I’ve been meaning to write this one up. This is another ‘80s Pug from Provence, as per the 104 I wrote about a few months ago. It’s a little harder for me to work up enthusiasm about the 305, though. These were literally everywhere for so much of my life that they blended in to the background. They still do, in many ways.
But I have noticed that their numbers have been plummeting, compared to the beginning of this decade. The same thing happened with the 204 / 304 in the ‘90s. And the 505 in the early 21st Century. So it feels appropriate to shine a light on the 305 now, for soon these will be museum exhibits, not CC fodder.
Peugeot wagons are something of a CC specialty item. Well, certainly the older RWD ones. Is there any love out there for the smaller FWD Pugs? Maybe the 204 / 304, the first generation that had a fair bit of success in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were very elegant and, thanks to their transverse layout and all-alloy OHC engine, quite advanced for the time. But they rusted away many moons ago.
As we can see with this gloriously scruffy wagon, the 305 had better rust protection than its predecessors. This was mostly true of later cars like this mid-‘80s GRD. However, when the model was unveiled in late 1977, things were a little different. It wasn’t just Peugeots, of course. Most cars of that era were prolific rusters, but Peugeots had had a relatively good reputation on that front until the ‘70s. The notoriously biodegradable PininFarina-made cars (304 and 504 coupé/cabriolet) were the worst affected. Somehow, the next worst always seemed to be the 604 and the 305, which one could see disintegrate on the road throughout the ‘80s.
Technically, the 305 was a stretched 304, with a few updates. The engines were the same; the all-independent suspension, front disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering did not change – nor did the base engine, an all-alloy 65 hp 1290cc directly inherited from the 204 / 304. But it was clear that the 305 was destined to go a little higher in displacement, being quite a bit larger than its predecessor. And indeed, a 1472cc version (initially 74 hp) was made available from the get go. The intention was to leave a gap between the 305 and the 104, to be filled by the 205, and use the bigger-engined 305s to gradually take over from the base-level 504.
Things take a bit of time, over at Peugeot. They waited two-three years to give the 305 a Diesel and a wagon, so as not to kill the 304’s sales outright. Once those were dead and buried in 1980, the 305 range really took off. And it was quite a success: 1.6 million made between 1977 and 1990.
Here’s one 305 that never went past the prototype stage, sadly. It’s unclear to me why Peugeot lost their appetite for 2-door variants in the late ‘70s. All Pugs had them until the 604 arrived in 1975, which was the first saloon-only model Peugeot had ever made. The 305, 505 and 405 at least had wagon variants, but still broke with a long-standing tradition of the marque.
For model year 1983, the 305 got some new engines. The previous 1.3 and 1.5 litre petrol engines were carried over, but were joined with a new GT saloon and Break featuring a 94 hp 1.6 litre mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Diesel-wise, the wheezy 49 hp 1.5 was replaced by the new XUD engine (1.9 litre, 65hp) that could also be found in the Citroën BX and the Talbot Horizon. The new Diesel, being a bit bigger than its predecessor, forced Peugeot to redesign the 305’s hood. While they were there, the Peugeot designers performed a discreet grille/headlamp facelift. The interior was also given an update.
This 2nd series 305 had a couple of years in the sun, but the launch of the 309 in 1985 was the beginning of the end. It lingered on, though – the saloon was made until mid-1988, but the wagon carried on until 1989 – and even 1990 for the delivery wagon below.
