Concerned about rising fuel prices? Want a medium-sized vehicle with plenty of load carrying capacity? Prefer a manual transmission? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, you’d be well advised to have a close look at the Peugeot 307 HDi 2-litre wagon.
The 307 XSE model comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and a turbo 16-valve diesel that develops 100kW at 4000 rpm and a very strong 320Nm at 2000 rpm. The latter figure simply means there’s plenty of power available at low revs, so this is an easy car to lug around in, up-changing early and saving fuel. However, if you want to go harder, the engine spins easily to higher revs – 4000 rpm is an accessible figure at which to change up. Peugeot claims a 0-100 km/h figure of 11.4 seconds but such is the availability of torque, the car often feels quicker than that. It’s certainly a car that will never be embarrassed for a lack of power. However, the turbo diesel feels like it runs a larger turbo than most Peugeot diesels – there is a little turbo lag present.
The clutch and gearbox are light and the bottom-end torque makes the engine difficult to stall. There’s no auto transmission available (although apparently one is coming) but even if you’re a little wary of manual transmission cars, the 307 HDi is quite easy to drive.
And unlike the 407 diesel wagon we recently tested, the 307 isn’t full of silly interior design faults – although there’s still a few! The LCD cannot be read when wearing polarising sunglasses (however, in the 307 the climate control LCD remains visible, albeit positioned very low on the dash) and the polished aluminium scuff plate across the rear door opening is sure to get scratched in normal use. There are also the same poorly designed instrument markings and the four(!) column stalks take quite some getting used to. The handbrake is located on the wrong (left) side of the console and the bonnet release is tucked away in the passenger foot-well. Finally, the front doors shut with a dreadful clang that would suit a $13,000 car and the glovebox comes factory-filled with a box.
However, the 307 has a large wagon load space and all four seating positions are spacious (but we wouldn’t like to be the person to ride in the centre of the rear seat – a baby seat in the back is also a bit squeezy). The seats are comfortable with excellent side support. The doors front and rear open wide, and the front door hinges are cleverly organised to tilt the doors outwards as they open. Inside you’ll find large door pockets that complement the roominess. The load area has a commendably low loading lip, achieved by scalloping away the bumper. The spare wheel is located under the car and when needed, is wound down by an in-cabin bolt. Four cargo tie-down hooks are provided in the load area, with additional ones available when the seat back is folded. The rear seat split-folds flat after the squabs are lifted and folded forward.
However, the front seats height-adjust only by pivoting around a rear hinge, preventing the front from being raised or lowered separately. The effectiveness of the front inner armrests is also a little dubious – they can be pushed out of the way but when in position, cannot be height adjusted.
On the road the 307 HDi drives well. The steering is precise and well-weighted with plenty of feedback. Despite a simple suspension spec (a rear torsion beam rear axle and front MacPherson struts) the handling on the 205/55 Goodyear Eagle NCT tyres is composed and stable, helped by the standard stability control system. Weight transfer in S-bends is particularly well controlled and there’s excellent attitude change via the throttle – even with the stability control switched on. Unlike many Peugeots we’ve driven over the last few years, the ride is also well sorted – firmish but never harsh.
The judgement on the fuel economy – an all-important figure for most buying a car like this – depends very much on the vehicle you’re stepping out of. We achieved an average of 6.4 litres/100km over a week that included a lot of gentle freeway cruising - we doubt that you’d get much better in any normal use. In fact, the second fuel consumption trip display had never been reset and when we picked the car up, showed an average of 7.5 litres/100km over 3000 kilometres, poorer than most would expect from a medium-sized diesel. So while the fuel consumption is good, it’s not outstanding. (FYI, Peugeot claim 7.3 litres/100 in the city and 4.7 on the highway.)
Noise and vibration from the diesel are well suppressed – it’s worse than would be achieved from a petrol engine but is still completely acceptable. In fact, with the responsiveness of the diesel and its quietness, this is one car where many people would find it hard to pick the type of engine under the bonnet. That’s from inside – from outside the diesel note remains obvious.
The equipment level is high. In addition to dual climate control you also get an auto-dimming rear mirror, six airbags, trip computer, auto wipers and headlights, in-cabin headlight height adjustment and the aforementioned stability control. However, the single CD doesn’t feature MP3 compatibility. But throw in the diesel engine and 6-speed transmission and at AUD$33,990, it’s excellent value for money.
The 307 HDi wagon is a great medium-sized family all-rounder. The design errors in the cabin are annoying but the strength of the positives - cabin space, the effective diesel engine and very good ride and handling - easily make for a persuasive case. Throw in the high retained value of Peugeot diesels and the 3 year/100,000km warranty and you have a car that’s very attractive.