IN MANY ways we Brits think very differently about cars to our Continental cousins, and one of those ways tends to be in the size of cars we think we need. But these days small cars can be a big deal.
In case you’re wondering what might have inspired this sentiment, it’s the Peugeot 107. It’s just 3.43 metres long and 1.63 metres wide excluding the mirrors, and it’s recently been the subject of a mid-life refresh. A sharper nose and updated styling are the first things you notice.
The tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine under the almost equally petite bonnet is the same as before. It’s rich in character, and despite the many people who might insist they need a bigger car for their average duties it’s surprisingly adept at conquering pretty much every task you might choose to throw at it.
More of that later. The range includes just two models, separated by £700 and good few spec upgrades in the direction of the higher Allure model. That’s what we have here, and it’s blessed with alloy wheels, fog lights, tinted rear windows, a USB input for MP3 players, air conditioning and remote central locking. All the key things an urbanite driver really needs.
Now here are a few more positives that aren’t written down on the spec sheet. The alloys are sized perfectly for the car and fit its cute look like a glove, but they also allow for a bit of sidewall bulge on the tyres which means the rubber pushes out further than the metal. If you’ve a steady hand when parallel parking, it gives a bit of leeway so you don’t bash the wheels on a kerb.
The boot is small, yes, but when you’re just tossing a few loose items or a small bag in there, there’s less space for things to rattle around in and less chance of doing any damage to anything. You also get a very handy shelf in front of the passenger seat. It’s a shame in a way that there’s no closed and lockable glove box for security’s sake, but in the real world having that deep ‘bucket’ there into which you can just toss small items like books or four pints of milk – the latter fits rather well, as it happens – is a boon you don’t appreciate until it’s gone.
Small it may be, but for its purpose the 107 fits the bill perfectly. What it gives away to one or two more recently-engineered city cars in interior plastics quality it gains back in the simple but brilliantly effective way it goes about its business to make its owners’ lives easier. Living with it is a dream. The only thing to find obvious fault with is the driving position because the steering wheel only adjusts for height. Some people might find their arms too stretched, but if you naturally sit quite close to the wheel it’s fine.
Back to the engine and the way it drives, then. The three-cylinder engine only makes 67bhp if Peugeot’s claims are to be believed, but with the whole car weighing about as much as a small piglet, performance is perkier than you’d imagine. The figures on paper don’t do justice to the gutsy way in which the 107 picks up its skirts at low revs, even with four people in the car. In fact, in all the situations I placed the little engine in, deliberately looking to expose a weakness, I struggled to find one unless it was steep hills, up which a down-shift or two is necessary.
The five-speed gearbox has broadly-spaced and tall, tall ratios that help keep the engine revs down and fuel economy up. It’s one of the reasons the 107 dips to 99g/km of CO2 and therefore dodges road tax altogether, but believe it or not the only gears you can use to their full potential and stay on the right side of the motorway speed limit are first and second, with second reaching past 60mph. Theoretically it could do 103mph in third and 147mph in fifth, but you’d need a very long, very steep hill and a very brave pilot.
Nonetheless, the way it growls around town between 2,500 and 5,000rpm is delightful, and although there’s some vibration as the three-pot motor lifts away from idle, it’s perfectly smooth as you make forward progress.
The 107’s talents reach far beyond what you might expect from a car of this size. Consider its real-world fuel economy of 60mpg or more and Peugeot’s extremely simple but eminently tempting ‘Just Add Fuel’ offer available for anyone over 21, and in times of rising costs the case for it is staggering.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Peugeot 107 Allure, £10,045 on the road.Engine: 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol producing 67bhp and 70lb.ft.Transmission: 5-speed gearbox driving the front wheels.Performance: Top speed 100mph, 0-62mph in 14.2 seconds.Fuel economy: 65.7mpg.CO2 rating: 99g/km.