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April 9, 2004

Review: 2004 Peugeot 206 1.4

Once upon a time there was a man who loved driving cars.  He wanted a car that was just right for city driving, that didn't eat up too much fuel or the big part of his monthly salary.  That usually meant buying a sedan from the land called Nippon.  Now the small Nipponese sedans that he saw on the road were innovative and pleasant to look at and drive.  There was one he liked called the City, which had a clever CVT and safety features usually found only in more expensive cars.

The man saw many Cities on the streets and he thought he wanted something different.  He looked and he looked until he came across a shop selling cars that had a large lion on its window.  It had a name that he could hardly spell and that twisted his tongue: Peugeot.

Upon entering the shop, he saw a bright red hatchback called the 206.  He smiled immediately, a wide grin that he would wear each time he would catch sight of it. The car's lines struck him as sharp and friendly, like an agile canine ready to do his every bidding.  Its slanted eyes were particularly enticing, an invitation to come inside and try her out.  He called his car the Red Pug.

He pulled open the small red door handle and sat inside.  He found that the interior was roomy in the front, with ample leg and headroom.  He was not sitting up high like he would in a City or Echo.  The 206 came from a time when carmakers had not yet begun building upwards to increase apparent space.  Although he found the crank rear windows a curiosity, he did like the meaty steering wheel with audio controls, the straightforward Jaeger gauges and the central digital display.

The rear space was just enough for two, as long as the average-height man didn't slide the seats too far backward.  All three rear seating positions had their own seatbelt, but no headrests for any of them.  Luggage space was good for a week's worth of groceries for a small family, but the space was no match for the City's huge trunk or even the Vios' more modest capacity.  He could at least fold the seats in a 70/30 split to increase the space.

The man cranked the engine and heard a promising grumble.  He knew that the 1.4 8-valve engine could produce 90 bhp at 5500 rpm.  The engine settled to a silent idle, but revving it produced a satisfying growl absent from most small inline-4s.  The 1.4 may produce its peak 120 Nm at a low 2800 rpm, but in practice it produced enough grunt above 2500 rpm.   The man had to rev it to 3000 to 3500 to keep up with other traffic.  The engine was willing to spin quickly to its redline, pulling the car quickly up to speed.

He found the clutch to be tricky, engaging the transmission near the top of its stroke.  He thus had to learn to release the pedal more quickly.  Once on the move, though, he found the car a delight.  The man found that the promise of the car's styling was indeed fulfilled.   The car exhibited direct and quick steering, and it felt unperturbed even at 140 km/h, where its Nipponese rivals began to feel nervous.

One revealing trait of the 206 was its class-leading ride.  Its sharp handling doesn't come at the price of comfort.  One of the most torturous surfaces in the city, the Shangri-la mall parking lot ramp, had smaller cars and even some compact SUVs jiggling and bouncing about, but the man was surprised to find this supermini taking the punishment with hardly a shrug of its fenders.  It absorbs bumps and road irregularities as well as most mid-size sedans.

The man thought and thought.  Beauty and sweet temperament came at a price, he concluded. The high price did buy a lot of features like auto on /off headlamps, automatic front wipers, aircon, power front windows, power steering and door locks, ABS, foglights and a single-CD player.  He was almost ready to part with his money, when another suddenly entered the picture.  It was the Red Pug’s sister, the hardtop and convertible in one, the 206CC.  Having that, the man said with a sigh, would be living happily ever after.

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