Renowned for its small hatchbacks, the introduction of Peugeot's 307 model should have taken over where the ever successful 306 left off. But despite offering more space, better build quality and more efficient engines it just wasn’t to be, as the newer car lacked its predecessor’s character and ability. Still, it sold incredibly well, and was even awarded European Car of the Year in 2002. A wide range and weak residual values make it a bargain used buy.
At launch the choice was between three- and five-door hatchback models, though soon after the range was bolstered by the practical SW estate and stylish CC folding hardtop. The CC proved something of a hit and the SW could be specified with seven seats.
Apart from the large range of body styles, buyers could choose from a huge range of engines as well, petrol models starting with the 75hp 1.4-litre and ending with the 175hp 2.0-litre in the GT. The diesels are a more sensible choice though, with outputs ranging from 89- to 134hp.
Both five- and six-speed manual gearboxes were available, but we’d avoid the four-speed automatic as it blunts both performance and economy. The trim levels are baffling, and include S, E, SE, LX, GLX, Urban, Rapier, Sport, XSi, GT and even Feline – so just check what the car actually has fitted when you buy.
But trim levels aside, the biggest issue to be found with the 307 is its famed lack of reliability and poor build quality. In 2005 it ranked 158th out of 159 cars in the one of the UK's large reliability surveys, while the German TUV rated it 99th out of 113 cars between two and three years old.
Assuming you don't specifically want the folding hard top CC model, it’s the diesel models that make the most sense with the 307. In hatchback or estate form they offer the best blend of economy, pace and reliability – especially with the earlier cars. Unless you regularly expect to carry large loads or a full complement of passengers, then the 2.0-litre HDi or later 1.6-litre models with 110hp should be fine for most people’s needs, while it’s advisable to find the best specified car you can.
2.0-litre diesel (110bhp)
Engines: 1,997cc four-cylinder diesel
Maximum speed: 191km/h
0-100km/h: 10.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.2 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: * * * *
Bargain used prices
Poor build quality and reliability
Not as good as predecessor
On the used market the 307 makes plenty of sense – not only are prices cheap, but most of the reliability niggles will have been sorted by previous owners by now. There’s a huge range to choose from, including the neat folding hard top CC model and though the 307 fails to match the quality on offer from its Golf and Focus rivals, the prices reflect that.