I’m in North Wales, enjoying the deserted roads around the Denbigh Moors and Snowdonia, some of my favourite in Great Britain. But wind on thirty hours and I’m now sat in the front of my living room, looking out of the window at my pride and joy. I’m still revelling in yesterday’s shenanigans but I am also pondering a question that I’m sure, many a car enthusiast and automotive journalist has asked themselves at some point: ‘What defines a great drivers’ car?’
For me, it would be a combination of many things, but the car needs to have character and must be able to connect with the driver on a level that the vast majority simply cannot.
In this respect my little 106 GTI, so far, is fairing very well. It may not have the extensive power and grip of a Mitsubishi Evo, be as light and focussed as a Caterham, or as exotic as a Pagani Zonda, but the power, grip and chassis seem to match each other so well in my particular 106, that they always appear to work in unison.
The Peugeot 106 GTI also has practicality on its side, and in addition can achieve pleasing fuel economy figures if driven responsibly. Just three weeks ago I was cruising up the M6, returning 35-40mpg and carrying two hold-alls, a laptop, a rucksack and a crate of lager all in the boot – no mean feat for such a small car.
Between 2500-3500 RPM the noise from the aftermarket exhaust can become tiresome with its lack of silencing, but at higher cruising speeds the noise dulls. It is always there, and travelling in most other cars feels serene by comparison, but then the choice of exhaust system was mine so I can’t complain.
The throaty pitch from the exhaust enhances the experience when on a spirited drive, crackling and popping on the over run and high speed gear changes. I’m sure it adds to the connection between car and driver.
Combining this aspect with the lithe steering and chassis, oozing with informative feedback, and the delicate action of the pedals, it makes it very easy to feel part of the car when pressing on.
I have nothing but positive things to say about the 106 GTI’s handling. Indeed, with the help of Touring Car driver Tim Harvey and rally legend Richard Burns, Jeremy Clarkson was hard pressed not to give it the accolade of best handling car in the world a decade ago.
But can a car like this still be placed among the greats 10 years on?
My 106 doesn’t offer the 280bhp turbo charged fury of previous cars I’ve owned, or the stupendous grip levels achieved by modern hot hatches and saloons. It doesn’t equip the driver with such luxuries as air-con and it lacks certain safety features like multiple air bags and traction control. What it does offer though is an assurance that every time I take it out for a frantic drive, I will be handsomely rewarded.
I love my car. At least for me, the Peugeot 106 GTI is a great drivers’ car.