Cohort Outtake: 1990 Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 – The Best Version Of The Best Peugeot?

Peugeot, from the end of WW2 to the 1970s and beyond, had a reputation of being more than just a Renault, Fiat or BMC rival. The engineering of the cars, and often their styling, were enough to move larger Peugeots to the position of the French Mercedes. Contemporary, capable, thoroughly engineered and usually elegant in a more conservative way than a Citroen but not brash. They were not Jaguars, but they were not BMC products either. Perhaps a French Rover without the British (class signalling) trim and image. This air worked its way onto the smaller cars too, such as the 203 and 304, and later the 305, perhaps the best front wheel drive mid-size saloon Europe offered in the late 1970s.

This image had a tougher time coming through on the smallest car, the 1972 Peugeot 104. Maybe this was because of its shared roots with the Renault 14, perhaps the market was not interested enough or perhaps the car just didn’t click with the market. It was a slightly different to the mainstream, at least initially before it was offered as a hatchback, and the two door version even more so.

But Peugeot got a bull’s eye in 1983 with the 205. Here was a car that was sized a little larger than the regular supermini, on a wheelbase of 96” – larger than a VW Golf Mk1 or contemporary Ford Escort – and used it as a basis for a car that could handle and be comfortable, as well as enabling more elegant styling than the supermini standard. Styling that was so good that Peugeot could only manage the smallest of facelifts – clear front indicator lenses at the front and new pattern rear light clusters. A style that was shamelessly but less elegantly aped by Ford of the 1988 Fiesta.

A good looking, good to drive, good to ride in, spacious and economic supermini was just what the Doctor ordered for many people, including Peugeot’s accountants. It was my nominee for the most significant car of the 1980s, for its influence on others through its size, power trains and emphasis on comfort and handling.

But the pick of the 205 range was the GTi, such as this one shared on the Cohort by JC. This came in 1984 with a 1.6 litre, 105bhp engine, in  the three door body. The three door featured a very different and distinctive window shape that has endured as a Peugeot feature even now, through the 105, 206, 207, 208 and even the new and larger 308. The GTi was a car that, although sold as a half a size smaller than a VW Golf GTi,  Ford Escort XR3i or Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra GTE, was judged to be a close competitor to all, and arguably better than them on certain criteria. One of those was usually driving experience.

And this was just reinforced by the 1986 GTi 1.9, with 130 bhp. A revised half leather interior, four wheel disc brakes and some striking alloy wheels completed the transformation.

One of the best hot hatches of the 1980s, and one of the most memorable. Few can touch it in that respect even now, when you can get a hot hatch with 300bhp. Weighing under 950 kg (2000 lbs) was part of it, too.

Here’s Autocar’s view from 1987.  £9285 is about £24,000 adjusted.


The only downsides were a slightly flimsy build, and the early plastic heavy dashboard was not really good enough, and addressed in 1988. 5 million were built, with production running to 1999 in South America.

Otherwise, truly one of the greats and deserved classic.


Curbside Classic: Peugeot 205 – The Most Significant Car of the 1980s?