Smiles All Round Then

By: R Auchterlonie

Hands up those who remember rollers skates, the forerunners of those annoying trainers kids scoot silently round supermarkets on these days...

Little things with four wheels that you strapped on your feet and which gave you an often uncomfortable ride down paths and over manhole covers. The modern day equivalent could well be the new Peugeot 207 GTI, only in this case you strap it to your nether regions and prepare for a hell of a ride. Which it will give you. Although there are times you need to have your teeth firmly clamped together to avoid the risk of biting the end of your tongue off. The ride is, shall we say, without compromise. Firm perhaps doesn't quite sum it up, a fact you'll discover at the first pothole you encounter and you wonder if there is any suspension travel at all underneath. In fact it can sound like you've broken something underneath, such is the noise that reverberates back through the chassis. But yes there is suspension, and the big plus from the set up is that on a cross country route the GTI is very directional. It goes where you turn the wheel, with classic understeer if you push too hard, and there is very little body roll to worry about. Just what a small hot hatch should be, you're thinking, and you'd be right. It corners like its on proverbial rails, it looks like it's taken an overdose of steroids with its purposeful front end, 206WRC inspired flat wheel arches, side skirts, rear spoiler and big 17 inch alloys, and it goes like muck off a shovel.

Its 'developed with BMW' 175bhp 1600cc engine sees to that, making it very quick off the mark and while you might wonder why there are only five gears in the box, there are plenty cogs in there to keep you occupied if you need to get from A to B quickly. It's a relatively small engine with a high output which gives decent fuel economy ­ a claimed 39.2 on the combined cycle.

Brakes to are worthy of special mention, being very efficient which is what you need when you're motoring quickly across country. When you arrive at a bend that's a little bit tighter than you initially anticipated, you don't want an overly sloppy pedal. It isn't.

The cabin is well laid out, as are all 207s, and very neat, with the instruments having a new look chequered background to complement the red needles on the chrome edged dials. Neat touches abound, like the satin chrome finish door mirrors that tuck in as you activate the centre locking. And it comes with a pair of front seats that have a definite competition feel to them, their ergonomically shaped frames giving superb lateral support from the base of your back right up to your shoulders. Legroom is so-so, with height adjustment your only real alternative if you find your knees are higher than your rear end. To be honest it's not uncomfortable. I managed a lengthy trip down the A34 without too much discomfort. But mile after mile after mile on the motorway leaves your arms taking a pounding as everything the GTI encounters is fed back through the steering. And tyre roar, on poor surfaces, can be tiresome. But if most of your mileage is non-motorway orientated, then you'll in all probability find it a hoot if a small point-and-squirt type of car is your thing.

It costs £14,995 - small price for a sporty look that enthusiasts will dribble over. First small GTI Peugeot I ever drove was on a motor industry test day and I steered clear of the track, preferring to go for a run on a country lane route that had been marked out. I figured the 205 GTI, the 1.9 version, would be more fun and I wasn't wrong. It brought a great big smile to my face, and so did this one.

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