This is an interesting trait of certain French cars, the Breaks that outlived their saloons by a model year or two. Apart from the 305, the same phenomenon was seen with the CX, the Ami 8, the 304, the Talbot 1100 and the 505 – a PSA quirk, it seems. Though there was that Skoda Combi and some Corollas, as well, if memory serves. Could make for an interesting CC post…
So the 305 was a rather decent car for its time, launched over 40 years ago and designed by PininFarina. What’s not to like? Well, I have always experienced a feeling of overwhelming blandness when seeing a 305. This was the point when Peugeots became a wee bit boring, to my eyes. There were a few interesting cars, such as the 205 or the 406 coupé, but most of the -05 and -06 Pugs don’t really get my juices flowing, unlike the -04s. Familiarity breeds contempt…
How long does it take for nostalgia to kick in? When I see a 505 nowadays (which happened recently, there are a few around even in Thailand), I’m all over it. This one was moving, unfortunately. But it was in very good nick and would have made a great CC, had I caught it standing still. I do remember a time when 505s were common street junk to me. That lasted for a while, too, because they took a long time to disappear. But the 505 is firmly on my radar and has been for years.
The 305 is not there yet. Especially the wagon. Much as I like wagons in general and Peugeot breaks in particular, the 305 Break lacks the saloon’s attractive rump. It’s probably the least remarkable wagon Peugeot ever made. It’s unclear to me whether Peugeot designed this variant in-house, as they did with the 204 /304, but that is quite likely. PininFarina would probably have given it a bit more zing.
Looking at these pictures again, I have to admit that some angles do look quite fetching. The old PininFarina magic still operates at the front. The smoothly sculpted fender line is in the same vein as the 604 and the 504 coupé. One might even see shades of the Fiat 130 coupé – another PF masterpiece. This places the 305 in pretty good company.
I suppose that seeing fewer of these around is affecting my perception of the 305. Nostalgia is creeping in. As the transition between the old-style PininFarina Peugeots and the more contemporary design language that started with the 205, it does have its place within CC’s Peugeot pantheon of unbreakable Breaks. Not at the top of the pile, but it does belong there. Maybe one day I’ll find a saloon in relatively decent nick and fully convert to the 305’s hidden charms. But I doubt it’ll ever crack T87’s Top 10 Best Peugeots list.
Editor’s postscript: the 305 was not sold in the US.
Great post and interesting car. Surprising amount of paint damage around the fuel filler lid.
Looks like the Diesel fuel attracted road dust.
I thought the 305 matured into a fine car – the final GTX model certainly got my attention, but was sadly too expensive for me at the time.
The 305 had a very clever rear suspension which took up very little boot/trunk space.
The diesel 305 van became very popular in Ireland for company fleets, and eventually filtered down to small businesses, but all 305s disappeared from our roads many years ago.
The small Peugeots had unique features, such as a common oil reservoir for both engine and gearbox. No gearbox oil at all. And the spare wheel in the engine bay. The P104 of my brother had 70HP at only 1700 pound. A little rocket. Sadly we crashed it somehow.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” I think that is true. And that contempt gets stronger if the car is harder to recognize. From the back the sedan could be confused with a Audi 80.
I don’t have contempt for this model, it’s neat. I only wish it had 3 lugs per wheel rather than 4.
Once the three lugs were gone, I cannot tell by looking that it is a French car. Handsome, but very 1980’s generic European styling.
Spain was a kind of closet market for imported cars until the beggining of the ´80s and Peugeot didn´t bother to bring here the 305, so while in France it was found everywhere, to me it´s still a bit of a suprise seeing one, even in pictures. It has always seemed a very honest looking car, simple lines, very space efficient, comfortable, frivolities-free, ready and willing to do the job, nothing more. How refreshing compared with current cars, obliged to look so “sporty” and pretentious.
Thanks for this post. I agree with the writer completely; these were always considered bland and unexciting. You never turned your head for a second glance when you passed one, even when they started getting rare. Perhaps it’s because here in Israel, they sold really well and were everywhere.
I’ll link here a lovely review of the 305 from 1978, by the (now gone) Thames-TV car show Drive-In. That was an excellent show and actually was ahead of its time (and way ahead of BBC’s old Top Gear):
You can look for other, enjoyable reviews of 1970s cars at the YouTube channel itself.
