I loved that car and it was my first entry into the world of the hot hatch. I remember testing a GTI, whilst I owned the Saxo just to see how it compared and I was stunned by it. Yes, on paper they are essentially very similar, but to drive they felt different. The stance of the 106 was slightly more planted; less nervous than the rear of my Saxo. And the sumptuous seats with leather and Alcantara upholstery were a world apart from the cheap chequered perches inside my VTS. This was a car I wanted to own.
I’ll be clear; cars are the biggest interest in my life. Ever since I was a toddler I’ve wanted to own exotic and flamboyant cars. Now, the 106 GTI may fall some way short of exotic and flamboyant, but it certainly is short, and agile, and nimble and huge amounts of fun. And because of the thrills it offers for comparatively little money it’s probably my favourite of all the cars I’ve owned.
I initially bought my 106 to use day-to-day so that I could keep my beloved but very thirsty and expensive Nissan Pulsar GTI-R as a second car – thirteen year old performance car plus four-hundred miles per week equals serious money-pit motoring.
A few months after buying my 106 I moved house and the expense of a different area and new job meant the most financially exhaustive of the cars had to go so I was forced to say farewell to the GTI-R.
The 106 would be forced to lead a double life as a shopping-mobile by rain and wild play thing by sun. Yes the 106 is slower than the GTI-R, obviously, and it doesn’t have the traction of a permanent all-wheel-drive system, but the intimacy experienced when on a spirited drive is simply fabulous. Its adjustability is sublime and everything it does is either intentional or communicated so clearly through the car that on a demanding road you feel like you’ve actually melded into its structure, completely immersed in the drive.
The versatility of the 106 GTI means that it lends itself very well, to the drab daily commute, injecting a little fun if desired, and then it is able to step up when ever my friends and I travel for one of our regular road trips during the ‘driving season’.
Driving my favourite B-roads in North Wales, I can think of very few ways to enjoy myself more in a car, well not whilst driving anyway. Its Tardis-like qualities always impress when shopping or going places as well, in the same way my old 205 did as my first car.
If I regularly had back seat passengers around my height (5’11”) then I suspect the lack of rear legroom could become annoying. As would the relentless infection of speed bumps in my local area, which love to fondle the underside of my car when I have any more than two passengers. Although on standard suspension I suspect this would not be a problem.
A few upgrades and modifications have been carried out on my car, focussing on the handling and engine performance. A full stainless steel exhaust system and an enclosed carbon fibre air box have been fitted and the cylinder head has been ported. These modifications have resulted in rolling road figures of 151bhp and 122lb·ft of torque at the flywheel. While being a healthy increase over the standard figures they can seem relatively insignificant by today’s power crazed standards. However, because of its diminutive weight, my little car can stay hot on the tail of my friend’s Clio 182 in a straight line. Furthermore, the addition of upgraded suspension and better brake discs and pads help keep things brilliantly close on our favourite B-roads.
So from the driver’s seat these modifications bring my little bundle of fun up to date, but I also love the way it looks. I added some different headlights not long after I got the car and with the 15″ alloys that were already fitted, they make for a subtle change but set the car off perfectly. Together they extend the life of my 106’s aesthetics and ensure that I always turn around for that quick glance as I walk away after parking up.
The first weekend in March this year plays host to my brother, step father, a congregation of others and me making our annual pilgrimage to Grizedale Forest to help setup and marshall on the Malcolm Wilson Rally. The high-octane daytime shenanigans and the profoundly alcohol-fuelled evening always keeps things exciting.
I’ll be sure to update with my little bundle of joy’s behaviour during the weekend’s activities, but right now I’m off for a drive…