Car buyers have been confronted with a whole new category of cars in recent times, one that has pervaded across the middle to lower part of the market almost in its entirety.
Environmental special models are, depending on your point of view, the motor industry’s answer to the peril our planet finds itself in or a cynical marketing ploy to tap the growing public desire to go green and cut costs. Peugeot’s standard bearing green range is called Economique and the 207 Economique is tasked with winning sales at the green end of the supermini sector.
There was what looked suspiciously like a touch of indecision in the Peugeot ranks at the time when the various manufacturer environmental brands started to get off the ground. By now you may have heard of Ford’s ECOnetic, Vauxhall’s ecoFLEX, Volkswagen’s BlueMotion or some of the other variations on this theme but while these brands were pushing their eco-credentials Peugeot appeared to edging towards a different approach.
The French manufacturer unveiled its Blue Lion standard which is awarded to all of its low emissions models as a handy guide for consumers but it initially resisted the urge to produce environmental special models in the way its competitors had. As rival manufacturers started to enjoy success with their efforts, however, Peugeot could hold off no longer. The 207 Economique arrived with the kind of aerodynamic and efficiency tweaks we’ve come to expect from such vehicles. It may have been a little late turning up to the eco-friendly party but with sub-100g/km emissions, it’s brought the equivalent of an enormous bowl of Fair Trade mung bean salad.
It’s natural to assume that there will be some kind of compromise in the way the 207 Economique drives as a result of its focus on efficiency but Peugeot assures us that no such downsides will be evident in its car. Power comes from the same 1.6-litre HDi engine that pops up in other 207 models and is used elsewhere across the Peugeot range. It has 90bhp and can propel the 207 Economique from 0-60mph in 11.7s, then on to a 115mph top speed. That and its 218Nm of torque will be enough for the eco-friendly Peugeot to keep pace with most middle of the road superminis.
"Lowered suspension and body kits were once the preserve of models from the faster end of the supermini spectrum"
The 207 isn’t an obvious candidate for conversion to environmental special form as it’s quite a size, even by modern supermini standards. The advantage of the Peugeot’s mass is its composure and that all important big car feel out on the road. It’s an unhurried, comfortable car to drive that’s great on longer journeys and takes to twisty back roads with relish thanks to its well-judged suspension. The 5-speed gearbox is the only real drawback. The slack action isn’t what you want in a nimble supermini and it lets the rest of the driving package down a bit.
Lowered suspension and body kits were once the preserve of models from the faster end of the supermini spectrum but now they’ve been transplanted on to environmentally-focused models like the 207 Economique. The reason is that they lend significant aerodynamic benefits and owners get the added advantage that the car looks sportier than it otherwise would as well.
The Economique is 5mm lower than a conventional 207 and features deeper side sill extensions along with extra trim on to lower edge of the front bumper and optimised air intakes. It all helps to bring the car closer to terra firma, forcing more air over the roof and helping the car move more efficiency. It also gives the car a hot hatch-style appearance as there’s a two part rear spoiler which sits at the top of the rear screen either side of the high level brake light. Economique features that hot hatch owners would be less likely to see on their cars include special aerodynamic wheel trims and Michelin low rolling resistance tyres.
The styling of the 207 was somewhat controversial when the car first appeared but recent revisions have helped tone down looks that were once more striking than conventionally attractive. The large front intake is flanked by a pair of vents that visually widen the car and LED tail lights feature at the rear. The cabin has also benefited from much needed trim enhancements but it still isn’t one of the sector’s more impressive environments. Despite the 207’s size, rear legroom is better in many rivals.
There are Economique and Economique + models for buyers to mull over, both powered by the same HDI 90 engine. The standard specification includes electric front windows, a CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, remote central locking, four airbags and an advanced ABS braking system. The door handles and side mouldings are black plastic. On the Economique +, there’s air-conditioning, electric door mirrors and a trip computer to tell you how your economy drive is going but the price premium is £900. There are also three and five-door versions, with the later costing an extra £500.
There are a lot of other supermini-based models targeted at buyers who want to minimise their motoring costs and environmental impact, so this car has a major task on its hands. Peugeot remains a big name in the supermini market and the 207 sells extremely strongly across Europe so it’s hard to imagine this most efficient version turning out to be a flop. The pricing will deter some, with the car starting at around £13,000, but in winning sales from rivals, much will depend on those all-important economy and emissions figures.
In 2000, the most efficient version of the 206 supermini could return 56mpg on the combined cycle. Today, the 207 Economique can get over 74mpg over the same test. The resulting CO2 emissions are 99g/km, making the car effective from a tax as well as a consumption point of view.
The advances made by Peugeot in its small cars don’t hinge on some miraculous technological breakthrough. Like most other supermini manufacturers, the firm has made small gains across numerous aspects of the construction and engineering of its cars. It begs the question why such modifications weren’t made earlier but the fact is that consumer demand is there now and the leading brands have got the green bit right between their teeth.
Peugeot may have been a little slow out of the blocks with an environmental special version of its 207 supermini but the Economique models are here and they’re right up with the cleanest, greenest superminis on the market.
Powered by Peugeot’s 1.6-litre HDi engine, the cars’ performance is more than adequate, while the various modifications brought in to boost its showing at the pumps have had the happy side effect of injecting a little extra sporting flavour to the styling.
The 207 is one of the top superminis on the UK market, offering a big car feel in its compact package and there’s no reason to suppose that the most fuel efficient model in its line-up won’t strike the right notes with buyers.