Is the 205 GTi the best Peugeot ever made?
It's considered by many to be the ultimate hot hatch
When our friends from Private Car Collection told us they had a Peugeot 205 GTi we could review, we just could not believe it, and could not say no to the opportunity. The city car was one of the original hot hatches and immediately became an icon when it was first introduced in 1984. Also, our dad owned one before we were born that had a very similar spec to this one. Therefore, we had to meet the legend and see if what the older blokes say about it is true.
The story of the 205 started in 1983 when Peugeot needed to replace the popular 104. The French manufacturer quickly realized that their car had a lot of potential and quickly launched a hot version dubbed GTi (wink at Volkswagen). The first iteration had a 1.6-litre engine that produced 105bhp, and even though it doesn't seem like much by today's standards the little 205 weighed less than 900kg! That was enough to hit a top speed of 185 km/h (116mph) and go from 0-100 km/h in only 8.7 seconds.
A couple of years passed and Peugeot wanted their hot hatch to go even faster. A new GTi with a larger 1.9-litre engine came out in 1986 and this is the holy grail of 205 GTis. This update brought the power up to 130bhp, the top speed to around 205 km/h (128mph), and the 0-100 km/h to 7.8 seconds. Now we're talking! The story of fast 205s did not stop here as Peugeot decided to go racing with its little hot hatch. More specifically, it went rally racing in Group B with the big boys. In order to participate, they had to homologate 200 units of their race car for the road, and the result was the 205 T16. The all-wheel drive monster didn't share much with the production 205 as it now had a centrally-mounted engine making 200 horsepower. Obviously, they are extremely rare, and they usually trade for a quarter-of-a-million Swiss francs when they are available. The 205 T16 won the constructor and driver's championship in both 1985 and 1986. Therefore, when Group B was banned in 1987, Peugeot went racing elsewhere and chose the Paris-Dakkar. Which they won as well.
I think you get it now, the 205 has one hell of a pedigree. Peugeot desperately tried to get back at it with its replacement, the 206 GTi. But the reception was not very positive as handling was not as good as with its predecessor. The 207 GTi was an improvement and so was the 208 GTi. But unfortunately, they will never replace the 205's sharpness, fun factor, and unique character. So OK, the 205 GTi is an icon because of its exemplary handling, quickness, and history. But not only! Designed by Gérard Welter (Peugeot 907 Concept, Peugeot RCZ, etc.) with a touch from Paul Bracq (Mercedes-Benz 230 SL Pagoda, BMW 3-Series E21), the 205 is also an exceptionally good-looking hot hatch. The same applies to the quirky interior that seems minuscule compared to what we are used to today. Really love the bucket seats, three-spoke steering wheel with the huge GTi logo on it, and the straight-to-the-point center console. Even though this car was released before I was born, the nostalgia really kicks in.
Through the years the 205 GTi has become increasingly rare, and finding a clean, 100% original car today is nearly mission impossible. However, the car featured in this article looks exactly as if it has left the factory. Also, it is a limited edition, which makes it even more special. This "Magic" version was only available in Switzerland for 7 months in 1990. Only 93 Magic editions were released and what made it special was the equipment and the colour. And what a colour. Named Sorrento Green, it was unique to the Magic and was so beautiful that it later found its way to the catalog. Otherwise, this special edition received these awesome Gutmann wheels, a sunroof, leather bucket seats with red stitching, a Pioneer radio, and the Magic logos. Disclaimer: This car is not actually magic magic like in Harry Potter. So no lawsuits please!
Under the hood, we find the mighty 1.9-litre engine limited to 120 horsepower because of the catalysts that were mandatory in Switzerland back then. This 205 GTi's bodywork went through a restoration in 2009. Its previous owner was the former workshop manager at Peugeot in Zürich, and since the vehicle has been driven very little from 2008 until now, a mechanical restoration is underway. The idea is obviously to keep it as stock as possible and bring it back to the appearance and driveability of its glory days.
I think it is fair to say that the Peugeot 205 GTi may not have invented the hot hatch segment, but it has certainly refined it. So many journalists and enthusiasts have called this car one of the best hot hatches ever produced and now I understand why. I'll go as far as saying that it may be the best Peugeot ever made! Many little sports cars have left an indelible mark in automobile history, and the 205 GTi has definitely done so and is now considered a myth. Peugeot has tried so many times to replicate their 1984 tour de force, and even though we have had some pretty convincing examples through the years, those will never reach the fun level of the iconic hot hatch. Oh dad... why did you ever sell yours...
I would like to extend my gratitude to my friends from Private Car Collection. They have been nice enough to let us review their car. They have a pretty cool collection of cars that you can see on their Instagram account or Facebook page. Without them, this article could have never been possible.
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Peugeot 205 GTi