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Peugeot 205

205

Peugeot logo1 Oct 1987

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

The smallest Peugeot ever sold in Australia was the 205, one of the quintessential cars of the 1980s.

Initially we only saw the 205 GTI, powered by 75kW/142Nm 1.9-litre SOHC 8V four-cylinder engine married to a five-speed manual gearbox.

But its superbly sharp front-wheel drive handling, aided by lowered suspension, anti-roll bars, quick-ratio (non-powered) rack and pinion steering, a wheel-at-each-corner stance and featherweight sub-900kg kerb weight, all conspired to make the little French three-door hatchback a tearaway hoot.

Its formidable reputation (the 205 GTI was launched in Europe in 1984), aggressive good looks and Euro heritage helped the petite Peugeot find a proper niche in the Australian car market.

A slightly heavier Series II followed from early ’89, fitted with an all-new dash and more refinements, but it wasn’t until the 90kW/152Nm Series III of April ’91 that the GTI’s performance matched its go-kart handling and looks.

But serious aficionados scoff at the (admittedly much needed) power steering this model received, although the larger and chunkier alloy wheels were certainly a welcome change to the smaller 14-inch items fitted previously.

But the GTI still handled “its door-handles off” (to quote one critic’s remark), and more than a few ended up spinning backwards into hedges in a process called sudden lift-off oversteer.

Boy-racers love that though. But plummeting demand during the severe early '90s recession prompted Peugeot’s importers to bring in a more mundane 205, the Si.

Also a three-door hatchback, it nevertheless closely matched the GTI’s equipment count (power steering, electric windows, air-conditioning, radio/cassette player, cloth seats), but made do with a feisty 65kW/132Nm 1.6-litre SOHC 8V engine.

More importantly, it also offered a four-speed automatic option to the regular five-speed gearbox.

In some ways this model pioneered the premium baby class of a few years later (VW Polo, Renault Clio).

Perhaps the most collectable of all 205s is the GTI Classic of February ’94. Australian fans allegedly received the final 100 right-hand drive GTIs.

Finished in metallic dark green, it also has leather trim and a power sunroof.

The 205, already a cult car in its own production lifetime, was replaced by two cars – the smaller 106 we never saw locally, as well as the larger and more refined 306.

Peugeot models