When Paul mooted the idea of a Station Wagon week, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about: my partner’s 2007 Peugeot 307 SW – forbidden fruit to many CCers but common (for a French make) here downunder in the land of New Zea. However, deciding to write and deciding what to write are quite different things, and despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get any inspiration. So I’d decided not to write anything…until I read Paul’s excellent article on the 1966 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. Suddenly the 307 went from being an undistinguished-everyday-European-family-wagon, to being the MDF-VC (Modern-Day-French-Vista-Cruiser) it is! Let’s take a short gander down Station Wagon Boulevard to see how Peugeot kept the Vista concept alive and well.
In the Olds VC post, Paul wrote how the glassy roof, wheelbase stretch and forward-facing third row of seats were distinguishing marks of GM’s Vista Cruisers. He also noted that this was the “exact same formula Peugeot laid down in 1950 with its 203 wagon” – although the 203 lacked the Vista Cruiser’s vista windows. Peugeot continued to follow this same longer-taller formula for decades, as written about on CC previously. Their familiale wagons all had a longer wheelbase and raised roof, but sadly the 403:
…wagons were all Vistaless Cruisers. Sacre bleu! Of course as well as their family-class offerings, Peugeot offered other smaller station wagons over the years which followed the longer-taller approach. Alas, they too were all Vista-non!. It was a case of close-but-no-Vista-cigar for Peugeot for so long!
But in 2001, things began to look up when the 307 was launched in 3/5 door hatchback form. Motor-noters noted that while it lacked the joie de vivre of its predecessor, the 306 was still quite a quietly competent competitor in the small car segment.
A year after the hatches arrived, Peugeot released a 307 station wagon in Break (two rows of seats) and SW (three rows) versions. Many folks wondered if ‘Break’ was a premonitionary name… The other wagon variant, the SW, was known as the Familiale in France, continuing Peugeot’s proud legacy of family wagons.
Also continuing Peugeot’s wagon legacy, the 307 SW was longer and taller than the hatch. The additional size allowed for additional space inside for the third row of seats, just like the UnVista Cruisers of yore.
But unlike the various HiddenVista Cruisers, the 307 wagon’s SW variant had a large glass roof! Mon dieu!! Mr and Mrs Vista, your Cruiser has arrived! This simple change finally – finally! – allowed Peugeot to join the cool kids in the glass-roof playground!
Now, les enfant, I’m a responsible car fan, so when I first met my partner last year, one of my first questions was “…so whaddya drive?” The response, “Peugeot 307 wagon”, was infinitely more interesting than the undistinguished Japanese make I was expecting. And when I first saw the 307 and noticed the glass roof, I was intrigued! I love sunroofs in a car, but this was bigger than any sunroof any of my cars had had, and I couldn’t wait to go for a ride in the truth-in-advertising ‘SW’!
It wasn’t long before I got to ride in the 307 Vistaplus Cruiser, and what a delight it was! The upward vistas afforded by the Vistafull roof are absolutely lovely. The roof and the low window line combine to provide the 307 with superb all-round visibility. The highly-specced interior and comfy leather seats add to the positive experience, and make the SW a surprisingly superb car in which to tour.
As well as being passengered in the SW, I’ve also driven it a few times, and it’s surprisingly nice to drive. My partner does find it a little underpowered at times, but my everyday car is my Glorious 70kW Nissan Laurel diesel, so to me the 307 feels quite lively! As well, the controls all fall easily to hand, and I now believe every car should have adjustable fold-down armrests attached to the inner sides of the seats.
Of course the 307 Vistamax wouldn’t be French without a quirkily quirky quirk or two, and the real doozy is the switch for the electric blind for the SuperVista roof. I spent 5 minutes searching the front of the car for it before giving up and asking. Naturally, the switch is located at the top-rear of the centre console, under the afore-mentioned armrests, and virtually inaccessible from the driver’s seat… Merde? Non! Ce est vive la difference!
My partner has owned his 307 for several years now; it replaced a Volkswagen Golf that was lovely but slightly expensive to service and horrendously expensive when things broke. His reason for buying the 307 was practicality – it’s apparently superb for loading to the gunhales with plants from the plant centre. The fact it had three rows of seats and a MegaMasterVistaRoof wasn’t instrumental in the purchase. In fact, the third row of seats hasn’t been installed for some years and currently sit in the garage. Unlike the other French car in our family (my late grandparents’ 2001 Renault Scenic), the SW has proven extremely reliable. The sole issue over the last few years of ownership has been a dodgy wheel bearing that was replaced at Christmas.
I’m not sure what the future holds for the 307 SW, as my partner and I have three station wagons between us – the 307, his Toyota Caldina company car and my Ford Sierra. We quite like the idea of selling it for a classic convertible, maybe a Triumph Stag. But until then, we’ll enjoy touring the beautiful New Zealand countryside in the 307 SW Vista Cruiser, marvelling at the visible vistas as we cruise by!