1 Oct 1987
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.