Impressions of the Peugeot "202"

Motor Sport  praises British cars when praise is due. We also believe in letting the world know about other cars besides. Many Continentals have been described by keen owners in past issues. Here is an account of the Peugeot “202.”—Ed.

It has often amazed me why the Peugeot “202,” as common as the Light Fifteen Citroen amongst small cars in France and on the continent, has failed to achieve popularity on this side of the Channel. True, its looks, to our way of thinking, are inclined to be a little on the unusual side, with the headlamps built in between the radiator and the grille, and the 12-volt battery placed outside, protected only by the rather flimsy forward bumper. But a more worthy little car for manoeuvrability in the network of town byways, and for settling down comfortably to a steady sixty on the autostraat, is, to my mind, a little hard to imagine.

In the autumn of 1945, after returning from the Riviera by means of a vintage Talbot “95,” I determined to try an experiment, and obtain one in England, if there was such a thing to be found. I must have been lucky, for the very next week there appeared the advertisement I had been looking for. I went straight away to see it and was thrilled, although the price was strictly in accordance with the demand of those days. However, I plunged, and have had no cause for repentance.

It was a 1939 model, and as new at 10,000 miles. After only a month out of the showrooms it returned to its native country with me, where we remained together for fourteen months. The whole of this period occupied the test. Together we weaved figures-of-eight round the Place de la Concorde, went for week-end country spins of a couple of hundred miles, and finally ended up with an extra 3,500 miles on the “clock” after a tour in the Pyrenees. Throughout, we managed to remain on the friendliest of terms, with never so much as an angry bearing between us.

For the benefit of those who have no first-hand knowledge of chauffeuring in Paris, it can be stated without prejudice that the strain placed on every tentacle of the frame exceeds anything which even the most reckless London driving might impose. Good brakes are an essential asset, unless, of course, you are prepared to have your premium increased monthly. Continual changing down also puts the average gearbox through its paces, but I found that the small Peugeot was capable of sustaining all the hard driving demanded of it, with the minimum of mechanical attention. In spite of one or two errors in judgment involving the front of the vehicle, the exposed battery never suffered any damage, and this position proved very useful for winter charging. Also, the Peugeot is capable of turning in a space so restricted that I think on this score alone it deserves high commendation as a first-class runabout. The steering is amazingly light and direct, although I am bound by honesty to criticise the self-centring device, which could well do with some improvement.

As far as the high road is concerned, the “202” appears to be just as much at its ease on a 500-mile run from Paris to Biarritz as on a trip out to Versailles for dinner. On our final test together down to the Côte Basque, and across France at the foot of the Pyrenees, I started off with a slight foreboding as to the capability of such a small car encompassing such a large area without pretty frequent attention. Yet, apart from a new coil and condenser I cannot recall any other defect which held us up. The independent front suspension dealt admirably with many an uneasy road through the Landes and on the Spanish border. On the more encouraging surfaces the 12-h.p. engine settled down to a silent sixty over many long periods, and on many occasions I discovered that we had crept up to the seventy mark. The cooling system, tested on severe climbs in extreme heat, proved itself equal to anything, and even with the large-capacity radiator only half full, no signs of overheating were apparent. Finally, finding ourselves at Bagners de Bigorre, still nearly 500 miles from Paris, with very little money in our purse after such a good time, we left our hotel at 9 p.m. and reached Paris twenty-three hours later, pausing for two hours to change a tyre and partake of a little sleep. The next day we were to be seen on our way up the Champs Elysees on our way to work, neither of its the worse for wear.

Unfortunately, none of these little demons are allowed into this country at the moment, and I am bound to admit that were they permitted to put their blunt noses into our rural scene in any number, they would prove dangerous competitors to some of our English brands. However, perhaps there are some lucky members of the community who will have the chance of obtaining a car on the continent if their work necessitates their sojourn there, and for those who are obliged to consider the depth of their pocket, but who want smooth and safe journeys on rough roads, I would recommend them to the Peugeot “202,” a bargain at £300, as she comes from the assembly line, with only a fortnight between order and fulfilment.

J. M. B.