Peugeot 205 GTI: Future classic

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The true daddy of hot hatches, but 'buy the best you can'...

Peugeot 205 GTI: Future classic
Future classic: Peugeot 205 GTI


Future classic: Peugeot 205 GTI

Hailed as perhaps the greatest hot hatch to have ever roamed a B-road, it’s taken a while for the average Australian motoring enthusiast to warm to Peugeot’s 205 GTi. Revered in Europe from new, its arrival to these shores was delayed until 1987, thanks largely to the poor Aussie dollar making importation expensive. That, combined with a requirement for locally-delivered cars to be happy on 91 RON unleaded, meant the snorty little Pug came to us in gelded form.

While the Euro-spec version of the 1.9-litre, SOHC four-pot produced 96kW/161Nm via Bosch fuel injection, local cars were watered down to a mere 75kW/142Nm, adding a full second to the Euro’s 7.9-second 0-97km/h time. To price the car under $30,000, local importers Jaguar-Rover Australia also had to de-spec. Power steering was unavailable, as was electric operation for the door mirrors. Despite the strip-out, air-conditioning and power windows were fitted to go with central locking, fog lamps, a four-speaker stereo with cassette player and groovy 14-inch alloy wheels.

Contemporary road testers found that the close-ratio five-speed manual gearbox helped keep the 1.9 on the boil, the engine – despite being strangled – enjoying regular trips to the redline.This combined with a playful, adjustable, chassis which enjoyed being taken by the scruff of the neck and flung at corners. Despite heavy steering, the lightweight (900kg) 205 was a joy to corner, but it quickly gained a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. Remember, this was long before any notion of electronic stability control, and a wavering mid-corner right foot could see the feisty Frenchie jack up its rear-end and spin like an early Porsche 911.

If the handling had a razor-edge to it, the interior also largely failed to impress. A lack of build quality was evident, with flimsy plastics and rattly interior fixings failing to reach the standard of many emerging Japanese cars of the time.

A substantial model update occurred in 1991, bringing many of the refinements expected of a car in this price range. Power steering was added and the engine brought into line with European specifications, producing 90kW/152Nm and equipped with a catalytic converter. These last versions also received 15-inch wheels.

The final edition, the metallic green ‘GTi Classic’, rolled out in 1994 and was comprehensively equipped with a leather interior and a power sunroof (both optional on the base car). These Classics are the most collectable today.

The phrase ‘buy the best you can’ is particularly apt when considering a 205 GTi. Although there are local specialists around, the iconic Pug has a reputation for fragility and can be expensive to get right. Well-maintained examples can exceed $10-$12,000, but there are scruffier, older examples around for half that if you are prepared to take a risk.

With Peugeot showing renewed interest in motorsport and delivering performance to the masses via the latest 208GTi, the time is ripe to pluck a solid 205GTi from the tree and enjoy the true daddy of hot hatches.


More reviews:

> Peugeot 203 review here

> Peugeot 404 review here

> Peugeot 208 review here


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