Curbside Classic: 2007 Peugeot 1007 – The Faceplant Pug

Peugeot have a justly-earned reputation for being a very prudent and serious outfit – in a good way. The company was initially started in 1810 and is still thriving, so they must be pretty good at what they do, i.e. manufacturing stuff and making money selling it. Nearly all Peugeot car models made since the 1890s have followed this path: careful planning, quality build, thoughtful marketing and slightly above-average pricing. Hence more profit. Then came the 1007.

As the new millennium dawned, PSA (Peugeot-Citroën Group) were doing well, thank you very much. The troubled times of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the firm was pretty much forced to acquire Citroën and Chrysler Europe, while dealing with the headwinds of the two Oil Shocks from without and increasing industrial action from within, were in the rearview mirror. The 205, helped with a strong supporting cast that included the 405, the Citroën AX and the Citroën BX, had saved the day.

In 1992, PSA and Fiat teamed up to enter the MPV market, fielding four models (Fiat Ulysse, Peugeot 806, Citroën Évasion, Lancia Zeta). A similar JV between Ford and VAG took place in parallel, leading to an explosion of minivan models by the late ‘90s. But sales did not grow as much as anticipated. The issue with full-size minivans was, ironically enough, their bulk. Whether of European, American or Japanese manufacture, this new class of vehicles was not for everybody, especially in the European market.

Early attempts at fielding something in this segment, such as the Mitsubishi Space Wagon or the Nissan Prairie, hadn’t met with much success in that part of the world, but that was about to change. Renault, always seen as one step ahead in this niche thanks to their Espace, launched the smaller (and cheaper) Mégane Scénic for MY 1997, as did Mercedes-Benz with their A-Class. But unlike its smaller and somewhat troubled German rival, the Scénic made an absolute killing: Renault planned to build 450 units a day, but this quickly surged to over 2000, leaving PSA scrambling for an answer. This ended up being the Citroën Xsara Picasso, launched in 1999. Now fooled twice, Peugeot wanted to ensure that, come round three, Renault would be the ones playing catch-up.

The only way to grow was to go smaller, like Renault and M-B did, but more so. Peugeot figured they would beat everyone to the two-door subcompact MPV and claim that market niche first. PSA’s upcoming small Citroën C2, based on a shortened and slightly modified Peugeot 206 platform, would donate its bones for the cause, but the new car would be a Peugeot. The lion had its pride.

On the Peugeot stand at the 2002 Paris Motor Show, a curious little yellow MPV was displayed. The Sésame, co-styled by Peugeot’s in-house team and Pininfarina, boasted sliding doors on both sides, a glass roof and a curiously retro rear spare wheel housing, but a very Peugeot face. It was obviously far more realistic than the usual show cars, so many in the motoring press figured that it would probably become an actual model in due course.

And in April 2005, with more up-to-date front styling and none of that spare wheel nonsense at the back, the car was finally launched as the 1007. Why “1007”? Well, the 107 city car was already there and Peugeot didn’t have many other options. From then on, SUVs, crossovers and other high-roofed wagons would use the “x00y” numbering system, subsequently leading to the 4007, 2008, 3008, 4008 and 5008.

The 1007 had its merits, and Peugeot’s literature naturally touted most of them. There were a few interesting features, such as the two-tronic gearbox or the customizable interior decoration, but the whole double sliding door thing was the Pug’s main party trick.

The customizable interior consisted of a set of coloured plastic bits, seen here in light grey. Big whoop. The two-tronic was a combination 5-speed full auto/flappy paddle sequential box that was not particularly problematic, but was an acquired taste and just another gimmick in the grand scheme of things. And it certainly did not help with the 1007’s drinking problem.

Rear seating was acceptable, but getting there was a lot less practical than on most (and only very slightly bigger) compact MPVs. Plus the sliding door mechanism meant that it was a strict four-seater. The rear seats could be moved forward a smidge to provide a little cargo space, but hauling suitcases and canteens was not part of the 1007’s remit.

So those two sliding doors – the car’s main selling point: why had nobody thought of it before? Simply put, because it’s a good idea on paper, but much less fun in everyday use. Folks soon sussed out that having to wait for the electric doors to open and shut all the damn time was both a waste of time and a source of frustration, especially in the rain and cold. Some 1007 users found out the wet way that automated car wash brushes could also cause the doors to open. There were also doubts about the reliability of the anti-pinch sensors and how the doors would behave in an accident. And, to cap it off, there was the weight issue.

The 1007 was a hefty 1400kg in full working order, when most cars in its category were more around the 1000kg mark. A lot of that extra weight was down to the sliding doors, but Peugeot did not provide the 1007 with enough power to offset this unfortunate slide-effect. Engine options included two Diesel 4-cyl. (a 68hp 1.4 and a 109hp 1.6) and three petrol 4cyl. (the 1.4 in either 75hp or 90hp tune, or a 110hp 1.6); the smaller engines were clearly not up to the task, and the larger ones barely so.

The weight made the car a tad lethargic, but it also drove fuel consumption up – a cardinal sin for a smaller European car. Furthermore, the ride was deemed a bit on the harsh side. The negatives were just too numerous and significant to be offset by anything else. Peugeot were aiming at building 100-130k per year and tried peddling them far and wide, including RHD variants for Japan and the UK. But the car flopped badly. RHD production was ended in 2008 and LHD cars only outlasted it by a year. Peugeot had sold under 125,000 units, but in four years. Ouch. That might not have been quite as bad a dud as the contemporary Citroën C6, but it was a major misstep all the same.

Too heavy, too thirsty, too expensive and badly thought out, the 1007 was a rare case of Peugeot drinking their own Kool-Aid, jumping the gun and losing the plot through a forest of metaphors. The company learned it the hard way: the whole fiasco cost them €1.9bn, or over €15k per car made. The 1007 was proof that providing a bad answer to a question nobody asked was not a wise move and that quirkier cars were more acceptable when wearing a Citroën badge.