Cue the use of some obligatory French cliches as this week my car of the week is the rather lovely 90's hot hatch the Peugeot 306 GTI-6. Please come with me as I guide you through why this little Frenchie might be an even better used buy in Australia than a Golf GTI, sacre bleu!
3 doors are better than 5Let me start with doors, something I'm sure you'll agree we need to get from the outside of our cars to the inside. But have you stopped to consider how much better cars look the fewer doors they have? Probably not, but I have and when it comes to hot hatches some have too many of them. Maybe it's my inner rev head but more doors signal more commitment and ultimately less fun. So while yes a 5 door Golf GTI (most Aussie GTI's are) is hugely practical it also shatters the care free nature of a hot hatch in the process. Which brings me to the 306 GTI-6 which you guessed it, was only available as a 3 door, period. No room for commitments, just some 2 litre naturally aspirated nonsense. And from a technical standpoint, bear in mind that a 3 door hatch without the burden of having to carry 2 extra doors, will be a slightly sweeter drive too.
The designMoving on from the number of doors for a minute, my next reason to consider the 306 is to appreciate on the whole what a good looking car it is, especially given the rather fat and bloated Peugeot design language of recent years. Designed by Pininfarina the 306 took all that was good with the classic 205 and brought it into a modern age. Yes it was bigger and heavier but it had a pretty face and neat rump. Also with the wheels pushed into the four corners, it's clear that from the outset the 306 was designed to handle well. All in all the car was blessed with a real, jua de vivre.
The oily bitsWith a chassis so sweet under pinning the 306 the performance GTI-6 can properly exploit it. Powered by a tweaked version of Peugeot's 2 litre 16 valve petrol engine the GTI made 123kw which it delivered to the front wheels through a close ratio 6 speed gearbox, meaning it could dispatch 0 to 100km/h in 7,4 seconds. Engineers also fiddled with the 306's already capable chassis and suspension set up to make sure the GTI-6 could live up to it's hot hatch promises.
The reason whyThe 306 GTI-6 I think makes quite a compelling argument for itself in the world of second hand hot hatches. It is a real drivers car that doesn't give two French horns to commitment's or the practicality of carrying back seat passengers. It is a car often overlooked because of the strength of it's German opposition, but actually the 306 GTI-6 is a cheap way into the world of European hot hatches in Australia. Peugeot's have quite a fan base here and a wide dealer network, specialist garage and forum/club scene should mean maintenance will never be too costly or difficult. Better than a similarly priced Mk4 Golf GTI? With less weight, fewer doors, a sweeter chassis and a smidgen more power, I think the Frenchie might be, tres bien!
Whats out there then?
1998 Peugeot 306 GTI-6, $3999
If you have a little more to spend and like the security of what that can get you, the next 2 might be more up your street. The first is a genuine 1 owner example that appears to have been extremely well cared for. The second a later 2000 car, again enthusiast owned and meticulously cared for. Both look excellent, so really its down to whether you prefer red or black?
1998 Peugeot 306 GTI-6, $7250