The lower medium estate sector is the very epitome of the essential user company car.
These are workhorse vehicles designed to carry tools and sales samples as cost effectively as possible, and frequently over high mileages. This is also a sector of the market where Peugeot has fought an uphill battle with the 306 estate over the last year, while taking on its rivals in the hatchback sector with the all-new 307, the European Car of the Year.
Peugeot has recognised the central importance of the 307 estate to fleets by delegating marketing responsibility to its fleet department, while responsibility for the more life-style oriented 307 SW (a seven seater MPV based on a similar body style to the estate) lies with the retail sales department.
The 307 estate has a 10cm longer wheelbase than the 307 hatchback and an extra 12cm in the rear overhang.
This extra length in the wheelbase gives the 307 estate an important weapon in an increasingly competitive sector - even more legroom for rear seat passengers (although the hatchback is hardly cramped).
The estate replaces the 306 estate, which has continued alongside the 307 hatchback for the last 12 months. It will take up the lower-to-medium end of the estate price bracket with three trim levels, Style, LX and Rapier.
And reflecting its fleet aspirations, the 307 estate comes with three diesel engines; the 1.4 HDi, as well as both 90bhp and 110bhp variants of the 2.0 HDi; as well as 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines.
From a wholelife cost perspective, early figures show residual value forecasts for the estate are overall as good as the Volkswagen Golf estate, with some key models outperforming the VW (see table below).
Combined with the SW, the longer versions of the 307 are expected to account for around one- third of annual sales from 2003 as the range reaches full strength. And still to come is the 306 Cabriolet replacement 307 Coupe Cabriolet, which will use a 206 CC-style folding hard roof.
|Residual value fact file|
|Model||List price||CAP RV/%||Cash lost|
|Vauxhall Astra 1.6i 16v LS||£13,230||£3,975/30||£9,225|
|Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec||£12,995||£4,550/35||£8,445|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.6 16v S||£13,445||£4,850/36||£8,605|
|Peugeot 307 1.6 Rapier||£13,160||£4,875/38||£8,585|
|Vauxhall Astra 2.0 DTi LS||£14,620||£4,400/30||£10,220|
|Ford Focus 2.0 TDdi Ghia||£15,095||£5,050/34||£10,045|
|VW Golf 1.9 TDI PD 100 S||£14,840||£5,300/36||£9,540|
|Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi 110 Rapier||£15,160||£5,500/37||£9,660|
Source: CAP Monitor May 2002. Basis: three years/60,000 miles.
Behind the wheel
LIKE the 307 SW, the estate improves significantly on the appearance of the 307 hatchback. The longer wheelbase and boxed rear end endows the car with better proportions and sleeker profile.
Although there are three different levels of specification, all estates have body-colour bumpers, electric front windows, remote central locking, ABS brakes and six airbags.
The interiors also reflect the rest of the 307 range with different 'ambiences' combining contrasting dashboard facia with colour co-ordinated seat fabrics.
There is little difference between the estate and the hatchback when sitting in the front, with identical instrument layout and driving position. The major benefit is for rear-seat passengers, with the kind of legroom associated with much larger cars.
The estate is also about a centimetre wider at the rear than the 307 hatchback - not much but it all adds up to make a vast space behind the rear seats. Maximum boot volume is 1,805 litres with the rear seats folded.
That exceeds larger estates such as the Rover 75 Tourer, which although more 'lifestyle' in approach is one of the larger load carriers in its class.
We drove the 307 110bhp 2.0 HDi and while it felt fast enough, with decent acceleration in the mid-range, we felt certain that the 1.4-litre petrol and diesel motors would feel as though they were struggling.
Otherwise, the estate if anything seemed to ride a little better than the hatchback - probably due to the longer wheelbase - and does not lose out significantly in the handling stakes.
Steering is precise and the car remains stable unless provoked into stepping out of line by braking unnecessarily late or going into corners too fast. Hardly standard driving practices.
TWELVE months after its launch, the 307 has developed from a competent hatchback into a complete range of lower-medium cars with smart interiors, versatile body options and sharp handling. The HDi diesel estates will be fleet favourites, with adequate performance and strong economy.