The Peugeot 306 was introduced here in 1994 and remained on sale until it was superseded by its popular successor, the 307. Like its smaller sibling the 206, the 306 heralded the arrival of a new look for Peugeot that went on to define the French manufacturer’s styling for the next decade and beyond. It was met with wide acclaim in motoring circles and drew particular attention for its superior ride and handling.
Under the bonnet and beneath the cabin, the Peugeot 306 shares much in common with the Citroen ZX, which came to market 2 years earlier than the 306, but its superior styling saw the Peugeot enjoy significantly more success than its Citroen-branded sibling. The Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner vanettes are also both built on the same platform, as did the cars’ successor, the Citroen Xsara.
The Peugeot 306 initially came to market in hatchback format with a choice of either three or five doors, and it was later joined by a successful station wagon, four-door sedan, and cabrio alternative.
The first-generation Peugeot 306 was known as the N3 here. The entry-level model was the three-door XR hatchback, which was complemented by the five-door XT hatchback and a S16 sports hatch at the top of the range. The base and mid-range models both featured a 1.8L 4-cylinder petrol engine giving 77kW of power and 160Nm of torque. Paired with a choice of a 5-speed manual transmission (as standard) or optional 4-speed automatic, it could achieve 0-100km/h in a rather lacklustre 12 seconds for the manual, rising to 14 seconds for the automatic.
To take these figures on their own does not do justice to the 306 base models however, which, while not designed for power, certainly deliver in terms of comfort and handling, largely thanks to its innovative suspension features and well-weighted rack-and-pinion steering. Later models offer improved performance, with the upgraded 1.8L engine delivering 85kW of power and 158Nm of torque.
The 2.0L S16 came as a three-door hatchback with a 2.0L 4-valve petrol engine which it shared with its larger sibling, the Peugeot 405. If you are looking for power, this is the model to plump for, with a 9.2-second climb from 0-100km/h thanks to 115kW of power and 193Nm of torque. This was upgraded with the second generation to become known as the XSi, while a new pretender arrived at the top of the range – the GTi6, with a 4-cylinder engine delivering 124kW of power.
For greater fuel economy and decent performance consider one of the diesel options. Peugeot has led the field in the development of diesel-powered driving over the past decade and beyond, and the 306 benefits from its endeavours.
The entry-level XR is kitted out with electric windows, central locking, rear windscreen wiper, and an adjustable steering column for added driver safety and comfort, while the higher-spec XT adds electric mirrors, fog lamps, carpeted boot, and an external temperature gauge, with optional ABS (anti-lock braking system). Safety is a consideration if you are considering buying an early model as airbags did not feature in either model when they first came to market. Later models, however, included multiple airbags and ABS as standard along with rain-sensitive automatic wipers on all but the base model.
For a higher spec and more kit, the S16 is the pick, with alloy wheels, ABS, air-conditioning, and optional sunroof.
The Peugeot 306 has held its price well on the used car forecourts thanks to its reputation as being a well-styled, well-engineered, and reliable car. If you are considering buying a Peugeot 306, you may want to check out some of its competition from the same era, though the 306 stacks up well against the other options. Potential additions to your shortlist might include the Mazda 323, Nissan Pulsar, Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla, and Holden Astra.