Designed to look very much like a smaller version of the big 407 sedan, with a wide "mouth" its most dominant styling feature, the new 207 offers more room than its predecessor, the 206 - versions of which continue at entry-level in the Peugeot SA lineup.
Initially just four engine options will be offered in the 207, two petrol and two diesel, each of 1.4-litre and 1.6 litre capacity, with a 110 kW 1.6 petrol turbo (developed in conjunction with BMW for the next MINI-Cooper) to come later.
The two versions we drove at the launch, which was held in Mpumalanga at low altitude, were the 1.6-petrol in sporty XS trim, and the 1.4 turbo-diesel in more sombre XR guise.
The 1.4 X-line petrol version, with 65 kW at 5 250 r/min and 133 Nm of torque at 3 250 r/min, starts the bidding at R138 900.
Next up comes the 1.4 HDi XR diesel, listed at R139 900, and producing a low low 50 kW at 4 000 r/min with 160 Nm of torque at 2 000 r/min.
Then there's the 1.6 XS, with 80 kW at 5 750 r/min and 147 NM of torque at 4 000 r/min for R153 400.
Topping off the range is the 1.6 HDi XS, with 80 kW at 4 000 r/min and 240 Nm at 1 750 r/min, for R166 400.
Initially only five-door models are on offer, with three-door versions of the XR coming later.
First impression is that the 207 looks a LOT bigger than the 206, thanks to its bold and aggressive styling.
Fact is it's taller and 200 mm longer, much of that in the nose area, and 80 mm longer in the wheelbase, while weight grows a whopping 150 kg. To put that into perspective, that's two grown men extra to haul along.
One of the reasons more mass has been added to the car has been to improve safety, and the 207 succeeds in its bid to become one of the safest small cars around, achieving a full Euro NCAP 5-star rating with child and pedestrian protection especial strongpoints.
There's also more weight to cover the extra size, plus 50 kg in the use of better quality materials.
This shows inside the cabin, where the hard plastics used on the 206 give way to new soft-touch materials.
On the XS versions the dashboard and door panels are dramatically uplifted by the use of aluminium trim highlights, making this one of the most attractive small car interiors around.
But the entry-level trim, as found on the 1.4 diesel, is dark and uninspiring.
That said it's much easier to get comfortable in the 207 than the 206, with height adjustment for the driver's seat as well as tilt and reach adjustment of the steering column.
Rear seat space is also better, enabling adults to be carried in much less cramped conditions, and there's an improvement in boot space, too.
As mentioned, Peugeot has gone a long way to ensure the 207 is a safe car. It gets two adaptive front airbags for driver and passenger, plus two side airbags, in all models, while the top versions also get a pair of side curtain bags to bring the tally to six in all.
There are ABS brakes coupled with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) as well as emergency brake assistance (BAS) while the hazard flashers come on automatically when BAS activates.
There are also three ISOFIX child seat attachments in the rear.
Specification levels depend on the model - XR, X-Line and XS.
With the XS, owners get added luxuries such as bi-zone automatic climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, electric windows all round, automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensor, a leather covered steering wheel, and even a fragrance diffusion system which scents the passenger compartment according to a patented process
The entire range boasts a radio/CD-player combination with six speakers and fingertip controls mounted on the steering column.
Aircon is also standard across the range - manual or climate controlled, depending on model - as are electric windows with one-touch driver control (front only on XR and X-line).
Other features include a refrigerated glovebox, split and folding rear seats, headlamp height adjustment, remote central locking with immobiliser, alarm and motion detectors, and auto wipers with rain sensor in XS versions.
XS models also get front foglights and a chrome plated grille.
Boot space is increased by 22 litres to 267 litres, and there's a full-size spare wheel, plus a 50 litre fuel tank.
The 207 gets a new front suspension which comprises a pseudo MacPherson strut setup with an antiroll bar, and at the back coil springs with a tubular crossmember which incorporates an antiroll bar.
Alloy wheels fitted with 195/55R16 tyres are standard on both XS versions while the XR and X-line models get steel wheels with 185/65R15 tyres.
On the road
Although the car has grown in size and certainly in mass, there has been absolutely no change (with the exception of the stomping 2-litre GTI, which is NOT in the 207 lineup) to those engines found in the smaller and lighter 206.
And that shows on the road, where the 207 1.6 petrol seems to struggle to haul the extra weight along unless you rev it, at which point it sounds decidedly asthmatic and thrashy.
And as for the 1.4 turbo-diesel, well, like its opposite number in the VW Polo, you have to rev it just to take off, and keep the revs going to maintain progress, thus negating a lot of the raison d'être for having a small diesel, i.e. improved fuel consumption.
Peugeot claims overall economy figures of just 4.5 litre/100 km for the 1.4 diesel, but the on-board computer showed we, and others who had driven the car before us, hadn't bettered 7.5 litres/100 km.
Claimed performance figures are as follows:
1.4 petrol 0-100 km/h 14.2 seconds, top speed 180 km/h, overall fuel 6.4 litres/100 km.
1.4 HDI diesel 0-100 km/h 16.9 seconds, top speed 166 km/h, overall fuel 4.8 litres/100 km
1.6 petrol 0-100 km/h 11.7 seconds, top speed 195 km/h, overall fuel 7 litres/100 km
1.6 HDI diesel 0-100 km/h 11.1 seconds, top speed 193 km/h, overall fuel 4.8 litres/100 km.
As mentioned I must confess to feeling a little disappointed with the way the car delivered on the road.
Those startling looks, with the deep and wide front grille and the smooth and refined back end, promise so much.
Yet I found myself having to drop down to second or even first gear where third should have been enough to pull through tighter corners in town, while on the open road I twice reached down to check I hadn't left the handbrake on.
Yes, the car handles better - although to be fair, there wasn't a lot wrong with the 206 - and brakes certainly feel much more positive and inspiring, as does the electric power steering.
Service intervals are 20 000 km on the 1.4 diesel, 30 000 km on other models, and the cars come with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty.
Peugeot has a lot riding on the 207, and we hope the French company will achieve its ambitions.
Much mention was made at the launch about the company's plans to improve parts availability and pricing and after-sales service levels, and successful implementation of this will certainly enhance the marque's appeal.