Great European Cars Number 4

Slowly but surely, Driventowrite is advancing up to the top of the list of Great European cars like a mountaineer inching up the Eiger. Today, the French get their turn as another piton is hammered home.

Part 1 of the series is here. Part 2 of the series is not here but here.  The third part lives in this tiny dot For the fourth part, click this. And the fifth instalment exists here.

Today. Today we have the car embodying the essential key elements of French car design and it was a strong seller too rather than being merely some much admired, often repaired, seldom driven garage queen. You won’t be surprised to know this car enjoyed a long production run as well, a sign of its succesful position in a highly competitive market sector.

Unique design: source

The key things you have to remember when talking about this car are its dimensions. Peugeot designed in smallness at every opportimity. The wheelbase measured only 2,340 mm. The car’s length barely stretched to 3,430 mm. The measuring tape just had to be unrollec to 1,630 mm (64.2 in) to describe its width and solely those people with eyes at  1,470 mm above ground could see the top of its roof with ease.

The 107 had two engines: a three-pot petrol 1.0 and a four-banger diesel 1.4.

WhichCar? Reader Sarah Conner said this about the car: “You need to have the right expectations to drive this car. If you’re looking for a cheap runner that is generally quite environmentally friendly that does not need to go fast then this is the car for you. It is very basic (even the better versions) and that’s what you pay for. It generally costs me £10 per week to do about 12 miles per day and the tax is free. Insurance is cheap too. I love the way mine looks (the allure in purple) but I suppose that’s each to their own.”

WhatCar? rated it as three stars out of five for performance which didn’t melt asphalt. I have often wondered why there was no balls-to-the-wall cooking version. What did Peugeot have to lose by putting a 1.5 litre turbo four under the bonnet?

Ride and handling earned two stars. So in that sense it doesn’t cleave to the French formula of supple suspension and comfy ride. AutoExpress contradict WhyCar? by saying it does have a supple ride, by the way.

Given its low price, the two star rating for refinement is absurd. This is the fourth best ever European car and two stars for this is silly.

AutoExpress considered the car long-in-the-tooth when summing it up: With small size and tiny engines on their side, these three cars make for a solid buy for those after a compact city car. The main rivals to look at are the Volkswagen up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, which also share a platform – but with their more modern design, high quality interiors and affordable prices, it’s hard to recommend the ageing Peugeot over any of them.”

1983-2003 Fiat Panda 4×4

But that wasn’t true when it was launched. With its unique appearance, compact dimensions and front-wheel drive, hatchback format, the 107 is very much the quintessential French car, as typical of practical France as the Panda is evocative of sunny, cheerful Italian living.

CarBuyer slams the nail on the head: “It’s all about simplicity and utility – everything you need to go motoring; no frills, fewer sills and very cheap to buy and run”. More than that, the car has real French personality, much more so than the curiously similar and very disappointing Citroen C1. That’s why the 107 gains its place as the fourth best European car, and it’s French as well, which is no surprise.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

11 thoughts on “Great European Cars Number 4”

  1. How does this compact little car relate to the Toyota Igo ? I assumed the Peugeot and Citroen versions were spin offs of the Toyota design.

    1. To my understanding, neither is a spin-off, but it’s actually a PSA-Toyota co-development. The PSA twins use the same body panels and only differ in things like bumpers, light units and grilles, while the Toyota has a different body. This is true for both generations of these cars.

  2. I used this car in Citroen C1 guise in Italy a while ago.

    It felt appropriately nimble and compact. Its three pot engine was entertaining, as it needed to be worked hard if real progress was to be made, even within legal speed limits. The steering was direct, but not nervous. I truly enjoyed my time behind the wheel, as I appreciated the raw, honest character of the C1, not to mention its compact dimensions, which are a true boon.

    And that’s despite quite a few drawbacks. Above all else, there was the seating position: I presume the Aygo/107/C1 were designed with people considerable shorter than me (1.91 metres) in mind. For on the motorway, I had nowhere to put the idle arm and had to stretch the one operating the steering wheel, which became highly uncomfortable, even after just a few minutes. The steering wheel was only adjustable for rake, just as the seat’s adaptability was highly limited, so there was no way to change the ergonomics, unfortunately.

    The C1’s other shortcomings (notchy first gear, cumbersome wiper) did not have a great effect on the overall driving experience, but the seating position was truly irritating during anything other than in-town driving.

  3. All three cars are technically identical and are assembled all together on the same factory line in the Czech republic. They are in essence badge engineered versions of the same car but with enough visual difference to separate them.

