Peugeot 206 GTi (S16) - December 2000

What a little car, what a lot of car?

 

Peugeot's (albeit now aged) 306 GTi set some standards for hot hatches, which a few other manufacturers have yet to equal. Based on styling alone, the new 206 GTi (badged S16) promises to push the envelope even further. We spent some time with this "Car of the year" nominee recently.

 

Styling and Concept

Remember the days when Peugeot built the likes of the old 404 and 504? They may have been good cars but man, were they butt-ugly? Well, the tide has turned for Peugeot and with the help of Italian stylists Pininfarina and a dash of French flair, the 206 is daringly radical, far enough removed from the competition to earn it benchmark status. Its wedge shape is taken almost to the extreme and viewing the car from the front, there is an almost flat line running from the nose to the roof. This results in a pretty large piece of glass in front of the driver. Add the two bonnet mounted air intakes, large wedge shaped headlights, and deep air dam with integrated spotlights to its high haunches, and the result is the menacing crouch of a cat about to pounce. 

The interior is no less interesting with the designers apparently having triumphed over the cost accountants by producing a thoroughly upmarket cabin that belies the price of the car.

 

Ambience and ergonomics

Sitting behind the wheel, it's hard to imagine the Peugeot is so small. The general appearance of the furniture suggests that it is much bigger, probably just because we're conditioned to think that small is also minimalist.  Seats clad in leather, alcantara inserts in dash, seats and door panels, polished aluminium gear knob and pedals, and high quality textured plastics throughout blend to create a luxurious sportiness that is oh-so-easy on the eye. The steering wheel is chunky and flanked by solid, easy to operate light, indicator and washer/wiper controls plus a stalk to operate the sound system. The bulging centre console brings all other controls within easy reach of the driver.

  The seats are highly adjustable and they need to be because the perfect driving position is not easy to attain, a chore each time drivers are changed. Another quirk is the gearshift (perhaps characterfuly so rather than annoyingly), which is a bit vague and can result in the odd missed gear initially.  Once you get the hang of the seating and gearshift, (and resign yourself to the almost Italian style long-arm short-leg bias) driving the Peugeot becomes a very satisfying experience.

 

Accommodation and Space

The 206 will seat four adults in astonishing comfort. The rear seat squab is deep and comfortable, the rear foot wells are also deep and there is plenty of room under the front seats for large feet to move freely.  Boot space, at a handy 274 litres is, I guess, not an issue for its most likely buyers. Certainly, it can swallow a good days shopping without a squeeze and folding the split rear seats will liberate some very useful extra litres. Leaving the best till last, it's the driver and front passenger that get the best deal because from that position, it's all too easy to forget just how little car there is behind you.

 

Ride Integrity and Safety

  Under normal conditions the ride is absolutely exemplary and in fact outclasses many cars that are R50k more expensive. Although the ride leans towards the firm and sporty, the suspension masterfully absorbs all but the harshest of road imperfections and it takes a pretty big heap in the road to induce bump through. Get it out on the highway and the little Pug feels rock solid. Directional stability is simply fabulous and the curves encountered at interchanges, tight or sweeping, are easy pickings as you press on, with minor throttle adjustments being all that is necessary to keep it in trim or tame any oversteer.  Steering, which is suitably weighted towards the heavy, is direct and transmits all the road data you could ask for.  In short, the car feels great as you trundle along your workaday way, but really rewards enthusiastic driving.

 

Build Integrity

Once again the 206 emerges as a class leader. The doors, bonnet and boot lid all fit well with no inconsistent gaps. Hinges and locks are solid and the very long doors feel rigidly suspended, and close with a solid thunk. Interior panels and fittings are made of excellent quality plastics, our one reservation being that the interior door panels may warp at the point they meet the windows if the car is exposed to long periods under our harsh South African sun.  Only time will tell. Other than that, it is unlikely to develop rattles and squeaks. It should wear well, which when combined with its sexy good looks will in all likelihood contribute to excellent resale values.

