Much better than it has any right to be
I remember this car fondly. I got it as a temporary company car for just three months. Knowing it was only a temporary car, I never bothered running it in, and gave it serious abuse from day one. Whether it was lugging a bootful of kit up the M1, or cocking its inside rear wheel, mid-slide around a favourite B road, it took it all in its stride. The car would do almost anything I asked of it.
I piled nearly 12,000 miles on the car in just three months, and it was fantastic. The chassis, even in "shopping" LX form is more fun than it has any right to be, and the 1600cc engine makes up for its lack of grunt by being revvy, willing and incredibly economical. I averaged 35 mpg, even though I beat the living daylights out of it every time I drove it. It didn't even use much oil.
The 306's handling is amazing, allowing you to slide it around it total confidence. Front end grip is astonishing, and the feel through the steering is better than a lot of performance cars I've driven. There's virtually no body roll, yet the ride is comfortable. The silver finish on the dash improves the interior ambiance no end over the dull black or nasty fake wood that appears in earlier models too.
I drive a lot of different cars, and yet this was one of the few that I actually grew very attached to by the time I had to hand the keys back. I stared misty eyed as it was driven away by the lease company (after some awkward questions from the driver over the wrecked front tyres). I remember thinking it was one of the few cars I'd had that I would spend my own money on without hesitation, and that the GTI-6 version must be an absolute blast.
If you need a practical family hatch which can entertain you when you're out on your own, the 306 really is a cracking choice. I still cannot believe how well it stood up to being thrashed everywhere, and it still felt like new when it went back. I know this is a personal thing, but in my opinion, the 306 is still by far the prettiest small hatch on the road too, especially these later versions with the tapered side skirts, lower stance and little round front fogs. It begs the question - what WERE they thinking with the 307?!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th October, 2002