I just recently discovered these Drive In films, and in short order ran thru all of the series that was available. You really pick up on a lot of context missing from our point of view looking back. The Vauxhall Chevette review in particular makes clear why what we see as questionable today wasn’t nearly so then. So glad you pointed these out!
The interior shots here are interesting because the blue featured car’s interior looks faded as one would expect for a 30+ year old car, but the interior colors look the same as they do in the brochure picture above it. It’s almost like Peugeot used pre-faded upholstery fabric and dash plastics.
The B&W photo (middle group) containing the rear of the 305 sedan reminds me of a first generation VW Jetta.
Agreed. I actually thought it was a Jetta at first glance.
If these ever came to the US I never noticed them.
The phenomenon of a wagon outliving other versions of a platform is not purely French. The square B body Buick and Oldsmobile station wagons lived on through 1990 even though the rest of those lines converted over to a new FWD platform for 1986. Although Chevy kept the full lineup through 90, so perhaps the trait is French after all.
They never did. Peugeot sold its predecessor, the 304, in the US, but sales were pretty modest. Peugeot in the 80s was trying to compete more directly against Mercedes and such, and decided wisely to leave the smaller car market to the Japanese, against which they had no hope.
The 305 came to Uruguay in 1980 and only sold through 1982. At the time they were heavily taxed, being imported from France and competing with locally assembled medium size cars (that wasn’t a small car here).
Being a 15 year old car nut I was surprised at the variations. There were GL, GLS, SR and SRD models, all of them in sedan or wagon version. Multiplying by the variety of colors (I don’t think there were other options) you get quite a few variants for such a small market.
The 505 had been put on sale at the beginning of 1980, and the cars looked similar enough. As the 505 was assembled here, the SRD wagon was almost as expensive as a 505 SR, but better finished. I remember thinking the 1.5 diesel engine as quite subdued, something rare at the time, when the 505 2.3D, a luxury sedan, could be heard a block away.
All these Peugeots, be them French or Argentinian, locally or originally assembled, had terrible rust protection and they are a rarity almost 40 years later. But my memory towards them is as nice cars.
Agree the saloon looked better but the estate must have been one of the most practical ever built. Peugeot’s clever horizontal shock absorber design meant the rear load area was completely free of intrusions. Together with its great ride and diesel engines it’s no wonder so many were sold. The GTX 1.9 model is probably my favourite ever Peugeot (has stiff competition). I’ve had a few, it had a great torquey engine, fabulous gearbox, beautiful steering, handling and ride all wrapped up in a discreet small sports body saloon. The British motoring press raved about this particular variant when it was launched – they couldn’t believe a six year old car could be so competitive. Oh, and forgot to mention the seats were absolutely superb, never sat on better.
Peugeot consistently delayed the break versions of their new cars, including the 404 and 504. The reason is pretty obvious: the spread out development cost, as the break versions of their cars typically were much more extensively different in their chassis and body than the typical station wagon version of a sedan. And why bother? Break buyers weren’t going to really car, especially since Peugeot kept the sedan version of the older in production too for a few years, as a lower cost alternative.
That, and I think a large part of the reasoning also had to do with buyer indifference in that sector of the market for “fresh and modern”. Priority was firmly placed on value and utility, which I would argue Peugeot wisely exploited. Break buyers bought with reputation in mind, and the perceived value that came with it. A 104 wagon was strongly considered, was produced in prototype form, yet never saw production for the fact that it was anticipated the packaging efficiency it posessed, for a similar cost, would not be a strong enough draw to overcome the then solidified image of the 204 Break.
Here in pretty much rust free South Africa these cars literally disolved from rust, we only got the first generation. CC effect kicked in the other day, I saw one being used as a daily driver, after not seeing one for at least 5 years. I always though them elegant, designed with a light touch.
Break in the horses.
I very occasionally see a facelifted Peugeot 305 van around where I live in Britain. If I see it again will try and take photographs of it to prove it still survives.
Handsome but inoffensive. And pretty long-lived.
