Well this is rather timely. At the recent launch of the new Peugeot 208 GTi there was a display of Peugeot’s 2-series GTi cars. Of course the 205 stole the show, but I distinctly remember looking at the 206 GTi and thinking just how well it had aged. Finally, after all these years, I looked at a 206 and didn’t immediately look the other way.
So this Real World Review of the Peugeot 206 GTi is a welcome addition to PetrolBlog. Not only that, it has been penned by Alex Wilcox, who recently graced these here pages with his Real World Dream Barn. So I guess Alex is now a Real World Friend of PetrolBlog. But enough waffle – over to Alex…
I feel that it’s fair probably to tell you now, before I bore on about my current car, that I have something of a misguided obsession with French cars. The reason why I say misguided is because in comparison to their counterparts from other corners of the world, French cars on the whole tend to be generally a bit rubbish. I realise there are some notable exceptions to this, such as the Peugeot 205 GTi – but these are well loved by most car enthusiasts.
French cars tend to be only really loved by a small minority of people. The cars are usually quirky, unfashionable and let’s face it, not well known for their sterling reliability record. This puts most French offerings at the sidelines of mainstream vehicle purchasing. Why say would you spend your hard earned on a Citroën C5 when for the same money you could quite easily buy something from the Germans that would almost never let you down and would also be the envy of the neighbours.
I am the sort of person that would, of my own free will, walk in to a Citroën dealer and order a C5 Exclusive without a second thought. I would never even think of popping over the road to buy something as ghastly as a BMW. To me, Peugeots, Citroëns and to a slightly lesser extent Renaults are the first option in any car buying decision.
So my car history as you would expect is essentially all French bar a small blip, where, in my wisdom it felt like a good idea to buy a SEAT Toledo V5. This only lasted around three months until I sold it again for something French. My current 206 is my third, having previously owned a 306 and a Citroën C4. In June last year my much loved C4 VTS was rear-ended and subsequently written off. Many things were bent which meant resulted in almost instantaneous decision by the insurers to offer me a cheque rather than a repair.
The sensible chap that I am and, being in the process of saving for a house, I decided to save half of my payment and spend the rest on an older little runabout. My last 206 GTi was a phase one in Sunburnt Orange. Being a phase one it was incredibly light and fast, if a little tatty (I was at uni at the time so I was properly stretching my budget to get myself on to the first rung of the performance car ladder) and at the time I thought it was quite fantastic. With my rose tinted spectacles on and nothing but memories of great Sunday drives around the roads of Buxton in Derbyshire, I decided to search for a mint later model to replace my C4.
Two weeks later with the money burning a hole in my pocket I had found the perfect car. MF03 OMM is a phase two car so still does without traction control and ESP unlike the phase three cars (a good thing) and is still driven by a cable and a butterfly rather than a button and a computer. Phase two cars are in my opinion the best of the bunch. They have the better wheels and updated interior but do without the nannying that was introduced to the phase three cars to comply with EU laws and to try and keep the 206 modern.
She is, pretty much, mint. I have every single MOT, the service history is all from Peugeot at the same dealer in Crewe and (this is the part that I love and never shut up about) she still sports the original dealer sticker and dealer plates. Finding such a good, unabused and low mileage example (42k on the day of buying it!) made me feel on top of the world. There is nothing like finding a truly original well cared for example of a car you really wanted to own.
Unfortunately and as always with cars, the annoying flaws shone bright a few weeks in to ownership. The gearbox is frankly laughable – the movement between the gears is massive. Considering the job Peugeot did on the six-speed ’box put in to the 306 GTI, they really had messed up with this one. When cold it takes about four attempts to get in to first and If you aren’t careful you can beat the syncros from third into fourth.
The driving position is the worst and most uncomfortable of any car I have ever driven – the 206 being the first Peugeot to start the annoying trend of finding the perfect driving position only to find half the dials are obscured by the steering wheel. Useful! It is also very, very badly made. The interior materials are woeful and the electrics are as per standard French fare.
Yet despite these and many other things I could go on about for days and days I can’t actually think of another car I would have spent my £2,000 on. I still get a thrill through knowing it’s an original dealer car with Peugeot history, plus its rubbishness is completely outweighed by its brilliance in other areas.
The engine in this one is a lot stronger than I remember in my phase one so it’s quick when it needs to be, but it also rides very well so it can cruise at normal speeds as well. Even after all these years I still think it looks fantastic and the most important bit is it still makes me smile every time I drive it.
Oh, and in a year and 10,000 miles nothing has broken. And bar the cost of insurance, tax and the MOT, I have only had to spend £200 on it – the cost of two new tyres. I had expected it to be a bit of a problematic purchase but I’m delighted to report it has been the complete opposite. Bet you didn’t see that coming?