UK CAR Reviews: Peugeot 306 1.4 XL

Peugeot seem to have the knack recently for producing stylish little cars. Whilst their abilities seem to be a little stretched the further up the size scale they go, at the smaller end they manage to squeeze a little French chic into very small packages.

The 306 is no exception, for a two box five door hatch the basic shape is remarkably stylish in its execution. At this basic level the only minor gripe is the wheels do look a little undersized for the arches.

I'm not really convinced of the validity of such small five door cars. Sure it makes getting into the rear a little easier, but its a fairly compact rear and personally I would buy a bigger car if I needed to make extensive use of the rear on a regular basis. especially if it was me who was having to sit in it.

The boot is tiny and slot like as you would expect but the basic shape of the vehicle does make it practical as you can load it high at the expense of rear vision.  The seat does fold nicely out of the way to give a surprisingly large space when needed, and they fold on decent hinges which should last well which is more than I could say for my old Uno, which had hinges that were sized for the doors on a cuckoo clock and gave up the ghost  after around Half a dozen foldings.

On first entering the car I was surprised to find strange floppy things attached to the doors which strangely enough moved the windows when turned. Even odder was the excellent electric sunroof.  Now I don't know about you but I open the windows most days and the sunroof about twice a year. So I know which I would prefer to be powered and which I could cope with stirring occasionally.

The interior is well laid out and fairly Airy giving a more spacious feel than is reality. The quality is a little lightweight in a few areas, but at least the fit is quite good.

The woolly seats don't look much and hardly entice you in, but once your bums in place it feels okay if a little unsupportive to the sides, but that really probably asking for too much at this level.

After the first drive home I was actually fairly impressed. The trip encompassed A roads and Motorways, and the zingy little motor  zipped along nippily on a Doc Martens worth of throttle aided and abetted by a sharp five speed box and precise clutch.  The engine is a decent little rever making up for any lack of low end torque, with its sheer willingness.  It revs quickly and crisply deep toward the red line with little complaint and as is common in many new motors it feels to have little inertia and the revs fall away quickly when you take your foot off the gas. 

On the motorways  the little Pug steams along at an easy licence losing pace should you require, with excellent stability and poise, the compliant suspension nonchalantly ignoring expansion joints, dips and rises without complaint.

Only later when faced by back streets and the latest cursed pox of our roads (mini roundabouts), that strange traits began to expose themselves.

(Please note there may have been something deficient with this example which may or may not be cheap to correct. I don't know but it sure felt bad.)

The steering which seemed nicely weighted for the first turn suddenly weighted up and became very stiff, making mini roundabouts   or tight 90 degree turns a pain in the proverbial. This was not helped by a slippery hard wheel, which made it even more difficult to grip and heave.

The brakes which worked okay at pulling you up, did seem to lack some initial bite, and required a fairly hefty heave for a car so small, or Maybe I spent too long in an Audi A4 and have just gone soft in my old age.  

The gearbox too managed to lose it a little here with rolling entrances to first gear being notchily reticent in comparison to the other 4 slick ratios.

The gearbox I could live with, the brakes I would become accustomed too, but the steering would drive me daft, and it spoiled a nice little car. Around twisty quiet country B roads, it was a delight to drive with the chassis poise balance and grip being well beyond the output of the engine, and the accurate swift upper ratio changes  allowing you to make full use of the engine without ever suggesting it could get you into difficulties it may only have 75bhp but the flat riding chassis lets you make use of most of it for large periods of time. 

The Hot versions of little Peugeots have  big reputations, and the chassis of this one makes it easy to see why. If the steering problem is fixable, (which I'm fairly sure it should be it) then the hotter versions are then built on solid foundations. For those of us who can't or don't want to stretch to a hot one it make a real nice little motor to zip around in.

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