Peugeot Takes over Vauxhall...
Should we actually care?
It's another bit of big post-Brexit economic news. The French, broadly speaking 'boring' car manufacturer is purchasing General Motors European, broadly speaking 'mundane' car manufacturer.
Clarkson once did a humorous sketch about Peugeot and Peugeot drivers on Top Gear. It was quite critical. I tend to agree too. Generally Peugeot cars are about as exciting as double-entry book keeping. They might suit people who DO have a heart condition, because driving around in such a nondescript, anonymous lump of metal is surely not going to increase your heart rate. It might LOWER it in fact. They're really the sort of cars you buy by the ounce, or the cubic metre. You might get a Peugeot if you liked French cars but couldn't afford a Renault. Quite why you'd like French cars, I'm not sure. I dunno, maybe you like expensive to repair electrical problems and cars cleverly designed to suddenly become unreliable just as your warranty runs out?
No, I'm not a Peugeot fan. Having said that, I HAVE never owned one! My sister had one I liked once. She had a rather nice Peugeot 106 Ralleye.
The 106 Ralleye
Now these were a fun little car. Go-kart handling, tiny wheelbase and a fizzy little 1.3 litre, 100 bhp petrol engine. They were spartan inside. There were less luxuries than a North Korean Work Camp, but that made them light, nippy and chuckable!
Sadly the 106 Ralleye was one of my sisters cars which I DIDN'T get 'hand-me-down'.
My sister's looked more or less identical to this. Except she didn't own a helmet or do trackdays.
I know, some of you will say 'yeah, but the 106/205 GTi was better because....'
Not interested. The 106 Ralleye was the underdog, it's the thinking man's Peugeot. It was the car for the person who didn't want to follow the crowd and have a 1.9 205 GTi.
The 106 Ralleye Interior
In the 106 Ralleye, you got what you needed. No more, no less. It's a purists hot hatch. It was the 1990's equivalent of a Clio Cup 182!
So is that it? Peugeot's best offering to the motoring world was a tiny little shopping trolley with a whizz-pop 1.3 engine?
No it wasn't! Something far more interesting rolled out of the Peugeot factory. They were rare, but they are (At least for me) the most desirable Peugeot EVER!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the 205 Turbo 16.
Now you might look at this and think 'What? That's just a 205 GTi with air vents at the back!
And you'd be right! However you have to understand WHY the T16 has air vents at the back. This wasn't a torque-steer crazy 'stupid-culling' 90's hot-hatch, designed to sacrifice wealthy 17 year olds by impaling them on trees and lamp posts. This was a mid-engined, RWD, group B Rally, homoglomation special.
The 205 T16 was a Mid-engined AWD Rally Car.
The T16 was a successful rally car. It won in 1985 and 86. The road going version was identical to the rally car, but had only half the power. Though to be fair around 200 BHP was still probably enough to make it entertaining. This car - a Peugeot! Was beating Ford, Audi and Lancia at rallying. Consider that, next time you see an old fellow in a flat cap and a checked shirt pottering along an A road at 12 mph while weaving into the wrong lane. That 2-0-[Whatever they are up to now] that you see some middle-aged woman piling full of quinoa and buckwheat at the local Waitrose has a rally legend relative.
The T16 - Engine bay open.
Yes. If I could have any Peugeot, I'd have a T16. Even though they were only available in left hand drive!
Apart from the 106 Ralleye and the 205 T16, Peugeot have spent most of the last thirty years producing uninspiring cars which are about as desirable as genital warts. Yes, yes, I know some people are going to call out the 205 GTi - they were a decent car. I'm sure some of you will whine about how nice the RCZ coupe is. Yes they're fine, but basically it looks like it was built to appeal to Audi TT people. It was probably designed mainly for women, homosexuals, or hairdressers who liked the TT, but didn't like the macho image and wanted something a bit more feminine. I'm not being discriminating here. Sorry if I've offended, but I'm just calling it how I see it. The RCZ is a pretty car. But to me it looks a bit style over substance and yes, it looks a bit girlie.
The RCZ - A Bit Girlie.
This brings us to Vauxhall! Now Vauxhall to me, are really another 'it'll do' car make. They're the sort of thing you might buy from Arnold Clark or the local car supermarket because it's cheaper than a German car and you expect it to be more reliable than a French car. It's probably not going to set the pulse racing. It'll probably be a perfectly fine method of transportation. What it might not be is interesting!
Now I can't be too mean to Vauxhall. They are really a time-honoured British tradition. We see Vauxhall as a British marque, because everywhere else in Europe they are Opel. The thing is, they aren't bad cars and they're usually pretty cheap for what you get. Everyone I know has owed at least one Vauxhall.
The old Astra - These things used to breed. They were everywhere!
Everyone has had an Astra. Most people have had a couple. They'll do! They're probably cheaper than a Ford and more or less as good.
I had a diesel estate once as a company car. It was a 1.7d and it went well. It was a decent drive and had plenty of room in the back. It was four yards of adequate car. It didn't even break down much. I genuinely can't complain. However, I likewise can't tell you what was good about it. I could tell you interesting, good things about my Ford Ranger, my Jaguar X-Type, my MX5 and my Focus ST! But I can't about the Astra. My MOST interesting Vauxhall was actually a 1.6i Tigra in blue, rather like this one:-
The 1990's Tigra
Now it may be down to lack of skill, but the most exciting thing about the Tigra was it's terrifying tendency to go into lift-off oversteer. I span this car more than a croupier spins the roulette wheel in his entire career! Literally, I spent more time sliding backwards and looking embarrassed than driving it forwards. I wondered if there was something wrong with the suspension but close inspection revealed it to be fine. It was just a car that handled as well as an office swivel chair with two wheels missing. It DID have one good point. The back seat was so comically small and uncomfortable, I could make my tall mates in the back, bang their heads on the glass by going over speed bumps too fast if they annoyed me.
So did Vauxhall ever do anything interesting?
YES! They did a cracker! Even though you could argue they really had Lotus make it for them. I give you the Vauxhall VX220 VXR:-
Now this was a car with sky-shattering performance. Mid-engined, RWD. 220 bhp and it weighed less than a packet of Jacob's Cream Crackers. 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds is quoted, 154 mph top speed I think.
They were a looker too. The interior was spartan and a touch race-inspired. You could see the influence of Lotus trying to show themselves despite the Vauxhall badge.
Simple, minimalist interior, wide sills, and body. LOTS of exposed aluminium. Sitting so low your bum was almost scraping on the tarmac. No room for a spare so you got a can of 'Get me home' Foam. Yes please! These were a perfect track day car.
Racing seats in the VXR220 cockpit
This was to me, beyond a sports car. Yeah, the normal VX220 was a sports car, but the VXR220 was a supercar. An actually good to drive supercar. (Even if it leaked water in - blame Lotus!) From a company that specialised in soul-less rep-mobiles, shopping trolleys, school run taxis and vans. Call me a philistine, but I think I'd prefer a VXR220 than the 189 BHP, Toyota engined Lotus Elise of the era... Though it'd be a close thing. I DO love that version of the Elise!
So what can we expect from the new Peugeot/Vauxhall alliance? An exciting, mid-engined rear-wheel drive, 2017 version of the T16 with a 2.2 Litre 220 BHP Turbo engine? An aluminium and fibreglass, super-light track car with sublime handling and enough performance to bring the local Caterham owners to tears?
No, I'm afraid not. We'll probably just get a host of painfully dull fleet cars and taxi's. Built to price and marketed on the economy, the choice of colours and the number of cup-holders in them...
showing a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken serious
Stories and images of supercar crashes, in honour of veteran crasher Hammond