WITH THE rain beating down on a 65mph motorway cruise the Peugeot chooses a prime moment for packing up its windscreen wipers. With only a few miles to go on my last journey with it, it decides to throw one final spanner in the works.
I limp the 306 through to the finishing post – the garage where I’m trading up for a bigger, more refined car. Clearly the Peugeot is peeved it’s being given up, but while it’s a firm goodbye it’s hardly good riddance.
Two years ago I picked it up for one of the in-laws as a prime piece of stopgap motoring until their much newer car arrived, and liked it so much I took on the reins myself a couple of months afterwards. My bargain basement 306 was rubbish in so many ways, but as an overall package it was absolutely brilliant.
As the months went on the rather agricultural clatter from the non-turbocharged 1.9 XUD diesel engine was joined by a persistent high-pitched whistle. The clutch was heavier than a night out with Lindsay Lohan, the central locking had a mind of its own, and towards the end of my ownership the offside rear window developed a nasty habit of opening of its own accord. It was also noisy, not especially quick and had no street cred whatsoever.
But it was still a Peugeot 306 – which meant it handled brilliantly. The bottom-of-the-range diesel might have been a long way off a Rallye or a GTI-6, but pit it against a country road and there were definite whiffs of hot hatch from the steering and suspension.
I loved its diesel-ness too. It never failed to deliver anything south of 50mpg, which meant after a few months the savings at the pumps effectively paid the car off. It even made up for its many failings by being a workhorse I could rely on, with a single breakdown over two years of motoring. Not bad for less than the price of a return train ticket to London.
But after 18 years and 175,000 miles of plodding on it was – and only just, I might add – starting to show signs of whatever motoring’s equivalent of senile dementia is. So rather than putting it through even more runs up and down the nation’s motorway network, I’ve allowed to take automotive retirement and let something more suited to motorway life take the strain.
It’s bigger, smoother but still a fine example of bangernomics at work. It’s also Japanese and a bit boring. Stay tuned to find out what I’ve bought…