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The RM75-85,000 car segment has certainly become that much more exciting in recent months. After years of what has really been a two-horse race, the slew of new contenders that have emerged or are coming about in this bustling segment is nothing short of excellent news to the consumer, who by the next few weeks or so will have a couple more choices to pick from.

That B-segment domain that has been owned by Toyota’s Vios and Honda’s City has since seen the inclusion of the larger C-segment Kia Forte into the mix, and then Mazda came along with its Mazda2 sometime back. This month or so is where it all gets truly interesting – first, there was the arrival of the Thai-made Ford Fiesta, and early next month will see two more joining the fray, one being another C-segment offering, the Inspira (granted, it, like the Forte, shouldn’t exactly be in the segment, but with pricing considerably dictating purchase decisions here, like it or not, the Proton is effectively lumped in, albeit primarily in manual form).

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The other, which arrives a bit earlier sometime next week, is the Peugeot 207 Sedan. Codenamed the T33 Project, the vehicle is essentially an updated 206 Sedan based on the 206 chassis, built in Gurun for the local market as well as the Asean region. Ahead of its market launch, we were invited to have a quick preview session with the car earlier in the week.

Continue reading the report after the jump

First, a qualifier – an hour isn’t that much time, especially so if you have to take photos. That, and the lack of even trade plates, meant that the course was limited to roads nearby Blue Box Glenmarie, so the observations made are quite limited in defining the car.

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Shape evaluation, however, doesn’t count in the above, what with spending all that time shooting it. The first thing that strikes you when you first clap eyes on the 207 sedan’s body shape is that it’s all very much 206. There’s really very little argument to be had that, by and large, this is a 206 with a boot strapped on – the front end screams it pretty loud and clear, for one. Indeed, lop off the tail and smoothen out the end and basically, you’ve virtually got the little prev gen hatch.

I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with that, given that it makes good economic sense to rebuild on the existing, and that one can only do so much cosmetic work on something before it starts looking too Frankenstein-ish. There is of course that omnipresent problem every automaker has faced when adding a tail to a hatch – getting the flow through to the rear altogether right. Witness the Suzuki SX4 as an example, as well as the likes of the Mazda2 and Fiesta for that matter. Some come closer than others, but all get no cigar.

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Likewise here. The integration of the lines from rear door/C-pillar to the boot certainly takes some getting used to, at least to me it does. The C-pillar and corresponding area to the rear fender has acreage, a little too much actually, all accentuated by the cut of that 206-ish door frame, which to my eyes don’t quite work. Nonetheless, the tail by itself isn’t as prominently disjointed as some of its ilk (once you get past that C-pillar business!), though it does have lines that are a bit Vios-like. Away from that, the shape is clean and devoid of too much fuss, business-like as opposed to revolutionarily exciting. For a small family sedan, that’s certainly well workable, I guess.

Inside, there’s really none of the tactility and presence of say, a 308, be it in the lines and overall presentation, but the plastics are decent to the sight and, more importantly, touch. Yes, that front fascia takes you back to the 90s from a shape perspective, but those who like their cabins unfettered will certainly find this one to be very pleasant.

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The slightly utilitarian outlook is dressed up by items such as an automatic climate control system, leather-wrapped steering wheel (which has only tilt adjustability), a multi-function display (located top centre) and four silver-trimmed, white background dial meters. A six-speaker, single-DIN MP3/WMA CD player audio system is offered, and this has Bluetooth and USB.

Other items in the kit list are dual front SRS airbags, two Isofix points for child seats, as well as sensor-activated headlamps and wipers, which is a big plus for an offering in this segment. The boot offers 420 litres of space, not the largest in its class, but more than ample to handle most things you care to load into it.

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Seat comfort is good, as is support, but I can’t tell you how it’d all shape up for your back over long distances, since the time spent in the driver’s seat was brief. I usually have issues with Pug seating – a ‘legs too far or arms too near’ kind of thing, but the 207 Sedan didn’t really have much of that, save the point that I think the accelerator pedal may be set a bit high. Jumping in to the rear to take photos revealed a decent enough amount of head and leg room for a strappy lad – what’s available in here squeezes ahead of the Fiesta, which I did think was a bit cramped during the Ford drive in Thailand.

No Prince block to be found here, but the 1.6 litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder pot is a good change up from the 1.4 on the Bestari. With 110hp at 5,800rpm and 147Nm at 4,000rpm, it translates into a highly adequate performance if you’re not expecting to tear down the tarmac at every opportunity. The car is peppy at the get go, though arguably its Japanese competitors are that bit peppier in the low range of things. Still, it hauls off well, and movement up the speed range is fairly impressive.

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The four-speed auto adaptive tranny (the brochure doesn’t list the number of gears – naughty!) comes with Tiptronic and a Sports mode, and in use goes about its business well enough. There’s that familiar transition thud as it goes about shifts, but otherwise the box is smooth and the ratios workably spread to offer good linearity for city driving.

There was very little chance to push the car hard (and arguably, it isn’t really about this with this one, no?), what with the lack of road and corresponding opportunity to do so, but driven within what should be its usual operating parameters – city driving, with runs up to 100kph – the car performs quite admirably.

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Handling-wise, you can sense that this is one with a hint of a lively tail, but that’s only when you attempt to do fun and games with it. There’s a fair bit of roll, more than what I’d prefer, but this is nicely offset by the good compliance on call from the inverted pseudo-MacPherson fronts and independent trailing arm with transverse torsion bar rear setup. Comfort is essentially the name of the game here, and the 207 Sedan goes about it all in sensible fashion, like a good lad.

Noise levels were good during the short run. The engine isn’t that raucous, and doesn’t zing like its life depends on it when you floor things. On the move noise levels were acceptably good too, and the 185/60 series Kumhos (sitting on 15-inch 10-spoke Interlagos design alloys) didn’t intrude too much with tyre noise either. Nonetheless, a longer evaluation session should reveal how the NVH aspects actually shape up.

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The hydraulic-based steering has good weight, bordering on the heavier side even (it’s not that heavy that a three-point turn becomes a sordid affair), which feels reassuring. While my preference is for a nimbler, faster rack along the lines of that found in the Fiesta, which has far quicker response and sharpness in precision, the argument is that what’s on the Pug will suffice for most, unless you’re in the habit of tackling fast switchbacks on your way to the supermarket or the office.

On the whole, the 207 Sedan should shape up well for those looking at a Continental-based, point A-B family vehicle in that price range, though it’ll be interesting to see how well it fares against the new – and existing – faces it has to contend with, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at that.

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Five colours will be available for the 207 Sedan, these being Active Red, Alpine White, Metropolis Bronze, Velvet Silver and Premium Black, which is scheduled to be launched on Nov 3. Until then, the pricing is still indicative, estimated at RM75,000, and the car will come with a three year/100,000km warranty.

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