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Peugeot 307 SW 2.0 review (2001-2008)
Engine: 2.0-litre in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: November 2003
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What is it?
Peugeot doesn't offer a conventional compact people carrier; it leaves that market for sister company Citroen's hugely-successful Picasso to deal with. Instead, the French maker offers the 307 SW - for all intents and purposes a 307 estate with a glass roof and two extra seats in the boot. This is an approach Peugeot has used successfully in the past (the 504 and 505 'Family' seven-seaters spring to mind) but will the formula work against high-rise rivals? Although, as even regular hatchback 307s are decidedly MPV-like in appearance, perhaps the thinking has some grounding.
Where does it fit?
It's unique. No other maker offers a seven-seater estate car in this sector; for similarly-configured rivals, you have to move far up the automotive hierarchy ladder to Volvo's V70 and Mercedes' E-Class estate. No, for the money it's the compact MPVs which provide main competition, particularly seven-seat models such as the Mazda Premacy, Vauxhall Zafira and Volkswagen Touran. The Citroen Picasso, Ford C-MAX and Renault Scenic are all five-seat-only, immediately giving Peugeot a capacity advantage. However, the extra seats are not standard; they cost around £300 for the pair.
Is it for you?
Some are strongly put off by compact MPVs for various reasons - including the 'family man' image, slab-sided styling, sheer bulk and less-involving handling due to the extra height. It's in these areas where Peugeot hopes its 307 SW will score. Certainly it's a much more car-like seven seater, and actually looks pretty flashy with its aluminium roof rails and full-length glass roof. And from behind the wheel it feels just like a regular 307; slightly taller than a regular hatch but not too tall, long dashboard meeting a distant windscreen base, decent visibility thanks to high-set seats. Alas, like all seven-seat MPVs, there's no luggage room to speak off when fully-occupied. And where do you stow the seats when you do need the luggage space?
What does it do well?
It's a very smooth drive. The 2.0-litre engine may need high revs to perform well (diesel power is arguably a more sensible choice) but it's very smooth and quiet at all times. The car feels 'big' and commanding to drive too, even though it's wiedly enough through town, and does a reasonably convincing executive car impression. Handling is sharp and unaffected by the usual compact MPV roll and lean; though a twisty sequence it's very impressive, though passengers may not be quite as impressed as the driver due to the high cornering speeds it's capable of. And, of course, to be able to carry seven passengers will always be a bonus for parents of popular children.
What doesn't it do well?
But those passengers will have to be children; it's cramped inside. As expected, the rearmost area is tight - this is acceptable given the sportier stance than traditional vehicles. What's less acceptable is a severe lack of legroom for the middle perches, accentuated by an odd driving position which requires the seat to be slid back further than normal in order to comfortably operate the pedals - eating further into precious legroom. It's all quite compromised. Even access to the rear is tricky as the door openings seem a little narrow. Compared to the latest Renault Scenic, it's far less versatile and practical. Surprisingly, ride quality is also lumpy when unladen, particularly around town. However, when carrying passengers it's transformed, suggesting firm settings to yield consistent handling no matter what the load.
What's it like to live with?
Economy from the 2.0-litre petrol engine is quoted at 34mpg combined, but takes a battering when the car's laden as it has to be worked hard. Peugeot's excellent 2.0-litre HDi diesels make much more sense in this car. But build quality and refinement are good, the dashboard is neat and climate control systems effective - they need to be as the roof lets in a lot of light, though there is an electric blind. Big, comfortable seats please in the front but the driving position, with too-close pedals and too-distant steering wheel, doesn't. It's also a little tricky to park as the extremities are distant, but Peugeots are mechanically hardy and the SW should shake off high miles. Even if there are a few trim rattles occasionally inside.
Would we buy it?
Tricky. The 'disguised MPV' styling does have attractions, as does the irony that it seats more people than more acknowledged compact MPVs. But the pay-off is a lack of MPV-like flexibility, particularly for rear passengers who will almost certainly feel cramped. Details such as the large glass roof please but can't take the focus off a lack of legroom, while the 2.0-litre petrol engine struggles noticeably when laden. Economy also takes a hit, too. For parents of children who wish to take friends out at weekends, the 307 SW makes sense; but if you're after an alternative to a conventional MPV, you'll need to look elsewhere. Arguably, given the presence of the Citroen Picasso, this is perhaps what Peugeot intended.
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