You may remember the sliding doors of old post-office vans and milk floats, but there has never been a small hatchback with sliding doors before. But that is what the new Peugeot 1007 has, and they're electrically operated too. What makes them better?
Think about parking in a supermarket car park, or any other place where your car is tight-packed against the vehicle beside it, and your struggles to exit through the gap. The space will be narrow because you can't open the door fully, and getting out will be difficult - and a real battle if you have bags in your hands. Aboard this Peugeot, though, you'll have no trouble, because the door will slide out of the way in the narrowest of spaces. And it's big enough to make getting to the 1007's rear seats pretty easy too. Brilliant. Well, almost: there are disadvantages.
The doors take five seconds to open, and six to close (it takes the door time to suck itself shut against its seal), which is a surprisingly long delay and downright annoying if it's raining. They add substantially to the cost of making the 1007 - the range starts at £10,850, which is not so cheap for a city car - and its weight, too, dulling its performance noticeably. The (pricier) 1.6 litre diesel is perkier than this 1.4, and the better buy if you'll be doing long distances.
Yet, oddly, the little Peugeot is rather good on a long journey - it is comfortable, quiet and a good cruiser, its big windscreen and sophisticated dashboard lending it the aura of a much larger car. As you'd hope, it is effective in town too, a lofty driving position and generous glazing boosting your confidence in the urban fray. So does its air of solidity - the 1007 feels well made and has excellent safety credentials, having scored five stars in the EU's official crash test.
On a lighter note, its seats have brightly trimmed centre-panels, which can be unzipped and swapped for covers of another colour, a spare set of alternate hue supplied as standard. You also get colour-matched clip-on air-vent surrounds. All of which is part of Peugeot's attempt to vest the 1007 with some of the cheeky charm of the Mini. It doesn't quite succeed, even if the Peugeot is the more radical design, but its cabin interior is more diverting than many.
Curiously, both the 1007 and Mini suffer the same significant deficiency - a tiny boot. Admittedly, the 1007's rear seats - and bear in mind there are only two, making it a strict four-seater - can be individually slid back and forth, but this is a serious drawback in a car surely destined for the supermarket run.
In the end, the 1007 is intriguing but flawed, as well as somewhat expensive.
It would best suit city-dwelling couples who regularly park in confined spaces. If you don't qualify, you'll be better off with a conventional five-door supermini, available for similar money.
SPECIFICATION Price £11,550 (1.4 HDi Dolce) Max power 70 bhp Max torque 120 lb ft Max speed 96 mph 0-62 mph 16.8 sec Fuel consumption 64.2 mpg CO2 emissions 115 g/km RIVALS Honda Jazz 1.4 DSi SE £10,625 Four conventional doors but a lot more usable room. Petrol only, but a robust all-rounder. Toyota MR2 VVT-i £17,150 More charm than the Peugeot, but rear seat is cramped. Both have small boots. More fun too.