Open the champagne! The Peugeot 106 marks its 30th birthday in September 2021 and its certainly earned a celebration.
This supermini was vital for the French manufacturer when it launched in 1991 as it needed to make its mark in an evergrowing 'B segment’, a market that accounted for one third of new car registrations in Europe at the time of its launch. But it wasn't going to be easy, the 106 faced stiff competition in this competitive class from the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Nissan Micra to name a few - staples of the 90s and 00s.
Peugeot launched its new supermini with characteristic flare to help it stand out. There was no modesty and the claims were in-your-face. It is ‘a ball of sympathy wrapped in smiles and dressed in charm that feels so perfectly at home in its 3.56m of surprises and amazement’, read the brochure.
The 106 lived up to such hype, though. It looked modern, sharp, and sporty, there was a choice of body style, too. The three-door hatchback looked particularly stylish whereas the five-door that launched a year later was more practical and was easier to access the rear seats.
Its compact size, good visibility, and confident handling made it easy to drive in town which was its natural habitat. It was designed to nip along busy high streets and be easy to park, rather than cruise on motorways where it felt less refined. Some larger motorists found the pedals a bit cramped, too but all in all the 106 flew out of showrooms both in its native France, across continental Europe and here in the UK.
This supermini also had low running costs which made it popular with drivers on a budget. Learners liked it and it was also mechanically robust which further cut costs and only allowed its reputation to snowball. There was a wide choice of engine, too. Petrol engines ranged from 954cc to 1,587cc. Diesels ranged from 1,360cc to 1,558cc. You could further choose manual or automatic transmission - groundbreaking at the time.
The Peugeot 106 had various milestones during its life that ran from 1991 to 2003. In 1996, it was modernised to keep it competitive. It got side impact bars, more equipment, and revised styling. There were ‘special series’ models, too. Highlights included the 1994 ‘Kid’ that had ‘jean’ seats, ‘jean’ door cards, and blue instrumentation.
And let's not forget the Rallye. On its launch in 1994 this was every boy racers' go-to model. It was light, agile and easy to modify. You'd be forgiven for thinking those stonking exhausts that were common on so many Rallyes didn't come as standard given the popularity. All in all this distinct edit was loud, in your face and gave a big middle finger to the system - but weren't they great?
The Rallye even got a spin on Top Gear recently, too....
In 2003, this supermini reached the end of the road and production stopped. 2.8 million found homes during its 12 year life. The Peugeot Aventure Museum in Sochaux is now paying homage to this popular vehicle as it marks its 30th birthday. The exhibition includes eight cars and runs until the end of 2021. Happy birthday!