Having owned a couple of 205 GTI's previously, I am kind of used to the superbly balanced handling of Peugeot hatchbacks, so I thought I'd give a 106 GTI a test drive. Most 205's are now either too knackered, too much effort to keep running, or too expensive for a 'decent' example, so it was a natural decision to go for a more modern version of that car, and the 106 GTI is definitely that - the true (in my mind) replacement for the iconic 205. The 206 and 306 just don't cut it in my opinion.
The car is very similar to drive to the 205, a bit quicker to dive into a corner, but slightly more forgiving at the same time. It is considerably smaller though, so can be a bit more frantic with fast direction changes. When driving, it feels smaller, yet lower and more nimble.
It's very easy to see the design similarities between the two models, but the 106 is obviously a bit more modern, and for the age of the car, is not yet old enough to start to worry about major work being required just yet.
As a car in it's own right, I'm quite impressed; the build quality is fine - not up to Audi standards, but decent enough for a cheapish French car. I have no worries about bits falling off on the motorway.
Ah yes, the motorway. Although it's quite comfortable and feels bigger inside than a basic trim 106, it is no mile-muncher. The engine can get a bit revvy above 80, and the seats start to annoy me after a hundred miles or so. I am 5'11", so I would think anyone over six feet would have trouble with the comfort.
This of course is of minor importance, as the true nature of this car means it'll spend a lot of time in town or on fast A roads. For this it is perfect; small enough to make city work easy, and quick enough to make spirited driving a good laugh. Although not super-powerful with around 120 BHP, allied to the sublime handling, low weight (approx 950kg), and the easy revving engine, the overall package just works better than the majority of other so-called hot hatches.
One problem that will turn some people away is the cramped pedal box. The pedals are offset to the left and are very close together, you do get used to it, and after a while it feels perfectly normal, however if you have feet in the clown shoe size category, it's possible you just will not ever get on with it. A long test drive is recommended.
The interior is quite nice, mostly in black. Easy to keep clean, but the design is not exactly up to date, however everything is where you expect to find it, and is easy to use, apart from the electric window switches. These are right in front of the handbrake and behind the gearstick. Again, you get used to it, and can find them by feel easily enough after some practice.
Other than that, you get (in an '01 anyway) a CD player, electric adjust mirrors (which are I think heated), leather & Alcantara seats, leather wheel and gearstick, and a sunroof, which is an option as far as I know. Enough toys to get by, given the nature of the car.
You also get ABS and four airbags.
Running costs are quite reasonable considering the car tempts you to use a heavy right foot. Motorway work seems to drain the tank in no time at all - a six gear would be great in this car.
Insurance is reasonable for me because I'm near to 30 with some no claims and no endorsements, but under 25s can end up spending a lot on insurance. For reference I am 28, 4 years no claims, SE London, no points or claims, Fully Comp is £500.
Tax is band F for the 01-03 cars - the most expensive.
The car is very similar to the Saxo VTS, which uses the same engine/gearbox, and almost the same chassis and suspension. The GTI is much less common than the VTS, and costs a fair bit more to buy, however it does not suffer from the boy racer image anywhere near as much as the Saxo, and most say that the Peugeot is better built. The suspension on the 106 is also better quality.
Personally I think the 106 GTI also looks better :)
The cars suffer from a few known problems, but most if not all are easy to sort out, and are usually cheap to fix, maybe even nothing if you sort it out yourself.
Performance is very good, as stated the balance of the car is what matters, and because of that is faster than expected. One advantage it has, is that a lot of people are hard pushed to spot the difference between this and a regular 106, so it's easy to surprise a few people. The acceleration is more than enough to see off chavved-up 1.2 Corsas etc. Don't bother trying it on with Scoobies and Skylines, cos regardless of what some people on here think, you won't beat them ;)
Given a nice set of twisties though, it is entirely possible to keep up with considerably more powerful cars, if you keep it on the boil.
It has enough go to safely and swiftly overtake slower traffic. Although it's a light car, and it is still only a 1.6, so you may need to change down a gear or two to get the best out of it.
Overall, a fun car with enough features and quality about it to warrant getting one at the bargain prices they go for nowadays. You must get one in good condition, to avoid the thrashed and crashed examples, so buy carefully.