Peugeot 306 car review
Monday 23 March 2009
Ten Point Test
Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 77%
It’s getting on for a decade since the 306 was superseded by the 307, which means that not only is Peugeot’s mid-sized hatch cheap as chips, but it’s distinctly old-fashioned in many ways. Despite this, there are still plenty of reasons to consider the 306 – especially when you take into account the value it offers.
1: Looks 10/10
While newer cars have had to put up with lengthened noses in a bid to shrug off crashes with disdain, the 306’s designers were never saddled with such considerations. As a result, the 306’s lines are just about perfect from every angle, with masses of curves and pretty much ideal proportions.
While early cars are looking a bit cheap nowadays, the facelifted cars introduced in 1997, breathed fresh life into a design that was already essentially right. Go for one of these and you’ll have a car that looks modern while also being a lot more attractive than Peugeot’s current range.
2: Looks inside 6/10
This is where the 306 doesn’t fare so well in 2009; when new, its cabin did a perfectly good job in terms of style and ergonomics. But this segment was given a real shake up by the arrival of the Focus and Golf MkIV in the late 1990s, and Peugeot didn’t keep up with the design or the quality of the materials.
However, while it’s clear that the 306’s cabin comes from another era, it actually works pretty well, and if you opt for a reasonably sporty trim level it should look reasonably modern too, at least as far as the seating is concerned.
3: Practicality 8/10
Although it’s the hatchback which gets all the 306 limelight, there were also saloon, estate and cabriolet editions offered. While the estate offers even greater practicality than the hatch – there’s a 1,512-litre capacity with the seats down – it’s the hatch that’s more readily available. This gives up to 637 litres with the rear seats folded, and as you’d expect there’s a split-fold seat as standard for even the most basic editions.
Because of the 306’s compact dimensions, you can’t expect too much of the cabin, which isn’t especially spacious for four (never mind five). Things are made even trickier if you opt for a three-door car, as getting in and out of the back can be a pain – but choose a five-door car for transporting the family and you won’t go far wrong.
4: Ride and Handling 10/10
In a world full of hard-riding family cars, the 306 can genuinely claim to be something special when it comes to ride comfort. French engineers generally bias their cars for a soft ride rather than pin-sharp handling, and that’s certainly the case here.
However, don’t assume that such a comfortable ride means the 306 wallows all over the place; the body control is admirable when the roads get twisty, and the steering loads up in a beautifully linear fashion. The real beauty though is that you don’t have to go for something sporty to enjoy these characteristics, because even the cooking editions of the 306 have a great chassis balance.
5: Performance 8/10
With 90bhp on tap along with 156lb ft of torque, the 306 2.0HDi performs with decent alacrity – it certainly offers the best blend of performance and economy from all the models in the range. The result of such numbers is the ability to sprint from a standing start to 60mph in 12.8 seconds before topping out at 112mph. Drive with less urgency though and you can officially return up to 54.3mpg overall, but on a run it’s likely that you’ll actually be able to get closer to 60mpg.
Opt for the rougher, older 1.9-litre turbodiesel and there’s less power and torque on offer (70bhp and 94lb ft) while you’ll also return a fuel economy figure that’s closer to 50mpg. However, while Peugeot offered among the best diesel engines when the 306 was new, you could still opt for a petrol unit as they tend to be cheaper to buy yet there’s still decent levels of performance on offer – even the 1.4-litre unit will just about crack the ton.
6: Running costs 9/10
Even the newest, most highly specified 306 is worth very little now, so depreciation isn’t much of a factor in running one. That leaves the usual costs to factor in, such as fuel economy, road tax, insurance and maintenance.
The cabriolets and some of the sportier editions sit in high insurance groups (as much as group 15 for the GTi-6), but the more common variants all sit in groups four to six. Servicing is needed only every 20,000 miles for petrol cars, but diesels need attention twice as often – but any competent garage can keep a 306 ticking over, so you don’t need to pay main dealer rates.
Most 306s were made before the road tax rules became CO2-based, and as most 306s have an engine bigger than 1,549cc, that means you’ll pay a relatively hefty £185 each for VED. To sweeten this though, fuel economy is generally pretty good; even the sportier cars should be capable of returning more than 30mpg.
7: Reliability 6/10
You don’t buy a Peugeot for its bullet-proof build quality, and that’s certainly the case here. While some poverty-spec 306s have given relatively little trouble because of their inherent simplicity, many examples have given their owners a lot of grief.
The front suspension bushes tend to wear quickly, resulting in uneven tyre wear, while the fuel lines can perish, leading to leaks. Clutch cables can seize up, rear callipers (where fitted) can also leak and if low-profile tyres are fitted, there’s a good chance the alloy wheel rims will be damaged.
Air conditioning systems are also temperamental, as are the electrics and electronics – so check that everything works, including items like central locking, electric windows and stereos.
8: Safety 7/10
The 306 may have been introduced as far back as 1993, but that hasn’t stopped Peugeot from achieving a four-star EuroNCAP score with it, when it was crash tested in 1998. That’s a pretty impressive result that in theory puts it on a par with the original Ford Focus and even the first-generation BMW Mini.
The 306 scores well because it just scraped through key tests just before everything was toughened up, which is why in reality, it isn’t as safe as the Focus or Mini – but for such an old design it’s still pretty decent. Things are helped by the fitment of anti-lock brakes on all models, but there are no side impact bars and only the driver gets an airbag.
9: Equipment 8/10
Peugeot tends to focus on packing its cars with standard equipment in a bid to make them more enticing, and that’s certainly the case here. All cars get power steering, a CD player, remote central locking and electric windows at least in the front. However, most cars also get heated door mirrors, twin front airbags and air conditioning.
10: X-Factor 7/10
The 306 still makes sense if you’re looking for cheap transport, as long as you can find a good one. With lots of standard equipment, some great engines and a healthy dose of practicality, the 306 has much to offer. Just make sure you don’t buy a lemon that’s riddled with faults.
Model tested: Peugeot 306 2.0HDi LX 5-door
On the road price: £14,520
Price range: £11,995-£19,995
Date tested: March 2009
Road tester: Richard Dredge