12 December 2013

DRIVEN: Peugeot 206

We grab the keys and take Peugeot's stylish supermini for a spin...

PEUGEOT were well aware of how good their 205 was. A sweet looking Pininfarina styled supermini. Neatly packaged, with a decent chassis having excellent ride and handling. Its potential was fulfilled with the legendary GTi.

The 205 was a big seller for Peugeot throughout the 1980s and rightly so, because it was arguably the best supermini on sale at the time. Later in its life and despite newer rivals on the scene (e.g. the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta and Rover Metro) well into the 1990s. The 205s were still strong sellers.

There was no getting away from the fact that time would catch up with the 205. Peugeot intended on letting their popular supermini live long in the tooth, and be quietly phased out. They believed that indirectly replacing the 205, with the newer 106 and 306 would be the solution.

The numbers didn't quite add up. Not only that, there was an obvious gap in Peugeot's line up of cars. Some may have found the 306 being either too big or too expensive. The 106 of being too small or too impractical. So Peugeot launched a direct replacement for the 205 in 1998 with the 206.

Where looks are concerned, the 206 still remains a stylish supermini, and is arguably one of the prettiest out there. The elegant curves with its pert rear end. The sleek, feline headlights that also gives it a hint of aggression about it. Compare it to a similarly aged Corsa or Fiesta; the overall design of the 206 has matured like fine wine, and aged even better than the 207.

Inside the 206, it's nice and airy inside thanks to the big glass area along with the sloping windscreen and gives the a 206 somewhat, a big-car feel about it for one of this size. The hard interior plastics though, have a scaly texture of a reptile's skin. On board, there's plenty of interior and boot space for a small car. The rear seats can also fold down flat, (providing you take the rear head rests out) for a bigger load bay that can carry a chest of drawers.

The parcel shelf easily slots in and out as it's not clipped on like on most cars. So taking it in or out of is a breeze. Another is the passenger airbag switch button, which is useful for parents should they need to strap a child seat. Nice touches there.

Peugeot offered a wider range of 206s than they did 205s. So there are many guises to suit peoples tastes, needs or budgets. The 206 was available in a few different bodystyles. A three and five door hatchback, an estate (SW), GTi performance models and an open top CC (Coupe-Cabriolet) model.

The petrol engines were available with 1.1, 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0 litre units. The diesels were only available with the 1.9 Dturbo, but it was later replaced and also expanded with 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0 litre HDi units.

Peugeot have been pretty generous with equipment on the 206. Apart from the very basic models, most of them have electric windows, remote central locking, CD player, steering mounted controls, air conditioning and front fog lamps  all as standard. On earlier Phase 1 206s (from 1998-2003), buyers had the choice to either have an electric sunroof or air conditioning.

Out on the road, the 206 demonstrates Peugeot's understanding of a good handling car. It's quite sharp and composed round the bends. Add the meaty steering, it gives lots of feedback that makes it quite a fun and entertaining car for the keen driver. As well as being a tidy handling car, the 206 also rides and copes well on rougher roads.

The 206 I drove was the XSi model. Which sits below the GTi ‒ so it's the warm hatch in the range. Under the bonnet, it's powered by a lively 1.6 litre 16-valve engine that produces 110bhp. It's got good low-down acceleration and really livens up after 2-3,000rpm. It suits the car with its handling characteristics.

However, the 206 does have its fair share of flaws. The most common criticism is the driving position. It's pretty much ape-like, and designed for those with short legs and long arms. Not the most comfortable of driving positions ‒ some probably wouldn't even be able to get comfortable at all. The seat mechanism is fiddly. It doesn't help with the accelerator and brake pedals being too close to each other as well.

Build quality is another criticism. Bits of trim have fallen off on the 206 I drove ‒ one side of the seat mechanism. There are squeaks and rattles on board, when travelling over rough surfaces. Even a piece of trim popped off the door panel if you slam it shut ‒ though that easily slotted right back on.

Where reliability is concerned, Peugeot isn't renowned for bullet proof reliability. They haven't scored well on customer satisfaction and JD Power surveys. Based on my experience of owning a 206, it has served me well which says otherwise and has had the odd niggles, but nothing serious so far.

With its youthful looks, with nice ride and handling makes the 206 an appealing runaround for younger drivers - especially the diesels. It's also practical, cheap to buy and run, that will get the thumbs up from parents who think of getting their offspring one as their first car.

With the age 206s are and how many are on the roads, it can make a decent small car for those on a tight budget. You can get snap up a decent one with low miles for peanuts  so don't pay over the odds for one. That also means parts are cheap and easy to find.

So to sum it all up, the Peugeot 206 is a good and perfectly rounded small car, that seems to be have much of the bases covered. It might not go down in history like the old 205 did, but the 206 is a good car nonetheless in its own right.


2002 Peugeot 206 XSi

Engine: 1.6 litre, DOHC, 16-Valve, 4 Cylinder
Transmission: 5 Speed Manual
Power: 110bhp
Torque: 147Nm
0-62mph: 9.2secs
Top speed: 122mph
Economy: 41mpg
CO2: 159g/km
Equipment: Colour coded bumpers, power steering, 2x airbags, space saver spare wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric windows, remote fob, central locking, all-round disc brakes, front and rear fog lights

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