Motoring: Auto Biography: The Peugeot 306 IN 0-60 Seconds

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The Independent Culture
IF THERE is a motor industry equivalent of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time, it's trying to invent a car that is simultaneously a Citroen ZX and a Peugeot 205. The ZX did what cynics said Citroen couldn't do and devotees said it wouldn't do - compete with an Escort in the meat-and-potatoes market and make it look like designer cuisine. And the 205 was simply the best small hatch of the Eighties.

In attempting this risky hybrid, Peugeot has the advantage of access to the paperwork; both best-selling machines are part of the same PSA group. But the features that have put the ZX and 205 near the top of their respective classes take some beating, especially in the same box.

The new Peugeot 306, which hit the show-

rooms on 22 April, is more than just a replacement for the worthy but dated 309. ZX engineering is the underpinning of this elegant new car. It shares engines and chassis components with the Citroen, but its extended floorpan makes it roomier inside.

So does it make more sense to buy a 306 than a ZX? In terms of looks, the 306 is waisted at the sill-line like an Alfa but rather anonymous overall - except for that trademark rear-light cluster. It's slightly more expensive than a ZX and not so well- equipped, but even a little extra room inside means a lot in this class.

Regular Peugeot purchasers will certainly come in droves. And if patriotism is still a sales factor, the 306 is genuinely made in Britain - at Coventry's Ryton plant.

GOING PLACES: Choice of three petrol engines, based on units fitted to the Citroen ZX - 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 litres. Acceleration better than equivalent ZXs (0-60mph in 12 secs), overtaking and pulling power superior. Engines quite noisy.

STAYING ALIVE: Stiffened chassis, side impact beams in all doors. Anti-lock braking an option. Child-proof locks, optional driver's airbag (availability pending). Visibility excellent. Handling only a little less predictable and stable than the ZX's.

CREATURE COMFORTS: Plain but well thought-out interior. Comfortable, supportive seats. Electric mirrors, electric windows at front only. Spacious for its class.

BANGS PER BUCK: Tilt-adjustable steering, anti-theft alarm, electric sunroof and split rear seat standard on all but entry-level XN. Four- speaker stereo, remote central locking. Fuel consumption around 30mpg in town, 40mpg at constant motorway speeds. All for a price of pounds 10,795.

STAR QUALITY: Elegant, spacious five-door family hatch. More practical gearbox design than the ZX's, close to the top of the family car class.

TURKEY QUOTIENT: Noisy, low spec, looks unremarkable.

AND ON MY RIGHT: Ford Escort 1.4 ( pounds 10,400) - not in the same league; Vauxhall Astra 1.4 ( pounds 10,100) - comfortable, dull performance; Citroen ZX 1.4 ( pounds 10,900) - cheaper, marginally slower; VW Golf 1.4 ( pounds 10,600) - built like a tank, but feels like one.

(Photograph omitted)