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MOTORNET: Diesel Delights - Peugeot 407 & 307

Diesel Delights

Peugeot 407 HDi sedan & 307 Hdi
SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie-

Peugeot 407 HDi sedan
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There are plenty of reasons why punters are attracted to French vehicles, and in particular, the offerings of Peugeot. Flair, original design, plush interiors and an almost guaranteed comfortable ride are some. Now there’s a couple more.

Even non-Peugeot fans would have been hard pressed not to notice the aggressive marketing campaign for the new 407, and to round out the model range, the diesel model is now available - delayed somewhat thanks to demand in European markets. What may have escaped attention though is the arrival of the revised and much improved 307 diesel. Both offer some of the most advanced and impressive diesel engines currently available.

First, the 407. The replacement for the 406 has received plenty of plaudits - noticeably for its bold yet attractive styling, commendable road holding and handling, and not least of all for its compliant and 'pot hole' absorbing ride. The 407 also sports an impressive range of engines.

Peugeot 407 – Under The Bonnet
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I have been fortunate enough to sample all three - the petrol 2.2 litre four cylinder, the 3.0 litre V6 and now the new turbo diesel. I liked the 2.2 for its peppiness, the V6 for its performance and wonderful aural symphony, and now the diesel for its plucky yet frugal personality.

For a start, it's up 25 percent over its predecessor in terms of power and torque - which is good as crash worthiness requirements has seen the new 407 gain a few pounds, 250kg to be precise. The 100kW engine manages a respectable 320 Nm of torque, produced between 1750-3200 rpm. A 0-100 km/h time of 10.66 seconds recorded by NZ Autocar in March somewhat belies its gutsy nature.

It's an engine with a lot of personality. By that, I mean to truly appreciate it could take some time. For a start, and in spite of the torque figures, there isn't much happening below 2000rpm which is where it likes to sit while coasting - good for economy but not so good for performance. To access the power band, there's a tendency for the driver to mash the throttle which provokes quite a response. With the turbo up and running the 407 shakes off the cobwebs and starts to boogie. The power delivery isn't exactly linear though, and there's almost a hint of torque steer through the steering wheel as the needle sweeps towards 4000rpm. It's particularly noticeable on hills.

On the flat, it seems much more relaxed, where if it wasn't for the distinctive - if not unpleasant - sound of the diesel engine in the background, you would swear you were driving a petrol powered vehicle. And while spirited driving can send the economy figures spiralling, the good news is that the 407 is certainly not thirsty. Peugeot claim 6.7 litres per 100km/h, which seems eminently achievable with a little bit of effort. Pretty impressive for a car of this size and weighing over 1600kg.

Thankfully too, even though the price of diesel has certainly crept up - now around 90c a litre plus road user charges - you can take some comfort from the fact that reduced sulphur in diesel fuel (down from 500 to 50 parts per million by 1 January 2006) is not only better for the environment, but also for the engine.

Peugeot 407 - Interior
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Other good news is that the 407 diesel shares the attributes of its petrol brethren. Handling is good, as is the ride. Equipment levels are high including such niceties as leather, climate control air-con and all the safety mod cons you would expect in this price bracket. There are some other additions you might not expect like automatic headlights and side mirrors that can be set to retract once the engine is shut down and the car locked up. Build quality is good but materials, particularly in the cabin, are only average and can be a little plastic to the touch.

At $51,990 the 407 is certainly dearer than the 406 it replaces, but it has also moved the goal posts significantly. Don't be surprised if the diesel once again becomes a firm favourite of the 407 range.

Peugeot 307 Hdi
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As good as the 407 is, it would be a shame if the latest 307 HDi was overlooked in the rush. The 307 has an enduring design that even though over half way through its model cycle, still looks fresh and appealing. This is fortunate, as the changes to the new diesel 307 are not to the body.

Peugeot 307 – Under The Bonnet
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In fact, it's under the bonnet where things get really interesting. Peugeot have replaced the previous generation 2.0 litre HDi with a 1.6 litre HDi, but at the same time, have managed to increase power output by some 21 per cent.

The 1.6 litre produces 80kW to the 2.0 litres 66kW with a comparable increase in torque to boot, up from 205Nm to 240Nm and at lower revs meaning more useful power and better performance. Even after a short stint behind the wheel, its clear these figures while impressive, only tell half the story.

There is no mistaking the clatter of the diesel beneath the bonnet, but performance is impressive. Expect good power delivery across the band and decent acceleration, not to mention quick starts at the traffic lights - not something many diesel Peugeots of past could claim. Like the 407, the claimed 0-100 km/h time of 11.2 seconds belies the perky nature of the power plant.

The more enthusiastic drivers amongst us will likely be under whelmed by the gearbox which is a little on the sloppy side by most standards, but not by equipment levels which are suitably generous. Trip computer, climate controlled air conditioning, 16 inch alloy wheels, six airbags, ABS brakes and rain-sensing windscreen wipers are all standard.

Peugeot 307 - Interior
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Ultimately, what will really endear this little Peugeot to punters though is its fuel economy. In my view, no amount of driving it will ever reduce the pleasant surprise of virtually continuous motoring on literally the smell of an oily rag. Peugeot claim the 307 uses just 6.0 litres/100 km in the city cycle, and a staggeringly modest 4.3 litres/100 km for the highway cycle. Although I wasn't able to properly verify those figures, in theory the 307's range (from its 60 litre tank) is comfortably in excess of 1200 kilometres.

How much, you ask? The sticker price for the 307 HDi diesel is $36,990 - or $1000 increase over its predecessor. That compares favourably to the Honda Civic hybrid and Toyota Prius, both of which offer similar fuel economy figures. No road user charges with hybrids of course...

The 307, always a classy car, has had new life breathed into it thanks to this surprising diesel. A clear case of vive la oil burners wouldn't you say?

Peugeot 307 – back
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Peugeot 407 – back
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