I do disagree regarding Peugeots being less interesting after the -04 series models. The 306 and 406 have fantastic styling and were apparently very enjoyable to drive. For me, I lost interest in the brand with the -07 series models. Today’s Peugeots, however, are excellent – stylish, intriguing interiors, good dynamics.
As for your point about long-lived wagons, it’s an interesting one. The wagon variant of the ’87 Mazda 626 carried over to the following generation, even getting a bit of an awkward restyle. The ’92 Lancer wagon carried over into the next generation unchanged (after the ’88 hatch had done the same for that generation). I’m sure there are others. Wagon buyers seem less style-conscious, hence why so many wagons don’t receive rear sheetmetal changes like their sedan counterparts – look at the ’00 Taurus, any generation of Falcon or Commodore, etc
As an aside on the Taurus wagon – I’ve been fascinated that the final 2005 wagons shared the same cargo areas as their 1986 forebears, just look at the two generations with their tailgates open and especially with the optional third row flipped open.
While scrolling past, I totally thought this was gonna be about the J-car wagons and prepared to go right past it. Talk about “familiarity breeding contempt”! Instead I got a good post about an interesting car I never saw before, so thank you! A friend of mine when I was a kid, his dad was the town guy with the yard full of dead “furrin cars”. The only Peugeots I ever saw as a kid, were over at Zach’s place. Which is too bad, because they’re cool cars, and were nicer to ride in than what I usually was in…
I saw a 305 sedan in a residential neighborhood in Vancouver, B.C., in the ’80s or ’90s. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera at the time.
Cant say Ive seen one of these maybe they werent sold here, but the XUD engines are brilliant, long lasting and quite grunty especially in turbo form, my girl has moved to university so I dont get to play in the 1905cc turbo diesel I gave her anymore shame really its a great little car to drive.
It’s intriguing to the non-artistes amongst us – here, me – how the moving of a few lines and altering of minor proportions change everything. This is indeed a bit of a box, neither horrid nor interesting. Yet the 505, from the same design house using the exact same language, was a minor masterpiece. Haughty, airy, high-riding elegance, albeit revealed fully thus only in original poverty-trim guise. (Later ones got increasingly adorned and lowered and ended up just short of being the aged aunt in too-tight jeans and the lampshade whose drunkenness will not let her know it is past time to go).
We didn’t get these, though we did get the 604 you mentioned, which, even in our sympathetic climes, had everything including the glass on them rust away. If the 305 was next worst, it’s probably best we didn’t experience them.
The E30 wagon was still in production four years after BMW had launched the E36 sedan.
Always considered this to be one of the better mid-size cars in the 1970s-1980s, and something that has stood the test of time, and was the base of the Citroen BX of course. And Setright loved them as well.
I suspect that this example may be an ex-Gendarmerie car, given the colour.
One thing that often puzzles me is whether the 305 and 505 shared doors. Does anyone know?
No. There’s a 5 inch wheelbase difference, with the doors ending right at the back wheelarch in both, yet the gap from the front door forward to the front arch isn’t 5 inches more on the 505. And on closer examination, there’s an upward bend in the windowsill line at the front of 305 which isn’t on the 505, the swage lines in the doors are different, and on even closer examination, the 505 front doors are longer than the rears, something almost certainly reversed in the 305. Same silly freezer handles that used to trap me in my 505, though.
I really need to get out more.
I dunno, it seems you provide a useful service….thanks.
I had a late pre-facelift saloon back at the end of the 80s. It was a metallic blue 305S, a mildly sporting version with an uprated carb and slightly firmer suspension, as well as a sunroof and electric windows. It was superb to drive compared to contemporary Fords and Vauxhalls and I absolutely loved it, but couldn‘t stop it rusting, my foot once went through the outer sill when getting out. Seem to remember it had the dreaded TRX tyres as well.
My mum had a red 305 estate. I remember it as a nice big comfortable car, with more cool stuff than the unloved Talbot Sunbeam that replaced it.