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Peugeot 205


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.

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