    Also, I wonder how much of them is really French? It’s a joint venture between PSA and Toyota, and it feels very much to me like Toyota contributed the know how and PSA its joie de vivre. Having owned both a Toyota Yaris and a Citroën C1, I can attest to the notion there’s much Toyota in the C1, it feels like a Yaris replacement given to Daihatsu for export, then sorted out by the French.

  4. I too feel its more Toyota than French, even the three cylinder is a development of the Daihatsu engine that appeared in the last Charades. I ran a Charade for some time and thought it was great especially the triple but never felt the same about a friends Igo.
    Another favourite was the IQ, again with the refined version of the Daihatsu engine.

  5. I’m starting to struggle with Richard’s works; how much is straight bat and how much is irony? I’d assumed the balance here was firmly with the latter … I like these cars, they are good honest things, but I think the Up does it better.

    1. The Up! is more german, more adult, with more space and more quality (not in terms of reliability). But i don´t think that makes the Up! the better car. It is less entertaining with its weak engines and more weight, it is less frugal, the additional space is not needed and reliability is more important than refinement.

      It is more like the I-phone compared to other Smartphones. Its brothers from Skoda and especially Seat are remarkably unsuccessful, because in my opinion, they do not offer this I-Phone image.

  6. I think I’ve just realised where Richard is going with this. Surely two of the top three are going to be the Panhard PL17 and the Daf Daffodil. Not made my mind up about the third candidate . . .

  7. We’ve owned a 107 from new in London – coming up to 12 years now and over 65,000 miles. I love it – there is something of the Renault 4 about it – not the ride of course! But it is honest about what it sets out to do, the painted metal inside – our is metallic blue – adds to the feeling and (touch various finishes) nothing major has gone wrong. In London narrowness equals speed and shortness opens up parking, while age makes us less anxious about inevitable dings. The A/C is great and has not yet needed re-gassing and demists the huge windscreen very quickly – I’d hate to wait for it to demist without A/C.. Ours is a special order with curtain airbags, but what is really reassuring about the car, without fail, is how rigid the body feels even in the five door. It may bounce a bit but never squeaks. Our 1986 Volvo 850 estate would squeak if you parked one rear wheel on a pavement – you has a sense of the body twisting (it’s replacement, a 2002 V70 is also rock-rigid by the way). It looks and bears analogy (or is that a metaphor) to an egg – strong and amazingly economically engineered for purpose.
    The original clutch was weak and after protest was replaced by Peugeot under warranty (19,000 miles). The second one didn’t last too well either (a further 21,000 miles) but an uprated one is still going after 28,000 miles so might give a 50% improvement… though still pathetic. At least the current clutch does not smell every time you reverse into a parking space!
    The seats are comfortable enough, visibility OK, the engine sounds happy once up to working temperature, the gearbox notchy when cold (I should probably have the “for life” gearbox oil changed, though my garage tells me not too bother!).
    Performance? Well it town it’s fast because it’s small. Out of town it cruises happily and if you are in the right gear high-ish up the rev range (Optional rev counter fitted – £40 extra at the time I think) you might just accelerate out of trouble. If you have company, don’t seek trouble as the extra weight is noticeable.
    Water leaks were numerous – apparently later cars were improved. Door and hatch seals were replaced but a peskier problem was a notorious leak from the rear light cluster seals. A guy in the Midlands made replacements from better foam – I bought two sets on ebay eight years ago and still have one spare – thank you dedicated person in the Midlands, you might well have saved the car from one or more forms of biological destruction.
    I realise that I’ve always wanted to write in praise of this modest, thoroughly modern and ingenious car, The shape is great – totally un-retro, which I love and the way the rear doors cover the pillar is super-cool and so much more elegant that the iGo door-pillar-light sequence in profile.
    There is a common trait to Japanese and French cars (don’t laugh!) – there’s a shared commitment to utility as a quality and an interest in ingenuity that can lead to totally wonderful over-the-top solutions (rear wheel steering can be found of French and Japanese cars, never I think on British) and also to brilliantly elegant minimalism. Last but not least, the 107 delights in that it fulfils to the letter Colin Chapman’s immortal instruction: “Simplify, the add lightness”. That makes it a thoughtful car, that rewards contemplation but can also be totally taken for granted. Genius and simple joy.

  8. Ha ha… I have had three as loan cars over a few years, and thought they were dreadful things! Coarse engine in particular and terrible suspension meant that in my mind there was nothing of the Renault 4 about them.

    So I am intrigued by your comments David JK. There must be something really appealing about living with one longer term that outweighs the benefits, particularly with your comments about clutches, water leaks and demisting, which would have driven me nuts.

    As I have said before, isn’t it interesting how different we perceive things? Vive la difference! (and long live a decent choice of vehicles too!)

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