The Peugeot 106 can easily be seen as the forgotten GTI, a car overshadowed by many but bettered by few, a car rather cruelly ignored and consigned to the hard shoulder of history as it’s prettier and better known rivals sail on past. But is it time to revisit this little gem of a car, to recapture some of the fizz that Peugeot hoped would capture the public’s imagination?
A little history I think. The Peugeot 106 was an entry-level supermini produced between 1991 and 2004 which made it one of the longest running production cars ever made in Europe, a fact that many still find surprising today. The 106 arrived on the roads of our green and pleasant land with, for the time, modern styling, great handling, decent ride quality and low running costs, all of which combined to create a popular choice as the ideal city car. And then, in 2005, the 106 was replaced by the Peugeot 107, which itself was replaced by the Peugeot 108 in 2014.
Peugeot certainly have history when it comes to taking a standard commuter car and giving it a thorough going over, a fact covered in a previous article posted on DriveTribe’s The Junk Yard under the title Peugeot 205 GTI: Party Hard and one which looked into the cult of the 205 GTI and it’s lasting effect on the consciousness of the hot hatch fan. And that really is a problem for Peugeot as by default, every car with that they have produced since, with that fabled GTI badge on the boot lid, has been and will always be compared against the genius of the original.
The 106 GTI was available to buy from May 1996 and lasted in the range up until 2003, testament to the correctness of Peugeot’s original design. Taking inspiration from the design decisions that created the original, the 106 eschewed vast power for an emphasis on light weight and exceptional handling. With it’s 1587cc engine producing 120bhp and having to haul along just 950kg, the 106 GTI was certainly fast enough for most, providing the enthusiastic driver with a 0-60 time of 8.6s and a top speed of 128mph. Figures that certainly won’t instil fear in the hot (or even warm) hatch driver of today, it’s the way that the Peugeot feels out on the road that is so impressive.
Now compare the 106 GTI with the original 106 and the differences start to become very clear indeed and provide an idea as to the difference that Peugeot had made to their sensible, but popular, entry-level supermini when they turned the wick up to 11. Taking a 1124cc Zest Edition 106 as a comparison point, the differences brought about to create the GTI are plain to see, starting with an engine shoehorned under the bonnet who’s capacity was now 1587cc and produced double the power whilst keeping to roughly the same weight. At nearly 6 seconds faster from 0-60 and a top speed that added nearly 30mph on top of the Zest’s 101, it’s quite amazing the changes Peugeot brought about on this most humble of starting points.
As anyone with experience of fast cars will tell you, it’s the lack of weight, rather than outright power, that can often have the greatest effect. After all, light weight equals better handling, less stress and strain on the various suspension components, better fuel economy, faster acceleration and a greater top speed. However, it was the effect on the handling that allowed the 106 to try and hold on to the coat tails of the competition, often exceeding all expectations through the twists and turns of the average A and B road as the GTI made best use of the 120bhp on offer.
Contemporary reviews of the Peugeot are consistently complimentary of the car’s handling and ride as it far outshined expectations, surprising many with the surefooted manner upon which this little GTI could traverse down the road. And it’s here where we find the true spirit of the GTI, as this is a car designed to be mercilessly thrashed. With peak power being found at 6600rpm and nimbleness that would embarrass a pair of rollerscates, the 106 could and did run rings around larger and more powerful opposition and, if you can find a good one, would still have the ability to do so today.
With the pool of good 106 GTI’s becoming smaller as the years roll by, there is a growing number of people willing to give this oft forgotten hot hatch a second chance. Maybe it’s those that couldn’t afford the car or insurance back in the day, or perhaps it’s those that cherished the Peugeot’s good looks, enhanced as they were by bodykit and alloys, either way, it’s got to be time for the Peugeot 106 GTI to finally step out from the all encompassing shadow of the 205 GTI and gain recognition for a job well done.
After all, with supermini dimensions, subtly aggressive looks, light weight and good power, what’s not to like?
Where will you go?