02 July 2011

Good news times two

Yesterday afternoon brought two pieces of good news. First, melons are finally in season. What we call "melons" in France are like little cantaloupes. They're very sweet and juicy. They come from southern France, Spain, or North Africa.

I know they are in season because prices have come down. In May and June, even though temperatures were high and it felt like melon season, the price per melon was easily 1.50 or even 2.00 euros. Yesterday at SuperU they had French-grown melons for 95 (euro)cents apiece. It was time to buy some. I also got a few slices of good French-style country ham (think prosciutto) to eat with them. That's a classic appetizer here.

My 2001 Peugeot 206 diesel four-door hatchback

The other good news had to do with the car. I went out and started it yesterday afternoon to drive it over to my mechanic's, where I had a 4:00 p.m. appointment. To my surprise, the "check engine" light turned itself off after a minute or two. Walt had tried it on Wednesday and the light just stayed on. I didn't drive the car on Thursday.

I'm happy the light went off because when I talked to the mechanic, he said that the check engine staying on means that the car's calculateur needs to be replaced. A new calculateur, installed, costs about a thousand euros — nearly $1500 U.S. at current rates. Le calculateur is the car engine's computer, or ECU — Engine Control Unit. I had a Subaru back in California that needed a new ECU, and it was priced at about $650 — nearly twenty years ago.

The Peugeot 206 seen from above

Now I just have to keep an eye on the check-engine light and see if it comes on again. The mechanic said the problem might have been the very hot weather we had last Monday afternoon. That's when it happened, and the temperature was about 100ºF at the time. I was out driving, because I had a doctor's appointment in Blois. And I was blasting the AC.

This afternoon, I drove the car pretty hard, accelerating quickly and shifting late, to see if the warning light might come on again. It didn't. Let's hope it stays that way. The Peugeot 206 is a good vehicle. Mine will be 11 years old at Christmas, so it's no spring chicken. The 206 has been the best-selling car in France, and maybe in Europe overall, for ten years or more.

I want the Peugeot to last for a while because
it has a new set of Michelin tires on it!

For comparison, a Peugeot 206, a hatchback, is about six inches longer than the Mini Cooper (made by BMW now), but two feet shorter than a Honda Civic. It's a lot bigger than a Smart car, but still it's a subcompact. The down side of the small size is that legroom in the back seat is pretty tight, and the trunk isn't spacious. It's really a two-passenger car that can haul four or five passengers in a pinch. The back seats fold down flat to create a much larger trunk.

But the diesel model I have has a big engine for the car's size. It's a 2-liter diesel engine and gets between 45 and 50 miles to the gallon of diesel fuel. It has automatic air-conditioning — you just set the temperature you want and it does the work — and automatic wipers activated by a sensor that detects water on the windshield. It's too bad they don't sell Peugeots in the U.S.

I'd like to keep the 206 for another ten years, if possible, and eventually as a second car. It has about 160K km/100K miles on the odometer, but it should do twice that many or more before the engine gives out. I keep it in the garage in the wintertime so it doesn't suffer too much from the cold, damp weather. And Walt and I don't drive more than five or six thousand miles (8 to 10K km) a year.

This is the Citroën model that competes
with the Peugeot 206 and 207.

I already know that I want my next car to be a Citroën. You may not be aware that Citroën, which was acquired by Peugeot many years ago, makes modern, comfortable, reliable, good-looking cars. The company was famous for its 2CV and DS models years ago, not to mention the famous Traction Avant. It still makes a full line of good automobiles today.


  1. I hope your car hangs in there for another 10 years, Ken. My Mazda Miata is 11 years old and has 21,000 miles on it. It will probably outlast me!

    Btw, I love the photo of your house in yesterday's post.


  2. Ken,
    Being in Queensland for the past few days, I'm only just catching up with my fave posts. Like you we both love our Peugeots and Citroens.
    Sue's pre-loved 307 replaced the Xantia and is so spacious. The Cit was passed on to our son.
    I think in most cases anytimr you take a recent car to a mechanic you can bank on $1000 each time.
    Anyway, on to some more reading plus I need to post something on Sunny Gold Coast.

  3. Ken, How strange that your car trouble happened on Monday, when it was a hot day, because my new colleague, Pietro, had the same problem with his two-year old Opel Corsa. So maybe the heat really had something to do with it. I'm glad your car is okay and that you can use that money for other purposes than having the car repaired. Enjoy your weekend! Martine

    WV = routa!!! Another coincience??

  4. C has a 206 too, and really likes it. Personally I'm partial to the C3 you posted a picture of - but probably because that's what I always rent, so I spend about two weeks per month driving them. The new C5 is *really* nice too - it's pricier than most Citroen vehicles, but it reminds me a lot of a BMW 3 series.

  5. Up until a few years ago, you could buy Peugeots in the US. I don't know why they stopped.

  6. I'm glad your car is ok - it's such an expense to change it - the second most expensive thing that most people buy after their house.

    We had an old Citroen C3 until recently and we loved it. We would definitley have one again - it was very comfortable and economical to run. It looked cute, too.

  7. sometimes those engine lights have a life of their own & go off & on because of a loose computer connection or something......i drive my mom's old buick park ave & it has 105,000 miles on it.....10 yrs old...still runs good

  8. Ah, detective Columbo drove an old Peugeot 403, if I remember correctly.

  9. Yes, I've always found Peugots and Citroens we've rented while In France to be great cars. The only 2 times I can recall getting really bad rental cars, the cars were Swedish (a Volvo that had terrible rear visibility), and Italian (a Lancia automatic which was horrible in so many ways).

  10. Our VW campervan really acted up in hot weather. I'm glad your car is behaving itself now. Hopefully you won't be driving in hot weather like that for a good long time.

    I just rented our car for this summer from AutoEurope. It is from Avis this time and I think it's going to be the same kind of Citroen you've pictured. A diesel one. Of course we seldom get the type of rental we ask for.

  11. I'm not a mechanic, but I've had check engine lights go all funky due to relatively benign causes. You might want to consider a second opinion if it happens again. Good luck!

  12. They used to sell Peugeots in the US, but the quality was so bad and the service so spotty that they couldn't hold on to market share. I gather things have greatly improved since then.

  13. Hi Emm, I know, I was almost ready to buy a Peugeot in the mid-1990s when they announced they were pulling out of the U.S. market. I bought a VW instead, and it was a good car. I like the Peugeot I have here, as I said. It's funny to me that Australia, England, and so many other countries have so many Peugeot, Renault, and Citroën cars on their roads. The U.S. is the odd country out. U.S. roads and cars are just so different from European roads and cars.


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