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Peugeot 306. More Detail Information

Peugeot 306
Manufacturer:
Peugeot
Production:
1993-2001
Car class:
Compact Car
Body Styles:
FF 3/5-door hatchback, saloon, estate and cabriolet
Predecessors:
Peugeot 309
Successors:
Peugeot 307
Competitors:
Ford Escort
Volkswagen Golf
Renault Mťgane
Opel Astra

The Peugeot 306 is a small family car built by the French manufacturer Peugeot from 1993 to 2001.

The 306 was the replacement for the bland, but well regarded Peugeot 309. It was originally launched in March 1993 as a 3 and 5-door hatchback only. Saloon (Sedan), estate and cabriolet models were introduced later. The 306 is identical mechanically to the CitroŽn ZX, which was launched two years earlier, and both cars use the same floor pan and core structure. The chassis used by the 306 and ZX is also used in the ZX's replacement, the CitroŽn Xsara.

All engines were well proven four cylinder units, which had gained a solid reputation in more established Peugeot models such as the 205, 309 and 405. Initially, all mainstream models were powered by derivatives of the well regarded TU series 8 valve engine, in 1.1, 1.4 and 1.6 litre guises. The underpowered 1.1 was dropped quickly, but the 1.4 and particularly the 1.6 variants were a popular choice, the latter purported to offer an ideal balance between performance and economy. Three larger capacity units were available, but restricted to automatic and performance variants. These engines were developments of the larger XU series units which had been used in the 205 GTi 1.9, and larger 405 models. A 1.8 litre version powered the automatic models, with two versions of the 2.0 litre engine in 8 and 16 valve guises powered the XSi and S16 models respectively. While both models were praised by the motoring press, the peaky nature of the 16 valve unit and its relatively small performance advantage over the 8 valve damaged the reputation of the S16 model.

Peugeot had by now become synonymous with cutting edge diesel power, and the 306 was as expected offered with the much lauded XUD series diesel engine in both normally aspirated and turbocharged, intercooled guise. This unit was initially a 1.8 litre, but was stretched to 1.9 litres early on in the 306's life. Although both versions of the engine offered class leading refinement and economy, the turbocharged unit quickly gained a reputation for being a brilliant match for the light, fun handling 306. Not only did its outright performance match many similarly sized petrol cars - almost certainly a first for an affordable mainstream diesel - but careful installation ensured its considerable extra weight didn't upset the handling for which the 306 was so well known. Peugeot quickly spotted a gap in the market, and created the D-Turbo "hot hatch" version, which was essentially a petrol XSi model with the diesel unit installed. As well as being regarded as the first affordable "performance diesel" the D-Turbo is also credited with being the first mainstream diesel specifically designed to appeal to the keen driver as much as the economy minded motorist. It was a popular seller in all its various phases throughout the life of the car.

Peugeot 306 Coupe Car - Click to Get Wallpaper 1024x768 - 189 KBThis familiar range of PSA power trains drove the front wheels of a seemingly conventionally designed chassis. Certainly in design terms it seemed to break no barriers. Up front was a standard McPherson strut layout with anti-roll bar, while the rear used a semi independent trailing arm/torsion bar set up. However, Peugeot's chassis engineers employed some unique features, including passive rear wheel steering (by means of specially designed compliance bushes in the rear suspension), and in-house developed and constructed shock absorbers. The trained eye will also notice that the larger capacity and diesel engines are canted as far back as possible in the engine bay in an effort to put as much weight as possible behind the front axle line, improving weight distribution, and minimizing under steer.

Peugeot 306 Coupe Car - Click to Get Wallpaper 1024x768 - 184 KBAll this considered, it was no great surprise when the 306 turned out to be comfortably the best handling car in its class (at least until the arrival of the Ford Focus). Critics marveled at its agility, supple big car ride, communicative power steering and its exhilarating on-the-limit behavior. The XSi and S16 models were instantly showered with accolades, and when the S16 was replaced with the massively superior (and more powerful) GTI-6 variant in 1996, one of the greatest hot hatches of all time was created. The GTi had more power courtesy of a reworked engine, a close ratio 6 speed gearbox and some subtle chassis revisions. Although still requiring high revs to give its best, the GTI-6 engine was more flexible than that in the S16, and the new gearbox made it easier to use the engine more effectively. It became an instant classic, and is still highly sought after today, despite a reputation for mechanical fragility which has grown as the cars have aged.

Despite its dynamic capabilities, Peugeot 306 was somewhat criticized on launch for lacking in design flair, and sadly, the 306's problems didn't end there. Although the car's reputation for dynamic excellence was attracting buyers, its growing reputation for high maintenance costs, lackluster dealers, patchy quality and less than perfect reliability were putting them off. Despite Peugeot's best efforts, the car placed poorly in a variety of ownership and customer satisfaction surveys of the time, such as the annual JD Power survey which was run in association with Top Gear, yet the car became a regular feature in the UK Top 10 sales charts until its replacement in 2001 Equipment levels were generous on all but the most basic models, and the car was a smooth, quiet and very refined drive even in diesel or high performance trim. All bar the GTI-6 and cabriolet models were also priced very competitively.

Peugeot 306 underwent the only major revamp of its life in May 1997, with the launch of the Phase 2 version. The basic shape remained the same, but lights, grille and bumpers were redesigned in an effort to bring the styling into line with the new Peugeot family look established by the Peugeot 206. There were also some much needed improvements to the dash layout and trim quality which freshened up the car in the face of increasingly stiff competition from Vauxhall and Volkswagen. New engines were also offered, with both 1.8 and 2.0 units gaining 16 valve cylinder heads together with modest power increases. In 1998 the popular but ageing XUD series diesel engines were phased out and replaced with Peugeot's first generation 2.0 HDi common rail diesel in turbocharged form only. Although power output remained unchanged, and outright performance remained similar, the new unit brought significant benefits in terms of economy, emissions and refinement.

Two significant new models also appeared in Phase 2 trim. Another hot model, the Rallye was launched, using the mechanicals from the GTI-6 but with less standard equipment, less weight and a lower price. The GTI-6 model, for all its talent, was often criticized for being overpriced, and the Rallye offered buyers a way to get the performance and handling without the costs. It was an instant hit. The Meridian model was also launched in 1999 and boasted a generous equipment list including new half leather seats, and further cosmetic upgrades to the interior. This model was a popular seller right through until 2001 when the hatchback 306 was discontinued in to make way for its replacement, the much bigger and more luxury oriented Peugeot 307. The pretty cabriolet and practical estate variants both remained on sale until 2002, while controversially styled sedan, never a big seller in the UK, was discontinued in 1999.

 


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