Interior dimensions of modern small cars show that today's superminis are as big inside as the lower-medium cars of 10 or 15 years ago.
While the bulk of sales in the supermini sector have been traditional three-door and five-door hatchbacks, other more versatile variants have also come to the fore as manufacturers have discovered that if they are restricted to a certain length and width they can move upwards. The new Peugeot 1007 is evidence of this.
The business of building scaled down MPVs has grown in recent years. In 1998 the 'monospace' element of the B-sector (superminis) was 1.6% in Europe, but this had increased to 8.2% by last year. Peugeot believes there is appetite for more.
The company says the majority of future concepts based on small car platforms will be those with 'single compartment' architecture.
The advantages of translating these MPV-like styling features to a small car are the elevated driving position for ease of access, improved visibility, greater interior space and extra variations in the seating and luggage layout.
But cars including Vauxhall's Corsa-based Meriva and the Fiat Punto-derived Idea are at the larger end of the sector where Peugeot intends to establish the new 1007 when it goes on sale in the UK in May 2005.
With Peugeot's numerical model designation using a zero as the middle digit running short of possibilities, the company decided to introduce a double-zero and four-digit identification, which will now be reserved for vehicles with 'no historical connection to a previous model'.
Positive feedback following the unveiling of the Sesame concept at the 2002 Paris Motor Show confirmed the potential for a compact four-seater with innovative features and the resulting 1007 production car will go into production with the Sésame's electric sliding doors.
It is 10cm shorter than a Peugeot 206, but is 2cm wider and 18cm taller and with individual seats – the rear seats have a 50/50 split – is designed to accommodate four adults comfortably.
It will be built alongside other small cars in PSA's factory in Poissy, near Paris, with 130,000 cars produced in a full year.
Peugeot is promising class-leading safety with up to seven airbags – including a steering column airbag to protect the driver's knees in a crash.
There will be an audible seatbelt warning which will also function when rear seat passengers fail to buckle up.
The two electric sliding doors can both be operated from the driver's seat, the front seat passenger has a separate switch for the passenger door and both can be operated from the key fob.
'This is not a replacement for any vehicle in the existing Peugeot line-up,' said Peugeot chief executive Frederic Saint-Geours.
'We wanted a useful and innovative vehicle which would free the customer from day-to-day stress by making life easier and a car suitable for everyone.'
Peugeot will offer a choice of two petrol engines and a common rail diesel at launch.
A 75bhp petrol engine will come with a five-speed manual transmission as standard with an optional 2-tronic sequential manual with a fully automatic mode and steering column-mounted paddles.
A 110bhp 1.6-litre will be available with the 2-tronic transmission while the 70bhp 1.4 HDi will come only with a conventional manual transmission.
However, more engine variants and transmission combinations could be offered later in the vehicle's life.
Behind the doors
STARING at the Peugeot 1007 electric sliding doors in various video presentations and noting that the cars we were looking at were fitted with expansive electric glass sunroofs, I pondered why no one had mentioned the side glass.
Only fairly recently were we able to choose an MPV with sliding passenger doors and electric windows that actually opened fully.
I guessed that on this small car the complexities, and therefore cost, of designing doors that slid open by remote control would prohibit including fully functioning electric windows.
It was Peugeot's chief executive, Frederic Saint-Geours, when we were discussing the car afterwards, who pointed out that the 1007 came with proper electric windows.
The prominent handles on the outside near the front edge of the doors draws attention to their unique status in the sector, but also indicate that inside the door skin there is room for the window to drop down.
This only hints at how much thought has gone into the car.
The electric doors slide to the rear of the car to ensure the maximum opening is available for access to the front and rear and allow easier entry when you return to the car in a multi-storey car park and find two large SUVs have parked either side. But the electric function stops when the fuel filler flap is open to prevent accidental damage.
As well as a range of new exterior colours for the 1007 there is also a range of 12 interior trims and colours schemes so customers can personalise their cars. Called the Caméléo concept in France – expect the name Chameleon in the UK – it includes co-ordinated air vent bezels, dashboard trim mats, door trims and rear storage covers as well as seat trims which are attached with a recessed zip.
The plan is for UK customers to be supplied with two different interior kits with each car. Additional kits will be available as options.
The front passenger seatback can be folded forward to form a hard and sturdy work surface, while the independent rear seats slide forward and backwards over a distance of 23cm, folded flat or folded forward to maximise luggage space.
As well as a large glove compartment there are drawers under the front seats, storage compartments in to the side of the seat bases, covered compartments in the rear side panels, under-floor storage boxes in the rear and hooks for hanging shopping bags on the back of the rear seats.
Options will include climate control, a telematics system including colour-screen satellite navigation and GSM mobile telephone, while high spec versions of the 1007 will also feature standard cruise control, rear parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers and a trip computer.
The car is obviously a Peugeot from the front with a gaping grille from the 407 and large feline headlamps.
The C-pillar is angled inwards – hinting perhaps at the Mercedes-Benz A-class, an association Peugeot will probably be happy about given the Merc's premium badge – while the runners for the sliding doors are separated by a metallic strip across the tailgate spelling out the Peugeot name.
Customers will be able choose from 15-inch or 16-inch wheels.
THE 1007 looks like Peugeot, is genuinely innovative and has bags of character. It will no doubt be a success in an expanding small car segment where diversity and practicality are becoming more important.