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Oui for families; Roadtest: Peugeot 807.

Byline: BRUCE BOOTH

BRUCE BOOTH tests out the Peugeot 807 and looks back at more than a century of `people carriers' from its French makers

WHEN it comes to transporting the larger-than-average-sized family, there's one manufacturer that can call on a wealth of experience that's pretty much second to none.

Yes, those motoring gurus at car giants Peugeot just across the Channel have made something of a name for themselves over the years in the people- carrying business.

It all started back in 1894 when the company produced their first Type 9 model at a little factory Valentigny in eastern France.

Powered by a 3.75hp V-twin Daimler engine supplied by Panhard et Levassor, the little open car which was supplied with a dais - or as we know it a "surrey with a fringe on top" - had space for four adults, seated two abreast facing into each other and a top speed of 18mph.

The world had just been introduced to the first of the Peugeot people carriers.

A series of other vehicles were introduced as motoring began to move forward. But it was just before the outbreak of World War II when these Gallic geniuses showed the world their all- new 202 Canadienne model, designed to appeal to a wide section of both the general public and commercial sectors alike.

With its drooping nose and bodywork crafted from metal panels fixed onto highly- varnished ash frames, there was space aplenty for all the family. But the beauty was that it could also swallow up another four- and-a-half hundredweight of goods through the double doors at the rear.

It set new standards in car design and was to prove a great success until it was replaced by the 203 in the autumn of 1948.

The Peugeot 203 took on the look of an American-designed Sedan and was powered by a new four- cylinder 1290cc overhead valve engine churning out 42bhp.

The surprisingly-lively unit would take the newcomer up to a top speed in excess of the magical 100km/h mark, or around 65mph. In its 12- year production run, the 203 was seen as a saloon, coupe, cabriolet, van, pick- up and ambulance. Even supercharged sporty examples were built, with one gaining entry to the 1954 Le Mans 24- Hour race, only to retire with gearbox problems.

But it was the six-seater Family Estate guise that gave Peugeot the edge in the expanding people- carrying sector, as the public demanded bigger and bigger motors for their hard- earned cash.

PEUGEOT turned to Italian-designer Pininfarina for their new 403 eight- seater Family Estate, introduced in 1955.

It immediately became a big hit. Coupled with the introduction of France's first home- built diesel engine, it was to prove a winner all through its 12-year production run. Its successor, the new 404, introduced in 1961, broke the mould of traditional Peugeot style. Once again, design was entrusted to Pininfarina and the model's sharp angular lines proved a complete contrast to the curvy looks of previous models.

However, the eight-seater offered masses of space and great practicality and more than 160,000 vehicles were to roll off the production line before it was finally phased out in 1972.

The 504 was launched in 1968 as a "premium" replacement for the 404.

Designed yet again by Pininfarina, the 504 was loaded with many new designs and technical features, including innovative rear suspension and power- assisted disc brakes all round.

The success story was not to end there, for in the early 1990s, another breed of family favourites was born. The multi- purpose vehicle - or MPV as we know it - made its debut. Peugeot were not slow to cast their eyes towards this niche sector of the market and their seven- seater 806 came out in late 1995.

NOW things have moved on yet again as the French marque introduce another newcomer to take over the mantle.

Climb aboard the latest offering and it doesn't take long to see why more and more buyers are falling for the charms of these versatile vehicles.

With seating for up to eight, the new 807 is simply loaded with neat features and quirky touches to keep the most discerning of motoring buffs happy. Peugeot have gone out of their way to make their newcomer the leader in its class, not only from the point of view of looks and high interior specification, but more importantly from a safety aspect.

The 807 has ABS, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist as standard.

Coupled with curtain airbags for all six window seats, as well as front bags for driver and front- seat passenger, the 807 truly is the leader of the pack, a fact borne out by the car being awarded a four-star Euro-NCAP crash- test rating.

Things have certainly moved on since that little Type 9 chugged out of the factory more than 100 years ago, yet Peugeot have throughout that time shown a true commitment to families.

Now with the launch of their brand new 807, they are not about to give up on the family circle just yet.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Feb 19, 2003
Words:852
Previous Article:SIZE MATTERS.
Next Article:RECORD VIEW; Leaders who won't listen.
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