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Reader test: Peugeot 206

2010-04-23 06:59

Jason Sasman, Cape Town

I come from a long line of drivers accustomed to cars bearing insignias such as “turbo”, “twin-cam” or “sport”. I’m passionate about all things automotive and my choice of chariots usually clearly shows this to the passing masses.

So imagine my dismay when I realised that I have of late been tootling along in a little French number. It’s been ages since my last zesty drive in a car I call my own, but while looking for my next “fix”, this is it then Monsieur!

What exhilarating, exciting or white knuckle-inspiring qualities does little “Frenchie” have? None, I’m afraid.

My 206 1.6 XS does what a normal mid-range hatch does, only in a less interested fashion, which I presume is the norm in France? It hands you power in what can only be described as “prison-issue oats”... Quite lumpy.

As for the transmission, well you’ll find yourself desperately jostling the gears in search of the right gear to match the right “oatsy lump” during, say, overtaking. You would have better luck tugging at Zeus’s loins in a quest to find a surge of power.

The ergonomic layout is another factor of this “Vive la France”-mobile I cannot wrap my head around. Its A-pillars are so far forward and wide they actually create more of a “blind spot” than clear it (a point further proved by my driving seat position). The pedals are so close together, that anyone with an XY chromosome disposition would find it rather hard to clutch and brake simultaneously.

And the “pièce de résistance” would have to be the electric window switches. They are placed smack dab between the front seats and are only a “pinkie finger” apart. What this equates to is that at some point when you’re driving along with a front passenger, you will undoubtedly find yourself reaching for the window switch at the exact same time as your passenger and, if it’s another man, you will probably be left with that uneasy and awkward silence after having had your hands touch.

Is there anything good about the Peugeot 206? Well, yes. Its brakes haven’t let me down yet and it handles surprisingly well. Two out of 10 isn’t the worst, I suppose. At times, when you're cruising along in the slow lane, listening to Celine Dion and drinking French roast, you can almost appreciate the sense of quietness and reserve it offers. But don’t ask it to do more than that, or you will get a swift “arg you maad, Monsieur?” Like the people from its country of origin, who are bearable if left alone to their coffee and croissants, this car has its moments, too.

You really would have to be a mime during your spare time to buy one, as you would forgo all logic of horrid resale value, overpriced service costs and flare-over-function designs. So when next you feel for something “avant-garde”, just go out for supper!


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