So it’s hardly surprising that the French company sought inspiration from the daring frontal design of the new 407 when the time came to facelift its 307 range.
With bigger headlights now flanking its enlarged air scoop, this line-up of hatchbacks, folding metal roof cabriolets, estates and SW lifestyle cars have rejuvenated lines that allow them to rank among the best-looking in the class.
That’s a salient point at a time when downsizing is putting comfort and convenience features on a par with practicality on the buyer wish lists, and it is equally significant that the midlife makeover has also introduced other, more subtle benefits.
The SW is all the better for having a revised dashboard with upgraded instruments, a dual-zone automatic climate control and neater detailing, all of which meet higher expectations in the lower medium segment as an increasing number of motorists abandon larger cars in favour of more frugal transport.
Fresh 16-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres reinforce the dynamic appeal of the 307 SW – a clever concept that uses a flexible seating layout and a panoramic glass roof to woo buyers who appreciate the versatility of people-carrier cars but shy away from the boxy, van-like designs.
Since it was launched three years ago, the SW has been a best-of-both-worlds compromise based on traditional estate car styling, and the recipe has chalked up a fair success in the UK.
The version joining our fleet is the range-topping 2.0 HDi 136 in SE trim. Aimed more at user-choosers, this is a compact car costing £17,800 (or £18,539 if you include the optional metallic paint and third row of seats).
It is fitted with the second-generation 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine developed with Ford.
Though feeling tight with less than 900 miles on the speedometer on delivery, the engine is quiet, powerful and, according to the trip computer, still capable of nudging 50mpg over the two motorway trips it has completed so far.
In theory, a tank capacity of 13 gallons should allow a range of more than 600 miles, another significant consideration for a car used for company purposes as well as holiday travel.
Longer than the hatchback model it is based on, the SW has more balanced lines and feels generally better mannered on the road, apart from an annoying tremble which reaches the steering wheel at motorway speeds.
Though supplied in five-seat form, the layout of the rear floor section makes the conversion to seven-seater capability no more complicated than buying third-row seats, which cost £199 each and are available as after-market accessories if not specified at the time of ordering. But as the centre row seats are also individual units, these can be moved to the third row position to create an open space in the middle of the car.
Apart from providing extra loading versatility, this arrangement comes in handy for wet-weather picnics, particularly if the centre middle-row seat is folded to provide a table.
As with the 407, the 307 has lines that generally look better in darker colours, and our SE wears a deep red shade well.
Unfortunately, visits to supermarket car parks have already resulted in scars on the leading edges of both front wings. Why are people so careless – and why do they never leave an apology, let alone an address?
What we expect
MATING the latest PSA Peugeot-Citroen group HDi diesel engine with a six-speed manual gearbox promises high economy and relaxed cruising – just the performance you’d expect from a car with bodywork that has the versatility to cope with uses ranging from load carrying to long-distance holiday motoring.
The manufacturer’s view
‘THE 307 SW combines the practicalities of an estate with a panoramic glass roof. This increases its glass area to over five square metres and makes the interior light and spacious. With class-leading levels of safety, Euro IV engines and seating for up to seven, the SW is proving a hit.’
Steve Harris, director, fleet and leasing, Peugeot
Equipment and options
Total options: £739
Standard price (OTR): £17,800
Price as tested: £18,539
Model: Peugeot 307 SW 2.0 HDi SE
Price (OTR): £17,800 (£18,539)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 148
Company car tax bill (2005) 22% tax-payer: £52 a month
Insurance group: 10D
Combined mpg: 50.4
Test mpg: N/A
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,950/28%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Typical contract hire rate: £349