1997 sees the first major facelift and upgrade for the 306 range which has enhanced model appearance and improved the levels of safety features.
The original Pininfarina shape and dimensions have been carried over from the previous model however the roof edges and sides have been smoothed out and edges rounded.
The latest structural safety measures are incorporated into the body assembly and as well as side impact beams in the doors, Peugeot have included their own design of impact padding behind the door trim panel which is one of honeycomb construction and collapses on impact, therefore reducing bodily injury.
Interior changes include a new four spoke steering wheel with an airbag, a passenger's side air bag, pretentioners for the front seat belts, and a redesigned centre console panel which has raised the central controls to an easier to use position.
XR sedan and XT hatch versions are fitted with an automatic rain detector wiper which turns on and sweeps the wiper automatically at a speed proportional to the intensity of the rain.
Seating and interior comfort is excellent across the board with well designed supportive front seats with height lift adjustment for the driver's seat which shorter persons will appreciate.
Rear seats are comfortable - even in the cabrio - although a little short for good thigh support. Rear squabs and backrests split fold on hatch versions to provide a flat floor extension to the boot space if required.
A new 1.8 litre, 16 valve engine producing 83.5 kilowatts is fitted to the XT hatch and drives through a five speed manual transmission. This is a willing and flexible engine which benefits from the light body weight.
Although maximum torque of 155Nm of torque is available at 4250rpm a great proportion of this is available from around 2000rpm giving very good midrange flexibility and strength.
The 1.9 litre diesel turbo engine in the XT hatch is an improved version of that previously used in the 306 and 405 models. This unit produces strong performance with very good overtaking ability when the turbo is in operation from around 2300rpm upwards. It's less user friendly at city speeds as below 2000rpm there's a lot of turbo lag to overcome.
Ride and handling ability continues with the usual Peugeot excellence and projects a level of secure safety when cornering. Steering response is precise with good weighting and the supple suspension absorbs road shocks and undulations with ease.
Cabriolet versions have also been revised and instead of two option models being available, there is only one model with either five speed manual or four speed automatic transmissions. The 2.0 litre power unit is as used in the 406 model.
The 306 Cabriolet has always been a pretty and desirable car and the addition of the increased performance has certainly lifted its status to new heights.
Although this is not meant to be a 'sports car' the extra 200cc has improved the flexibility of its performance and made it more pleasant and easier for the driver.
The soft top is electrically operated and unfolds itself with ease
Although some boot space is lost to the soft top storage enclosure, rear interior room has improved. There is ample rear space to transport two adults in comfort and both front seats have slide tilt facilities for access to the rear.
Both front and rear windows are operated electrically and air conditioning is standard fitment.
The Cabriolet is priced at $57,990 for the manual version, $59,990 for the automatic with the options of the hard top roof plus a leather trim pack at $3,200.
Peugeot have all aspects of the sector covered by this range of 306 models and have been able to introduce the hatch versions with new engines and increased spec levels, air conditioning, passenger air bag and front fog lamps without any increase in price.