Seldom does a car come around and revitalize an entire brand. Well, that’s precisely what the Peugeot 205 GTI did back in April of 1984. This car was ultimately, the first stepping stone towards a more youthful image for the brand. The Peugeot 205 had already launched a year prior to the GTI variant and it would be no understatement to say it took the world by storm. It’s key to impressing, was the ‘big car’ level of sophistication, elegance, and smoothness; this was aided by fully independent suspension, with MacPherson struts up front and trailing arms with torsion bars at the rear.
The high-performance Peugeot 205 GTI clearly did something right too, as it captured the attention of Louis Vuitton’s Bernard Arnault & family who armour plated their Peugeot 205 GTI.
The Peugeot 205 GTI’s cult following was partially down to Gerald Welter. He was fastidious in the designing phase, gifting the Peugeot 205 GTI the attributes of an aerodynamically efficient body with unmistakable prettiness. This didn’t compromise practicality though, with good versatility and a large engine compartment for later engines. The design language of the Peugeot 205 GTI would then be echoed onto later Peugeot’s; notably the Peugeot 309 GTI.
The debate for which engine is befitting of the Peugeot 205 GTI, is always a hot topic among the fanbase. From the launch the Peugeot 205 GTI it had the 1.6-litre engine revving up to 7000rpm. Although this was the lower powered engine in the Peugeot 205 GTI with 105bhp, the car was praised for feeling alive and nimble in this format. The 0-60mph time of 8.7 seconds was very respectable at the time, surpassing the Ford Fiesta XR2’s time of 9.3 seconds. In 1986, the 1.6l engine was uprated to 115bhp, due to cylinder head modifications and altered valve timing. But the introduction of cars such as 16-valve VW Golf GTI prompted the need for a larger engine.
The 1.9 available at the end of 1986 amended the power deficit of the 1.6, packing a 130bhp punch. This newly developed engine was deemed so successful it would end up in the engine compartment of the Citroën Visa. However, the Peugeot had the higher starting price, clearly being regarded as the more desirable offering from the PSA group. This 1.9l engine made the small car feel more muscular than before with torque upped from 98lb ft to 119lb ft. Breaking was also aided by the addition of rear disc brakes rather than drums.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Peugeot 205 GTI in the 1980s all the way to the present day, is how the car simply devoured country B-roads. It’s safe to say that the character of a car isn’t in the numbers. The balance down undulating British roads is something to marvel at, while gear changes in the car are slick (especially in the 1.6). Although the engine you chose didn’t have a profound difference on the way the car drove, the lighter and higher revving 1.6 often made the car better suited to winding roads. However, the 1.9 would be less of a chore down higher speed roads, where the 1.6 has less power but more noise.
After 10 years of production for the Peugeot 205 GTI and 15 years for the regular Peugeot 205, the Peugeot 206 replaced this well-praised model. The Peugeot 205 had over-exceeded its target sales volume, with well over 5 million units being sold. The Peugeot 205 GTI had also amassed a large following of people, a fanbase that the successive 206 GTI would not achieve.
How to get one in your garage
Bodywork – As prices are rising, more and more Peugeot 205 GTI’s are being ‘tarted’ up. Therefore, be aware of shoddy repair jobs; overspray is often a dead giveaway that it’s not been done up to a great standard. Although the Peugeot 205 GTI is fairly resistant to rust, check the usual suspects for rusting such as the wings, footwells and the boot floor. Despite the rust-resistance, the metal used is of a thin gauge so picks up dents easily, so thoroughly check for imperfections.
Interior – The interior mostly consists of brittle plastics so check for cracks developing in the dashboard. Some Peugeot 205 GTI’s achieve high mileage so damaged upholstery and bolsters might need addressing.
Engines – The XU engine isn’t notoriously unreliable. However, check the engine bay for oil leaks as well as a mayonnaise-looking gloop around the cap on the rocker cover. This is an indication that the head gasket has blown.
Gearbox – The 5-speed gearbox in the Peugeot 205 is typically reliable, but on higher mileage cars, it is often evidential that the synchromesh is worn. If you’re considering an early Peugeot 205 GTI, be warned that to access the gearbox, the engine must come out too; this isn’t the case on newer models with transversally mounted engines.
Suspension – Don’t dismiss the car shimmying at higher speeds. Although it can indicate the front wheels are out of balance, it can also imply that there are worn wishbone bushes… Check this repair hasn’t been neglected by the seller (as it is costly), by checking for knocks and bangs when bouncing on each corner of the car.
Also worth knowing
Parts aren’t extortionate, but interior trims in particular cannot often be ordered direct from Peugeot. You may have to turn to aftermarket parts or salvage parts, so check the legitimacy of the seller.
How much to spend
£6500 - £14,500
Within this price range, you’ll mostly find higher mileage examples (100,000 or more). Despite this, some are in very good condition with recent mechanical repairs and have extensive service history. In this price range, you’ll find yourself either a 1.6l or 1.9l as well as the 1.9l CTI.
Most cars are below 100,000 miles with fewer owners and more comprehensive service history. Rarer colour options can also be found, but they are often few and far between.
Some might call it overkill, but these cars are either fully restored or have completed so few miles that restoration would be needless. Every component that has shown signs of wear has been swapped out, and these cars tend to be sold by more prestigious car dealerships.
One we found
1988 Peugeot 205 1.6 GTI, 60,000 miles, £14,995
Finished in Futura Grey Metallic with original 14in pepperpot alloys. This is a lower mileage example with 3 owners and has all typical shortcomings dealt with. The MoT is a clean sweep with no advisories either.