This nondescript compact hatchback was supposed to be a Talbot. It was developed as the successor to the 1978-1987 Simca/Chrysler/Talbot Horizon. But the artificial reincarnation of the old Talbot brand name, after Peugeot took over Ma Mopar’s Euro-car division in the late seventies, was an utter failure and led to nothing. Instead of Talbot Arizona, it was renamed Peugeot 309. An unusual number in the automaker’s model naming structure.
Never mind the unusual number, the 309 did well, commercially. From 1985 to 1994, Peugeot built more than 1.6 million of them. Halfway its production run, in 1989, the model got an update. The Phase 2 is easily recognizable by the smaller taillights. The 309 was produced in France, Spain and the UK. Some of its direct competitors were the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Escort, Opel Kadett/Astra and the Renault 11/19.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. It may look nondescript, but do not underestimate a 309 wearing this red badge on its hatch. Compared to this, a contemporary Volkswagen Golf GTI was a choirboy racer.
160 filthy DIN-hp (as in: no catalytic converter, like this one) from a naturally aspirated, 1.9 liter DOHC 16v engine. The same power unit was also used in the bigger Peugeot 405 Mi16 and Citroën BX GTi 16v. Well of course it has a manual transmission, a 5-speed.
We’re looking at an old school hot hatch, as it’s all up to the driver to steer clear from trees and the like. Put the pedal to the metal and you’re all on your own, calling for electronic nannies doesn’t help.
Now 160 hp may not sound as overkill, but keep in mind that the car’s curb weight is only 975 kg (2,150 lbs). Its top speed is rated at 220 km/h and the only-at-the-dragstrip 0-100 km/h was done in 7.8 seconds.
What a treat it was to see a 26 years old hot hatch in such an excellent, unmolested, factory condition.