Popularity is the name of the game, and creating a unique design offering a real point of difference isn’t always the key to a successful car.
Despite its typically French flair, Citroen’s C2 Pluriel has scarcely been a showroom rage, not surprising given the drama required to dismantle and reassemble its lift-off roof.
Peugeot says it was changing the way the world saw compact urban cars when it launched the 1007 mini-MPV last year.
Yet so far, the world market has been lukewarm to the prospect of a small, easy-to-drive car with revolutionary full-length electrically operated sliding doors.
The 1007 is a vehicle that had “Car of the Year”-winning potential simply because of its side door arrangement, which seems such a bonus in crowded city or any tight parking situations.
Buyers, however, remain unmoved. Original intentions to build 130,000 cars a year have been almost halved to 70,000. French sales have been modest enough to induce soul searching at Peugeot’s headquarters in Paris.
Shorter and slightly narrower than a Peugeot 206 five-door hatchback, the three-door 1007 costs more.Despite the impressive ride quality over indifferent surfaces, the 1007 doesn’t
feel quite as nimble as the 206 and there’s a shade too much body roll.
Using the same underpinnings as the new Peugeot 207 and Citroen C2, the 3731mm long 1007 isn’t to be confused with the smaller 1.0-litre 107 that shares the same chassis as the Citroen C1 and Toyota Aygo.
New Zealand won’t see this trio because of an agreement to restrict sales of the mini three-door hatch to Europe and, at this stage, the 1007 isn’t bound here either.
Peugeot always expected the 1007 to attract drivers over 35, while the 107 is targeted at younger buyers. Industry pundits say there are issues with the sliding doors and pricing. In Britain, the cheapest 1007 costs the equivalent of more than $30,000.
Certainly there’s no shortage of models in this class, with the Honda Jazz, Renault Modus, Nissan Note, Smart Fortwo, GM Vauxhall Mervia, Citroen C2 and Audi A2.
None, however, have the Peugeot’s remarkable “sesame” door arrangement. I drove one in Britain, and spent more time playing with the doors than anything else.
The electric door arrangement is not something expected in a mainstream car. Click the remote and the side doors slide open, much to the amusement of onlookers. Alternatively, push the button on the door handle to activate the door mechanism.
This allows good access to the front seats, although climbing into the rear isn’t so good. You can’t squeeze into the back seats without first tilting the front seatbacks, and the interior packaging for occupants isn’t all it could be, even though the rear seats slide to adjust the legroom/luggage space proportions.
Still, the load carrying area is big enough to cope with most family needs.
The 1007 conforms to the tall body trend, measuring 1620mm and offering excellent headroom. It’s a slab-side box on wheels and has slightly odd proportions. When the doors are open, the trailing edges sit proud of the rear bodywork.
But the styling is cute and the NCAP 5-star safety rating is best in class – there are seven airbags, along with electric windows, air conditioning and stability control.
Owners can personalise their car’s interior with the two sets of trim that can be changed in 15 minutes. These 18-piece kits need no tools and are supplied with each car.
Yet the wide doors remain the focal point. Could we drive off with the sliding doors open? We could and we did.
Sure there’s a warning beeper, but it’s not the sort that is particularly intrusive. I know this isn’t the sort of thing to teach your children, but I was curious to find out if the Peugeot would operate without closing the elongated doors. Certainly the 1007 seemed happy enough on the move with the gaping holes on each side, and a feeling of vulnerability for the occupants.
It was a little like driving a 1960s Mini Moke with almost nothing but fresh air between the occupants and the outside world.The doors won’t operate over a 20-degree incline or after the car has been parked for half an hour. At this point the electrical system goes into economy mode, allowing just two more open/close sequences before shutting down.
Five seconds are needed for the electrics to complete the opening cycle and an extra second is necessary to close them.You can open or shut the doors manually, although they are heavy.
Vision is impeded by the A and B pillars, but the wrap-around bootlid glass helps visibility when parking.
Performance felt modest in the base 1.4-litre, 55kW petrol version I drove, largely because at 1125kg, the car is no lightweight.
However, the 1007 is also available with a more powerful 81kW 1.6-litre petrol or the 1.4-litre 52kW HDi turbodiesel engines. This is the first Peugeot to use the smooth-changing 2-Tronic gearbox with F1-style fingertip paddles behind the steering wheel.
Pressing a button changes the transmission from sequential shift to auto mode, making the system
ideal for urban use.
The moral of the story? You may be able to lead a horse to water but you can’t always entice the creature to drink to a good idea.