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Twenty years ago, the production of an epoch-making model at Peugeot came to an end: the 106 captured the hearts of European small car buyers for more than ten years, and its character defined the brand’s image for the same period.
Small cars had their heyday in Europe in the 1990s. The brands presented their modern types by bidding against each other: some impressed the young people as shape-destroying eggs or truncated log shapes, others played the cuteness trump card with pretty, rounded shapes. However, Peugeot chose a completely unusual direction in 1991.
They kept the serious straight lines, from the roof pillars to the headlights, they made the shape of the 106 more elegant and sophisticated with gentle curves and delicately cut corners. This design language was not only innovative throughout Europe, but also on Peugeot’s palette, but the same direction was later reinforced by the Peugeot 806, the 406 and the 206.
The Peugeot 104, introduced in the 1970s, and the Peugeot 205, the brand’s smallest model from the end of the 1980s, were both milestones in the history of the brand. Created in the spirit of innovation, the 106 was shorter, but wider and taller than the 205, so despite its length of less than 3.6 meters, slightly exceeding it from 1996, it was considered spacious for its time. Its robust structure and finely tuned chassis made it both comfortable and precise to drive; and after the 1996 model update, modern safety features such as anti-lock brakes and airbags appeared on board.
By this time, everyone already knew about inline four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines that they were long-lived and durable, but it only became clear much later that the gearboxes and the interior fittings also proved to have a longer life than the small cars produced at that time.
The extremely varied model range of the 106 also contributed to this: special designs, produced in limited numbers, appeared one after another. Peugeot kept the 106 in the spotlight with one and a half dozen limited editions. The sports versions did even more for the model’s reputation: the 106 XSI, which appeared in the second year of production, the 106 Rallye, which debuted a year later, and the 106 S16, which arrived in the year of the model update. These superbly tuned, fun-to-drive, optimally motorized sports variants are sought-after and valued collector’s items today, as is the 106 Maxi, which was presented after the wrinkles were sewn up.
The 106 Electrique presented in 1995 represented a completely different direction, equipped with a battery electric drivetrain that was considered modern for its time. Peugeot had high hopes for the 27-horsepower, 90 km/h top speed model, and although the electric car with a 100 km range really proved to be a better seller than any of its contemporaries, the few thousand units sold in the end could not be considered a commercial success.
In any case, the model put the brand on the map of electromobility, preparing the ground for the Peugeot iOn, and then for one of today’s most sought-after emission-free small cars, the Peugeot e-208.
The success story of the Peugeot 106 ended in 2003 after 12 years and 2.8 million cars sold.
The model proved to be unrepeatable, its direct successor, the Peugeot 107, could only appear years later, in cooperative production, with much more fundamental technical content and design. With the end of the Peugeot 106, the heyday of the “mini” category also disappeared, amid increasingly strict safety and environmental protection regulations, after the turn of the millennium it became less and less profitable to develop and manufacture new models in the smallest passenger car category.
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