 

Performance and economy

Power comes from the same 2.0 litre, 16 valve DOHC motor that the 406 uses. Although not new, the unit is no slouch. Pumping out a healthy 99kW at 6000 rpm and a strong 190Nm at 4100 rpm, 88 Watts is available to propel each Kilo of the 206 along at an exhilarating pace. While the 0-100 km/h time of 9,6 seconds might not be blistering when compared to say a Golf GTi (8.78), its overall responsiveness and flexibility makes it fantastic to drive. Accelerating from 80-120km/h takes around 12,5 seconds in 5th gear and 9,3 seconds in 4th. It stops well too, never taking more than 2.75 seconds to pull it up from 80km/h. As should be expected, fuel economy is just that - economy. Under the most spirited of driving conditions, consumption won't get worse than 9,35 l/100km as an annual average. Sedate highway driving will reward you with around 6,88 l/100 at 120 but will creep to around 8,10 if your foot starts getting too heavy.  

 

Equipment and Features

At R125 000 the goodies abound, starting with power steering, ABS braking with electronic brake distribution, alloy wheels clad with chubby little 185/55 R15 Pirelli tyres and front and rear fog lamps. Moving to the inside, you get four airbags, pyrotechnic seat belt tensioners, security system, electric remote side mirrors, climate control air-conditioning system, radio-tape, electric windows and central locking. Leather and alcantara seats are standard and the steering column is adjustable. 

Completing the package is a rain sensor operated windscreen wiper system and steering mounted radio controls. Remember the days when one had to buy oriental for value and features and all that the French had were expensive designer labels?

 

Conclusion

The Peugeot 206 GTi is a complete package by any standards and interestingly enough its closest rival is a Renault Clio 1.6 sport, a car whose smaller sister is the current  "Car of the Year". At R119k, the Clio sport has 400 fewer CCs, no climate control or rain sensor and has drum brakes at the rear unlike the Peugeot, which has discs. On the other hand It does have a sunroof and CD player.  The DiskDrive "choose-a-car" feature shows that nothing else comes close at any price.

 I find it remarkable that new entries to the local market are able to deliver such outstanding value relative to the entrenched local brands. Perhaps the local boys need to take a look at what they're doing because frankly, this car is going to be a very tough act to beat. It is an extremely worthy contender for this years "COTY" title. 

 

Viewpoint:

 The Pug is one of those cars that you want to drive just for the hell of it, inviting you to extend your trip to destinations further and further afield as you go along. Which at the end of the day, is a true measure of how good a car really is to drive.

  While the 2,0 litre powerplant might not be the last word in specific power output, it strikes a happy balance between top end urge and midrange punch. Unless you're the "redline-gearchange-redline" type (and I'm certainly past that phase) it'll probably meet your requirements.

  It's hard to find fault with the package, and the Pug looks good both inside and out, mixing modern styling trends with a sporty look and feel. This applies equally to the cabin and the coachwork.

  For those of us who knew the 205 - quite possibly the ultimate hot hatch in 1,6 and then 1,9 litres guises - the 206 is a natural and faithful interpretation of that basic theme for the 21st century.  

 Adrian Burford 

 

 

TEST FIGURES

Peugeot 206 2.0 GTi S16 
 Acceleration (seconds)
0 60 km/h 4.34
0 80 km/h 6.60
0 100 km/h 9.48
0 120 km/h 13.11
0 400 metres 16.84
Terminal speed 135.3 km/h
0 1 000 metres 30.81
Terminal speed 169.8 km/h
   
Flexibility (seconds) 
60 100 km/h (4th gear) 9.0
60 100 km/h (5th gear) 12.61
80 120 km/h (4th gear) 9.29
80 120 km/h (5th gear) 12.54
   
Braking (80 0 km/h) 
Best 27.3 metres/2.31 secs
Worst 27.7 metres/2.41secs
   
Speeds in gears
1st 53.4 km/h
2nd 100.1 km/h
3rd 137.1 km/h
4th 176.8 km/h
5th 204.6 km/h
per 1000 revs/min in top 33.2 km/h
   
Kerb mass (measured with a full tank of fuel)
Total 1090 kg
Front 687 kg
Rear 403 kg
Weight distribution (%) 59/41