there’s something about the more raked, more swoopy profile of the 207 which I prefer. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it per se, but to me it’s the slightly better shape. To anyone else, who knows? That’s for you to decide after all.

All of this leaves us with but one conclusion to make.

The Peugeot 207 Active is, on value, a great alternative to a VW Polo. And just like the Polo, it’s actually a better little car overall than enthusiasts like us might expect of this budget price band. I’d certainly recommend it over the circa R30K dearer 1.6, in fact in both models the 1400 makes more sense to me, as the 1600 versions don’t exactly introduce tarmac-shredding pace to the equation anyway. Having said that, the entry-level spec of VW’s 1.6 is actually cheaper than this 1.4 Comfortline, which is weird, for the Peugeot you have to go beyond R200K for the bigger engine, even if it does net you a substantial list of standard extras as well.

Anyone looking for a viable purchase in this price band, would do well to go ahead and test-drive both this 207 and the VW Polo. There’s so little, technically, to separate the two, it’s always going to come down to personal taste. Considering how much effort Peugeot is putting into its after-sales, I wouldn’t be concerned with all of the horror tales of Peugeot ownership at all, after all you do hear similar stories from VW owners, they just tend to not be publicised as much and aren’t blown completely out of proportion as the tales relating to the French manufacturers tend to be.

Personally, I’m always out for something different. The Polo sells in such significant numbers, that it isn’t different at all – it’s a cookie-cutter car. The 207 offers similar technical attributes at a similar value, with that touch of French flair and a frissom of individualism. I like that.

Russell Bennett

Liked: Value proposal

Looks

Disliked: Wimpy motor

Drive Specs: Peugeot 207 Active

Engine: 1360cc four-cylinder petrol

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Power (kW) 54 @ 5400rpm

Torque (Nm) 118 @ 3300rpm

Kerb weight (kg) 1034

Driven wheels Front

0-100km/h Mid to high 12s

Price R174 683

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