You can keep your XR's, your GSi's and your other impressive-in-a-straight-line hot hatch drones. This is where it's at. Take the well-proven 1360cc TU engine, this time with Bosch Motronic multi-point fuel injection, a 7,200 RPM rev-limit, and packing a peaky 100 bhp, and bolt it into a rigid, beautifully balanced chassis which weighs less than 850 kg.
The result is a car which, whilst not exactly lightning quick, is capable of handing out a pasting to anything short of a Scooby along a twisting road. Everything is geared towards B-road caning - the engine wakes up over 3k (it actually revs to 7,200 before the limiter cuts in!) and the steering comes alive as cornering loads build. You can carry terrific speeds through corners, and adjust your line with millimetric precision using the throttle as much as the steering. No other FWD chassis has this kind of balance and poise.
Like the 205 GTi, and the hot 306's, the tail is very light, and the car will punish careless closure of the throttle mid bend by tucking its nose in hard, and trying to swap ends. However, it generally offers plenty of warning, and can usually be caught easily by simply winding off lock and feeding in power. Get used to it, and you can actually enter corners a good 10 mph too fast, snap the tail out with the throttle, and power out in a lovely four wheel drift. You just can't do that in most cars.
The interior is typically Peugeot - i.e. reasonably easy on the eye, but made of the cheapest possible materials and screwed together badly. The bodywork is also paper thin, although at seven years old, mine still polishes up brilliantly and shows not the slightest hint of rust.
There have been a few little problems, but the car starts first time, every time and has never let me down. It's what I'd expect of a well maintained but enthusiastically driven hottish hatch with 87k on the clock - basically sound but a bit tired here and there. Thankfully the car is easy to work on and parts/servicing are very reasonable through independent specialists. Running costs are excellent with cheap road tax, group 11 insurance and never less than 30 mpg.
This car never got the recognition that the Rallye, and more recently the cracking GTI got which is a shame. It handles as well as either, and goes just as well as the mk1 Rallye. All things considered it really is a storming little car, which makes up for its iffy build and moderate performance with sheer poise, not to mention a good helping of soul. Reminds me very much of the old Mini but with more finesse.