October 5, 2012
The small-medium Peugeot 206 was a great car in its day and appealed to those looking for something out of the ordinary. Many were sold to Australians who enjoy driving, not to mention those who love all things French. It rode and handled like a quality car and its dynamics were well ahead of those of the typical Asian cars of the time.
Despite the excellent handling, ride comfort remained good, even on rough Australian roads. Though it’s mainly aimed at suburban running, Peugeot 206 can easily be used as a long distance cruiser thanks to its compliant suspension and the usual concentration on relaxing travel by French suspension engineers.
The styling of the baby Peugeot broke new ground, with big bold curves and sweeping angles. In particular look at the asymmetrical shape of the body and at the bold lines of the C-pillars. So successful was the shape of the little car that the designers eventually carried the styling theme to the rest of the Peugeot range.
In its home country the Peugeot 206 is used by many as a family car so has excellent space efficiency. There's reasonable accommodation for four people and a fair amount of luggage. The 206's interior has been designed to provide a variety of passenger/luggage combinations by folding different seats as required.
Most 206s are sold as hatchbacks with either three or five doors, but there's a fascinating open-top model that’s gained a lot of admirers in Australia. Tagged the Peugeot 206CC, with the CC standing for Convertible-Coupe, it has a solid metal roof that can turn it into a convertible at the push of a button. This car was in the vanguard of what has become a popular type in Australia and still draws attention today.
There's also a full on sports model in the 206 GTi and its even stronger brother the GTi180. These not only have plenty of engine grunt, but also sports seats, 15-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension and ABS brakes. The GTi variants cost a fair bit more than the standard models but offer decent value for money for the driving enthusiast.
Engines in the Peugeot 206 begin with a 1.4-litre unit, only sold from March 2002 and used in the lower cost variants. The 1.4 has better performance than you might expect in a car of this size, but try it for yourself, preferably with a reasonable number of people on board before settling for its lower price. Far more common is a 1.6-litre engine installed in cars from the original 1999 imports onwards.
A 2.0-litre unit, which is a very large powerplant for a car of this size and light weight, is sold in the sports GTi. That model comes in several formats; most have 100kW or 102kW power outputs but the GTi180 punches out a very healthy 134kW, or 180 horsepower hence the car’s title.
Though the engine capacity in the 180 horsepower unit remains at the same 2.0 litres as on the standard 206 GTi, the 180 has variable valve timing, a twin exhaust system and quite a few detailed changes to increase efficiency. The result is a zero to 100 km/h time of a pretty respectable seven seconds.
The 2.0-litre engine is also offered in some versions of the 206CC convertible, but only in its lower-powered format. The added weight of the adaptable roof also takes the edge of the car’s performance. But, hey look at that lovely open air feeling, isn’t that more important?
Most models in the Peugeot 206 range have a five-speed manual transmission as standard, with an optional four-speed automatic for those who drive in traffic a lot. From the March 2004 model update the automatic came with tiptronic-type manual overrides. Peugeot 206 GTi comes only with the manual gearbox.
After a long and successful run in Australia, the 206 was replaced by the Peugeot 207 in a gradual changeover that began early in 2007 and continued model for model for most of the year. In turn, the Peugeot 208 arrived in Australia in mid 2012.
Peugeot is long established in Australia, so there's a strong dealer network. The company is represented in some country areas, not just in the major metropolitan zones. Servicing costs and spare parts prices are generally reasonable and we seldom hear of any real problems with parts availability.
Insurance costs tend to sit midway up the charts of most companies. The hot 206 GTi models attract higher premiums than the standard ones, but generally not to an outrageous extent.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Make sure to arrange a full inspection of any French car you’re considering as, sadly, they don’t have the build quality of Japanese machines.
Check that the roof mechanism on a 206CC works smoothly and that there are no unexpected noises during its operation. During the test drive be sure there are no wind noises from the roof when it’s closed.
Look for severe tyre wear on a GTi and also for a lot of dust buildup on the wheels. Check for the dust behind the wheels as a smart seller will have cleaned the obviously visible areas at the front.
Engines are generally smooth so be suspicious of one that’s on the rocky side, particularly when first started from cold.
Check the complete interior, paying special attention to the condition of the seats as they don’t always stand up to the rigours of harsh treatment by Aussie kids.
CAR BUYING TIP
No matter how sure you are of your ability at checking cars it still makes a mountain of sense to call in a professional for the final examination.