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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peugeot, Citroen Pair Up for Supermini Fray

Peugeot and Citroen, sister companies under the PSA corporate umbrella, have long shared technology and components. Where the two marques competed directly against one another, when it came to the car themselves, Peugeot has traditionally produced the slightly more expensive and upmarket machines.

Now they are twinned in a very different arrangement -- both have weighed into the small car battle with new contenders for the supermini crown, and the fight this time is more evenly matched in both product and price terms.

Like their individual manufactures, the two cars have common roots. The Citroen Saxo has borrowed much from the Peugeot 106 parts bin, but it's all hidden away under the skin. Both cars are a step up compared to their predecessors -- in Peugeot's case the original 106 and in Citroen's the AX -- and this time the two more obviously clash head on. Citroen is continuing to build the smaller AX for the foreseeable future, and will sell it as a cheaper entry point to its model range.

But the real interest lies in whether or not Peugeot has allowed Citroen to steal a march with the Saxo. Whereas the Saxo is obviously a brand new Citroen -- even if it looks like a Peugeot -- the new 106 is visually very much like the old model. The top men at both companies will be looking forward with anticipation to the first solid indications of sales success.

So has Peugeot chosen the right path with an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach? Well to start with, the engineers would certainly argue that the advances made with the new model are too big to be described as merely evolutionary -- but then they always do.

A new look front and rear has changed the appearance of the car, and it is also longer by 11 cms. The increase is in front and rear overhang rather than wheelbase, the latter remaining unchanged. The car is wider, too, but not to the extent that you'd notice.

It's a shame that Peugeot didn't take the opportunity to substantially increase interior space at the same time. Never the roomiest of cars compared to rivals, the 106 remains cramped in the rear, a failing which is all too obvious if you turn to competition such as the Fiat Punto or Volkswagen Polo. Remember, though, that this is an update rather than a brand new model and it becomes clear that, as was the case with Ford's Fiesta, there were more important ways to spend the allocated budget. To really push up interior room would have meant a huge redesign.

Peugeot would doubtless point to the areas in which it has spent the money as being of greater importance. The new 106 is safer than its predecessor by some considerable margin. Not only is the body stronger and crash protection further improved by side impact padding missing from the old car, but driver and passenger airbags are also now available.

Five petrol engines and one diesel engine power the range initially, a mixture of new and modified units. A 61ps 1.1-litre engine starts the ball rolling, followed by 1.4 and 1.6-litre motors. The 60ps 1.5-litre diesel will be joined at a later date by a more powerful turbodiesel. Arguably the star of the range -- at least as far as enthusiasts are concerned -- is the new 123ps, 16 valve 1.6-litre engine which powers the GTi model. Previously the Rallye and XSi were the performers in the range, but they have been usurped -- and in the case of the XSi, replaced -- by the GTi.

In its home market and across continental Europe the 106 carries a name badge to signify the individual trim level, with Cashmere topping the range. British motorists, reckoned by Peugeot to be less adventurous, have been left with more familiar letter code designations such as XN and XT.

The really good news is that, despite changes, the 106 remains as delightful a car to drive as ever. Nimble and yet reassuring, the little Peugeot is a wholly rewarding machine for the enthusiastic driver. Although the laurels for outright handling belong to the Rallye and GTi, all of the cars in the range are first class drivers' cars.

Whether or not this, in tandem with all the other changes, is sufficient to keep the new 106 ahead of the game will become clear by the end of this year. Certainly Citroen, whose Saxo boasts many of the same attributes as the Peugeot and is almost its driving equal, will be secretly hoping that buyers decisions will not be as easy to make as was the case with the old AX and 106. In Britain, the new 106 range costs from ?7,100 ($10,650), compared to ?7,300 for the Saxo.

But which ever way customers turn, both companies will be looking to boost overall sales -- after all, it's the sort of thing you want to keep in the family.

Paul Chadderton is motoring editor

at Auto Express in Britain. He contributed this article to The Moscow Times.