Sometimes one tiny detail defines a car for you. In this case, it’s tiny pedals.
In 1991 the Peugeot 106 appeared on the European market, part of a two-pronged …. you know all this. What I would prefer to do is to get right to the point about the pedals.
When I sat in a 106 I immediately felt ham-footed, clod-limbed and encumbered. The edge of my sole collided with the gear pedal; my feet tripped over one another. The three pedals in the footwell felt as if they were occupying the space of two, and offset to boot (or runner, or driving shoe).
Thirty-one years later that one single point stands out above all others when I think of the 106. That is quite some achievement since the 106 consists of exterior and interior surfaces, dozens of functions (lights, cigarette lighter, seat adjustments, steering, hand brakes, interior lights). The car has an engine (one of seven) with an identity, plus the rubber touching the road and the chassis. You get the idea. A lot of elements come together to make up the car’s form and behaviour and all of them are obliterated by the impossibility of reliably pressing the required one of three pedals.
It’s probably too late now to find out quite what happened with the pedals that excluded by design about 35% of the population. Three decades have passed since it landed in the dealers; probably it’s 35 since the R&D ended. A 35 year-old engineer then is now five years into retirement. The 45-year olds in more senior mistake-making and error-enforcing roles are possibly no longer sharing the mortal coil with us. We will never know why they decided to gather together the basic points of control for this car and make them unusable.
I turn the debate over to our dear readers now. Which other cars are defined for you by one big deal-breaker? I’d prefer not to hear about personal idiosyncrasies like ‘I hate brown metallic paint’ or ‘I can’t drive a car with a dog-leg reverse’. It’s more like instances of single, dumb design features that dominate in your conceptions: Renault Laguna coupé is for me always and only about a dreadful ride; the L317 LR Freelander V6 is only about its 22 mpg fuel consumption (see also Mazda RX-7); the Lancia Gamma has a hideous dashboard (not a fixable problem, unlike the cam belt detail).
So, readers, to your keyboards…
 I won’t mention the car always mentioned in reference to the 106. I just can’t.
All Images via the author.