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Car confidential: 2006 – year of the supermini

No doubt about it: 2006 will be a big year for the small car. The three biggest selling models being replaced this year are all rival superminis, from Peugeot, Mini and Vauxhall.

First up is the Peugeot 206 replacement, due in June. Imagine a 206 on acid and you have the 207: a bigger, taller, wedgy hatch etched with feline headlamps, gaping Audi-esque grille bisected by a plastic bumper and a teardrop glasshouse.

Peugeot’s supermini is falling into line with PSA’s platform strategy, as the 207 adopts an updated version of the Citroen C3’s front-wheel drive chassis. The Pug is bigger though, with a 140mm stretch taking overall length to 3,980mm.

The most dramatic transformation is inside. At last the steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach, the plastics no longer look up to a Somerfield carrier bag, the boot is huge and high tech gizmos, like dual zone climate control, abound.

There should be a 207 for every taste. Four diesels will be offered: 70bhp 1.4-litre, 90 and 110bhp 1.6 and the ‘HDi GTi’, a 136bhp 2.0-litre.

With the 107’s arrival, the 1.1-litre poverty edition gets the bullet: 75 and 90bhp 1.4s kick off the petrol line-up, supplemented by a 115bhp naturally aspirated 1.6 also available in 143bhp turbo guise. A 190bhp GTi should follow.

Take note of those engines, because they will end up under the bonnet of the ‘new’ Mini MkII which goes into production in September.

With a 250mm stretch over today’s hatchback, the MkII won’t be far off the 207’s length. BMW has also confirmed its shooting brake concept will go into production, probably in September 2007, wearing the Clubman badge.

Vauxhall’s new Corsa has iPod-influenced features as its interior highlight. The funkier cabin is clothed in two bodystyles. Although the pair share the same wheelbase and near 4m overall length, the three-door resembles a coupe while the five-door is taller and more practical. Both cars have bigger boots than their predecessors, and more room for heads and legs.

Punters can pick from four petrols, ranging from 60bhp 1.0-litre to 180bhp turbocharged 1.6 powering the VXR hot hatch. The 1.3-litre CDTi comes with 75 and 90bhp, while a new 125bhp 1.7 CDTi is the flagship diesel.

The new Corsa is expected in UK showrooms in late 2006, drawing a line under a year that starts with its estranged, platform-sharing cousin – the Punto – going on sale.

Year of the supermini, indeed.

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