The fresh new front end of the latest Peugeot 307 mirrors the gaping grille of bigger brother 407 while hiding 600 changes to the popular lower medium model.
Faced with increasing competition, the revised T6 series 307 gets specification, comfort and safety enhancements but costs the same as its predecessor. Three of the seven versions for New Zealand are actually less expensive than the outgoing model.
Though the line-up is similar to before, with five-door hatch, SW station wagon and two-door CC coupe cabriolet, there's a likelihood of more 307 variants next year.
A hot hatch GTi diesel model, which may adopt the 2.0-litre HDi engine from the 407, is expected to be announced in mid-2006, while the manual only 1.6 litre HDi diesel 307 is almost certain to be joined by a 2.0-litre diesel auto.
The 307 has been a great success globally for Peugeot, and it's still the world's 12th most popular selling car, and the fifth best-seller in Western Europe.
The 307 has 3.1 percent of the European car market and 1.13 per cent of the global car market.
More than 2.2 million have been built since 2001 and the car has been a major factor in making Peugeot the ninth largest motor manufacturer in the world.
By the end of August this year, 2795 Peugeot 307s had been sold in New Zealand, representing 45 percent of the French marque's total volume.
Opposition from the new VW Golf, Holden Astra and Ford Focus is making life more difficult for the 307 but the distinctive new frontal styling and other improvements are set to boost sales.
Historically mainly private motorists have bought Peugeots, and most 307 owners are 50-plus, but the car's new dynamism may attract younger buyers.
Rod Cunningham, marketing manager for Peugeot in New Zealand, believes resale values are less affected by used imports than many rival makes because Peugeot isn't a strong brand in Japan. And he points to a recent JD Power survey that confirmed Peugeot is the number one European brand in customer satisfaction in the local market.
Research within the franchise shows that a high 93 per cent of customers intend to repurchase and 80 per cent are completely satisfied.
Changes to the front end have increased the overall length slightly, even though the aluminium bonnet and front fenders are shorter. Under the skin a new aluminium front crossmember is fitted.
Small revisions to the instrument panel include red on black dials, an updated audio and new controls for the fully automatic dual zone digital climate-control air conditioning.
Six airbags - driver, front passenger, front side and curtain airbags - are fitted to all but the CC which has four airbags.
Doors lock automatically once the car exceeds 10km/h and the alloy wheels are protected from theft by locking wheel bolts.
Six-speaker RD4 radio/CD player and steering wheel mounted controls and trip computer are standard, along with electrically operated and heated door mirrors. These flip inward when the car is locked.
All but the XS now come with automatic operation of the rear windscreen wiper when reverse gear is engaged if the front wipers are operating.
The new flat-blade windscreen wipers that debuted on the CC are now found on all new 307s.
Anti lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist are part of the 307 package. Bosch electronic stability programme, traction control and stability control are standard on the more costly CC coupe cabriolets.
Peugeot plans to sell 600 307s in New Zealand this year, of which 240 will be the new model. Next year the plan is to lift sales by 30 percent to 780.
Engines and mechanical stuff
There are no changes to the 80kW 1.6-litre petrol engine that produces the same power as the 1.6-litre diesel but a lot less torque.
But the 103kW 2.0-litre petrol is an upgraded motor with variable valve timing. Even though output is up a modest 3kW, the double overhead cam has a lot more bite and better response. Torque has risen from 190Nm at 4100 rpm to 200Nm at 4000rpm. Emissions are lower.
Fuel consumption also improves, by 5.5 per cent in the manual car and three percent in the automatic.
With a solid 240Nm of torque at just 1750rpm, the diesel model is a strong performer and the most economical 307. The DV6TD4 turbodiesel has four valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts and, like the other 307 motors, complies with Euro IV emission controls.
With the exception of the entry-level 307 which has 195/65 series types on 15-inch wheels, all versions come with 205/55 series tyres and 16-inch alloys.
The fine chassis, a major factor in the 307 winning the 2002 European Car of the Year award, has stood the test of time as a drive over twisting back roads north of Auckland revealed. The car has poise, great steering and sharp handling, and is relatively unaffected by indifferent surfaces.
As before, the front suspension comprises MacPherson struts with triangulated lower wishbone attachments and an uncoupled anti-roll bar.
At the rear is a deformable U-shaped cross member located by two arms and a hollow anti-roll bar welded to each rear suspension arm.
Peugeot makes most of its own suspension parts which it says is instrumental in the make producing cars with particularly good handling and roadholding.
Peugeot 307 pricing
Peugeot 307 prices range from $31,990 for the XS manual with 1.6-litre petrol engine $53,990 for the CC automatic with an electrically-operated steel folding roof.
In 1.6-litre XS auto form, the 307 is $33,990, while the 2.0-litre XSP manual at $34,990 and auto ($36,990) are each $1000 cheaper than the outgoing versions.
The XSP diesel is unchanged at $36,990 and the 2.0-litre petrol SW is now $39,990 – a worthwhile $2000 saving on the old model.
Though all these models are available now, local introduction of the facelifted 2.0-litre CC auto ($53,990) is not until December, and a manual version of the coupe cabriolet will be available on special order.