It's tough at the top... But that hasn't stopped the Peugeot 206 from enjoying seven years and half-a-million sales at the head of the supermini class. Smart looks and a huge choice of engines and bodystyles mean the British-built challenger is still fashionable, despite its advancing years.
Great diesel engines, a practical SW-badged estate and a coupe-cabriolet are all part of the appeal of the varied range. However, buying one isn't without pitfalls. Here, we check out the major factors to consider when splashing out.
Early 206s start at £2,300, while one of the first CCs can be yours for £8,000. Smaller-engined 1.6 CCs fetch £500 less than the 2.0 - a 20,000-mile 53-plate 206 CC 2.0 costs £11,500. Meanwhile, £5,000 buys a 51-reg 1.4 GLX or Y-plate 2.0 HDi, with a 52-reg XSi £1,000 more. The 1.4 HDi starts at £5,000; pay £8,000 for a 54-plate five-door 1.4 HDi SE.
Peugeot's diesels are highly acclaimed, but avoid the unrefined 1.9-litre - available from October 1998 to November 1999 - as the 2.0 HDi which replaced it is much better. Post-January 2000 cars got a three-year warranty. Don't pay too much for special editions; these often offer little more than a fresh paint job and a better stereo over standard trim. And don't think the 206 CC is a four-seater - space is minimal in the rear.
Margaret Wood from Gosport, Hants, has owned her 02-plate 206 2.0 HDi from new - and loves it. "It's fast, refined at speed and very economical," she says. "I generally get 55mpg-plus, and it's great in town and on motorways. There were one or two electrical glitches early on, but they were fixed without fuss by the dealer. It's been plain sailing since!"
More private punters spent their money on the 206 than any other car in 2001, 2002 and 2003, so the Peugeot is certainly a popular choice. However, in the Auto Express Driver Power 2005 satisfaction and reliability survey, the car came 98th out of 100, with 24 per cent of owners saying they wouldn't buy another. There are plenty to choose from, but if you do take the plunge, make sure you're not buying a liability.