In the late 1970s, Peugeot was known as a manufacturer of large, relatively luxurious sedans, but the company was floundering in the global market. Their takeover of both Simca-Talbot and Rootes Group in 1978 infused the company with a new vitality and excellent small car platforms upon which to build.
The 205 is often heralded as the car that saved Peugeot. This small, front-drive platform was available in many varieties – 3-door hatch, 5-door hatch, cabrio, and even as a tall-body commercial vehicle. It was the right car at the right time, the “Miracle Number”, and consequently was named “Car of the Decade” in 1990 by Car magazine, and “Car of the Year” by What Car? Magazine in 1984. While Pinifarina is often credited with the design (the studio did design the cabrio), it was an in-house Peugeot design, led by racer Gerard Welter.
The GTi accounted for less than 10% of worldwide production, but was a flagship car, building on the highly visible successes of Peugeot’s 1985 and ‘86 World Rally Championships in the much-modified 205 Turbo 16. The 205 GTi differed from the other gas- or diesel-powered 205s by its larger wheels, wheel arches and trim, more aggressive front and rear valences, and significantly modified suspension. Other than the addition of an oil cooler, the engine was essentially stock – a rev-happy 1.6 liter (seen here) was offered 1984-86, while a torquier, longer-stroke 1.9 liter engine was standard 1987-94.
The 205 GTi is still considered a benchmark car, one of the finest “hot hatches” ever built.
Top Gear: The 205 GTi is “the most holy of hot hatches.”
Jalopnik.com: The 205 GTi “is generally considered the best hot hatch ever made.” Others have come and gone, “but none of them are seen as eager, as balanced, or as charming as the Peugeot 205 GTi.”
Car called it, “The finest-handling front-drive sports hatchback we have ever driven. As fast or faster than anything in its class, plus the next class up. It is by far the best, but not the most expensive, car in its class.”
Seen by critics as a slam-dunk for the US market, Peugeot inexplicably never brought it here, instead plodding ahead with their large sedans until leaving the US market in 1991. The 205 line was phased out in 1998.
Manufacturer: Peugeot subsidiary of PSA Group (Peugeot Société Anonyme Group)
Country of Origin: France
Drivetrain Configuration: Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine: 1580cc water-cooled inline-four, fuel-injected, 105 hp
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Top Speed: 118 mph
Years Produced: all 205s: 1983-98; 205 GTi – 1984-94
Number Produced: all 205s: 5,153,369; GTi – 332,942
Cost: 72, 850 French Francs; $11,065 USD